Low-Energy Fall Activities to do With Your Kids

The air is just a little cooler, the trees are just a little more colorful, and night closes in just that little bit earlier. Fall is here. This is, by far, my favorite time of the year!

If you live with chronic illness, pain, or disability, it can be challenging to find ways to enjoy the season with your kids without depleting your energy stores. Rounding out my seasonal lists of activities (check out my winter, spring, and summer activity lists!), here are some ideas to help you soak up the joy of the season–from the comfort of your bed, if needed.

1. Make leaf rubbing cards.

One of the hallmarks of autumn is all the beautiful leaves to be found everywhere. One great way to immortalize them is with leaf rubbings.

You’ll need a piece of paper, a crayon without paper wrapping, and a hard surface. To make a card, lay a leaf (or a collection of leaves) under the right half of the sheet of paper. Using the side of the crayon, rub color over the leaf. You should see a stamp-like imprint of the leaf! Then simply fold the paper in half to make a card.

This is a great activity for kids of all ages, since younger kids can scribble as much as they’d like, and older kids can experiment with layering leaves and colors to make beautiful images.

2. Write thank you notes.

Now that you have some beautiful cards on hand, why not take advantage of the season of gratitude to write some thank you notes together? This is a great exercise for all of us, not just kids!

Together, come up with a list of people who might not be thanked often for the work they do: the school janitor, the librarian, trash and recycling collectors, mail carriers, etc. Take a few moments to tell them you appreciate the work they do, and that their efforts don’t go unseen. It just might mean the world to them!

Image of open book and lit candle.
A book with writing on left page and image of mushrooms on right page is open on a wooden floor. A cup of hot cocoa, an apple, and a lit candle are next to the book, and a burgundy plaid blanket is draped over the book and floor.

3. Read by fire or candlelight.

Cool fall evenings call for cozy activities. Somehow, the light of a fire or candle makes everything more magical and comfy. If you have a fireplace, build a small fire, pile some pillows around, and spend the evening reading books out loud or independently. If you don’t have a fireplace, light a few candles instead. For extra ambiance, choose books with cozy themes, such as the Brambly Hedge books for younger children, or the Redwall books for older children. It will feel magical, and as though you are hunkering down like the characters in the books.

4. Make a fall leaf garland.

To bring the outdoors in, try making a fall leaf garland. Have your children collect a variety of beautiful leaves from outside–the more varied, the better! You can use them as is for a short-lived garland. However, to make your leaves last a little longer, consider pressing them between waxed paper. Simply tear off two pieces of wax paper, and lay an assortment of leaves between the pieces (wax sides facing the leaves). Cover the paper with a kitchen towel, and press with a warm iron. The wax will transfer to the leaves, making them last a little longer.

To make the garland, you can either tie string or thread to the stems of the leaves, or pull a needle and thread through the leaves themselves. Either way, you will end up with a colorful string of beautiful fall leaves to hang on a wall, a fireplace mantle, or over a doorway.

5. Knit or crochet a small project together.

There’s something sort of magical about knitting and crocheting. A ball of string becomes, through a series of stitches, an entire piece of fabric, and item of clothing, or a cozy blanket! Both require some skill and a learning curve, but knitting and crocheting are easy once you get the hang of things. And even young children can learn the basic stitches.

For a fun challenge, pick up some cozy yarn and needles or hooks, and work together to make a small blanket for a stuffed animal, a scarf, or a similar small project. For great instructions to help you learn to knit or crochet, check out your local library. There are also some great tutorials available online. Check out this step by step guide to knitting, or this beginner’s guide to crocheting.

Image of knitting needles and yarn.
Wooden knitting needles with a partial row of stitches in dark blue yarn. More yarn is coiled to the left of the needles.

6. Carve a faux pumpkin.

My kids love to carve pumpkins. They start dreaming up designs sometime in mid-July, and start begging for a trip to the pumpkin patch by September. But, to be honest, the whole pumpkin carving endeavor is a little exhausting. Trekking out to find the right one, carrying it home, cutting into the flesh, scooping and scraping out the insides, carving the shapes… My hands hurt and I feel exhausted just thinking about it all!

If you struggle through this activity too, you might want to consider an alternative: faux pumpkins. If you haven’t seen these yet, they’re newer to the décor world, and an amazing find! Typically made of hard Styrofoam or a similar material, faux pumpkins are available at most craft stores and department stores. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes to mimic real pumpkins. They are hollow inside (yay! No scraping pumpkin guts!), and hard enough that you can carve them out with a knife.

Maybe you could have a pumpkin designing contest, with the best design chosen by votes and carved into the faux pumpkin. Or pick up a pumpkin for each family member to carve themselves. Once you’re finished, you could even put a flameless candle inside to enjoy the glow of your faux jack-o-lanterns. And since there’s no mess to contend with, this activity can be done anywhere in the house (even from your bed, if needed).

Lid of a board game, Masterpiece, with people dressed in 1970s era clothing bidding at an auction.

7. Play board games.

Board games are a perennial favorite, but they’re especially fitting for the cool, rainy days of autumn. Dust off some of those games you haven’t played for a while. Or, to try something new, check with your local library to see if they have games available. This is a great way to try something new before investing money in it.

If you are looking for a good bedside game, consider games without an actual board. Scattergories, Unnatural Selection, Apples to Apples, Mastermind, and Say Anything are all great options that can be played from bed (some of our favorites).

For unique (vintage) games that can be played at a table, see if you can get your hands on a copy of Masterpiece, Cars Monopoly, or Stratego (also some of my family’s favorites).

8. Make instant oatmeal packs.

The mornings are getting colder and darker, and my family seems to crave heavier, hot breakfasts. It’s hard to find the time and energy, though, so make something elaborate in the mornings. My kids love the instant oatmeal packs that are sold in stores, but as they’ve grown, one packet just isn’t enough to fill them. Plus, I’m not at all a fan of high-sugar foods. So instead, we’ve started making our own instant oatmeal packs. We keep them in snack-sized silicone bags in the pantry, so they’re always ready for breakfast (or snack time). If you have more cupboard space, you could also make them in jars or containers that can be heated so that they’re ready to go for mealtime.

For the basic recipe, we use 5 cups of instant oats, 1/3 cup skim powdered milk, 1/2 cup brown sugar (I use less than the original recipe, and sub cane sugar), 1/2 tsp of salt. You can add cinnamon, like the original recipe, if you’d like. I often don’t, depending on the types of packs I’m making. I measure 2/3 cup of the basic mix into my little baggies.

Now comes the fun part: make a list of instant oatmeal “flavors” to try. Here are some that my family has come up with: peanut butter and chocolate, peanut butter banana, strawberry cream, brown sugar cinnamon, raisin cookie, blueberry, and apple cinnamon.

Since the ingredients need to be dry, you’ll have to get a little creative. For example, for peanut butter we grind peanuts in a coffee grinder until they’re powdered (you could also purchase powdered PB from the store). We also grind up freeze dried strawberries, banana chips, apple chips, and blueberries. You can add a little extra brown sugar, spices, or raisins, depending on the combo you’re after. Add a tablespoon or so of your “add-ins” to the basic mix you’ve measured out. To prepare, just add some water and heat in the microwave (or add boiling water from a kettle, if you prefer). Get creative and experiment, and see what your kids come up with. The upside is, they’ll be invested and excited to eat what’s actually a really healthy and convenient breakfast!

Image of record being played.
A record and record player needle are shown up close.

9. Listen to records.

Fall just makes me want to go old school, and nothing is more old school than vinyl records! There’s something so cozy and homey about those crackling sounds. If you don’t have a record player of your own, you may have to do some asking in your family and friend group. Records have made a bit of a comeback in the past few years, so there’s a good chance you know someone who has a player. Some libraries also have appliances and AV equipment for loan, and might have record players.

To find good music to listen to, check with your friends and family, your local library, and your local thrift store. This obviously involves a little more legwork, but it’s well worth it to gather in a cozy room (by candlelight, even!) and listen together to the crackling music. There are all kinds of music available on record. Some of my family’s favorites have been Sesame Street albums, movie or musical soundtracks, and old Elvis records. (This also makes a great activity before Christmas; there are hundreds of great old Christmas albums available on vinyl!)

10. Play a game of table football.

Fall is football season, after all. Whether you’re a fan of the real-life game or not, table football can be a fun indoor activity for the whole family.

You won’t need many supplies: a table (obviously), a piece of paper, and a person to act as goal post (or a plastic cup and straw, as shown in the following tutorial link, to make one).

The basic game is simple. This is a great tutorial to walk you through how to play. This tutorial walks you through folding the paper football.

You could have some fun with this. Create teams and name them. Come up with a mascot (such as a stuffed animal) to cheer for each team from the sidelines. Decorate the paper football to look like a real ball. Make it your own and have fun with it!

What are some of your favorite family activities for the autumn?

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