I love October, as it starts my favorite three months of the year: autumn weather, the beautiful transition from the final days of summer weather to the first days of winter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas! There is not a better ninety days in the calendar.
Unfortunately, over the past few decades, the consumerism that infected the Christmas season seems to have infused the month of October as well. When once upon a time, kids would make their own Halloween costumes, now they are purchased from stores and they are increasingly elaborate and even more increasingly expensive. Homes are decorated with hugely complex and costly animatronic Halloween decorations. I’ve even seen parents drive their kids around to trick or treat in golf carts.
One of the things that I loved about the autumn was that it was a time of the year when it was always easy to find ways to entertain myself. My friends felt the same way. We did not need expensive stores. We did not need anything but the items that we could find hanging around our houses in order to have a great time and to enjoy three solid months of festive camaraderie. Whether you are a child or an adult, you do not need to spend a lot of money to enjoy the spirit of the fall season, you just need a bit of energy and creativity. Here are a few ideas you should consider.
Make a Scarecrow
As a child in New England, I made a scarecrow every year. Mom would loan me a pair of old jeans, and a shirt that I would stuff with fallen leaves. I know other people who made their scarecrows with hay. We all carved pumpkins from a local pumpkin patch to make the head. My scarecrow would stay in the front yard until the pumpkin started to droop more than my parents would accept but every day I had him, I enjoyed the memory of making him. I still do.
Make a Halloween Costume
A store-bought costume might be exciting and it might be impressive, but it is not all that creative. My friends and I would plan our costumes for months before Halloween. Yes, we were very low-tech when we went out on October 31, but we could call the costumes our own. Pirates, ghosts, farmers, soldiers: we were the characters we impersonated in our daily games. The costumes did not cost a lot to create but they did become a part of us, much more so that than anything that a person can buy in a store can become a part of them.
Walk in the Woods
There is no better time of year to go for a walk in the woods. In most of America, the colors of the leaves are changing and the air is invigorating. I always found this time of year to be the best time to head out into the woods with a thermos full of a hot drink, a backpack with my lunch, and sometimes a book and a blanket. There is no greater solitude than an afternoon alone in the woods. Find a great location and just relax after a long hike. Then hike home. There will be little cost but a very satisfying glow on your face when you get home. The next time you head out into the woods, bring your friends and show them the places you discovered.
Until a few years ago, I knew many families who played football together every autumn. Moms, Dads, kids, and neighbors all got into the game. Now I rarely see any such family games. Just about every household with children has a football, so go out and play.
Make Apple Dolls
I am sure that some of my readers remember making these dolls as children. Carve an apple into the form of a human head and let it dry. If you know how to make doll’s clothes, you can also make clothing for the apple doll. I was never that handy with needle and thread so my friends and I used to simply turn our apple heads into shrunken apple heads and create stories about witch doctors and head hunters, using the shrunken heads as props.
Have a Low Tech Halloween Party
Do you remember bobbing for apples when you were a kid? I do, that was always one of my favorite Halloween party games. There is something about dunking a head into a barrel of water and trying to bite into an apple that is quite appealing to a young boy. Or maybe just to me! There are a great many fun activities for kids that do not require a huge investment of money. (Here’s a great list of additional activities.) In addition to bobbing for apples, it is great fun to plan scavenger hunts, tell ghost stories, or organize any of your favorite childhood activities. If you are at a loss for ideas, I always like to rely on Family Fun magazine for great inexpensive ideas.
Make Leaf Rubbings
You probably did this in art class when you were younger. Perhaps, your kids still do. Go outside and find an attractively shaped leaf. Place it on a piece of white paper with a second piece of paper on top. Gently run the top sheet of paper with a crayon and you will soon have a wonderful image of the leaf that is underneath it. There are a lot of great things that you can do with leaves. Here is a list in case you want to explore some of them.
Visit a Cemetery
If you live in many parts of the USA or even outside of the USA, there may be old cemeteries nearby. They make great places for walks as long as you are mindful that you are walking on consecrated ground and remain respectful of the dead. Children can learn a lot about history by reading gravestones, especially in places like Boston where there are several burial grounds that are the final resting places of our founding fathers (and mothers).
Visit a Working Farm
There are working farms all over America which offer the fruits of their harvest for sale at this time of year. They also offer corn mazes and hayrides and all sorts of other wonderful activities for kids and adults alike.
The autumn does not have to be an expensive time for families as there are so many wonderful ways to stay busy and to have fun! How do you like to enjoy your autumn? What will you be doing for Halloween?