Once, maybe eight years ago, I had the perfect Fall. The kids were tiny and easily excitable. We decorated. We made special placemats. We even scavenged a cool looking branch outside, cut out paper leaves, and did a daily gratitude activity. For years, I tried to recreate that golden slice of time, but then I got realistic. The teenager isn’t going to make placemats for the family. The preteen won’t be debating where the plastic leaves would look best. Frankly, even if they were, we’d have to squeeze it in between soccer practice, kickboxing, guitar, homework, and chores. Life has changed. I’m tired. Most of us are.

In an effort to find a happy medium between the beautiful family fall scenes seen (with the proper filter) on Instagram and complete apathy, I come up with three themed activities. They are simple, cheap, flexible, and basically use things you already have around the house. Just the thing my busy family needs!

  1. Gather the Changing Colored Leaves

With our busy schedule, a walk is a novelty. But the fresh air and trees make it worth the time. Depending on where you live, it might take some research to find an area to stroll through with leaves. Because my kids are still excited by spontaneous treats, I might stop for a to-go hot chocolate to make things cozier.

While on the walk, gather colorful leaves. When you get home, give younger kids some gentle tape that won’t kill your paint, and let them go to town decorating the house or the door or their room. For older kids, give them a needle and thread and have them string the leaves into a garland or a wreath. There’s something compelling about arranging the colors and shapes into something to hang.

If you don’t have a lot of fall colors or time to walk in them, you can use this fall video to evoke the feel of a stroll.

2. Fun With Apples

I hear about bobbing for apples all the time … in the movies … but I’ve never actually had the chance to try it. So, this year we are going to pull out our biggest pot (or maybe a tub), fill it with water, throw in a few apples, and get started trying to bite into one. I cannot wait for this one. It should be hysterical!

After you’ve finished munching the snack you’ve won, pour a jug of apple juice into another pot with some cinnamon sticks and set it to simmer. The whole house will smell like apple cider and after some time will taste delicious. I can’t tell you how many people have asked for this apple cider recipe.

If your kiddos will sit for it, Bear Feels Scared is a great cozying up for fall story! Take a peaceful moment, sit and listen while you sip your cider.

3. Fun With Pumpkins

We have discovered a fun fact … any simple game that uses a ball, is somehow more fun with a pumpkin. Our favorite is pumpkin bowling. Pumpkins don’t roll in straight lines like a ball; so knocking over water bottles or stacked cups is a lot harder to do! We usually end up laughing at ourselves more than playing. If this activity is too frustrating for little kids, or if you are looking to extend the fun, you can make rings out of tinfoil and try to ring them around the pumpkins.

If the pumpkins are still in one piece, which isn’t always the case, you can decorate them. For littles, keep it super simple with stickers. If you trust them to keep it under control, permanent markers give a lot of options, without the major cleanup of paints. The more complicated option that tempted my kids this year was puffy paint. We have several half-used bottles from various projects in the past and they are ready to get decorating.

If you are looking for decoration inspiration, this video is oddly soothing to watch.

Whatever Fall brings you and your family, I hope we all get little slices of the golden times in the middle of the busy. And then, get some rest!