The temperature gets cooler, and the landscape dramatically changes colors. It’s fall, and it can be a magical time for you and your grandchildren. From raking leaves (and jumping in a pile) to picking apples (and bringing them back home to make pie and cider), there are wonderful things to do this season.
1. Go to a football game. If you score tickets to a professional game, terrific! If your alma mater is nearby, even better — and cheaper.
2. Support the local high school team and go to its homecoming game. If you attended the school, feel free to brag to anyone and everyone about the grandchildren in tow.
3. Stay at halftime, or until the end of the game, for the marching band. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the marching band is so beloved that tens of thousands of fans remain for its postgame show, known as “The Fifth Quarter.”
4. Do the leaf thing. Rake ’em, put ’em in a big pile, and join the kids by jumping in. Let the little ones bury you, and then emerge as a leaf tickle-monster.
5. Take some of the fresher leaves and press them in books for art projects. Make your own autumnal journal with pressed leaves and lamination. Add leaf prints by placing a leaf, vein side up, beneath a piece of paper and then rubbing a crayon sideways along the paper’s top side. Voila!
6. Go for a drive and take in all the foliage and the dramatic changing of the leaves. Make it academic by getting a guide to the local trees and learn the definition of deciduous. If you rent a car to do this, make sure it’s a convertible.
7. Go hiking! Mountains are particularly alluring in the fall.
8. Take a camera on your adventures and snap some pretty fall landscapes. Make sure you and your grandchildren are in the photos.
9. Enjoy all that Halloween has to offer: decorating the house — both inside and out — making or buying a costume, and trick-or-treating for hours.
10. Head to a local pumpkin patch and have every member of the family pick a pumpkin. Then have a carving party. Forget the traditional scary factor; see if you can carve one that looks like you or your grandchildren. That should get a few laughs!
11. Toast the pumpkin seeds, either in the oven or on an outdoor grill.
13. Build your own scarecrow with hay and some old clothes.
14. Go to an apple orchard that offers apple-picking. Take home the ripest and make apple pie or, if you have a press, make homemade cider. Creative chefs may want to try their hand at Mulligatawny Soup or Apple-Pecan-Stuffed Pork Chops.
15. Fill a wide bucket with water and bob for apples.
16. Still have apples left from that trip? Make candy apples. Get your wooden sticks, and heat up sugar, corn syrup, water, and food coloring. Dip the apples in the very hot syrup, roll ’em in peanuts, and you have a tasty seasonal treat.
17. Crochet a blanket together.
18. Cuddle up with your grandchild and that blanket in a hammock.
19. If you live in a region where the weather will change, and you are treated to an unseasonably warm spell, squeeze in a last swim of the season.
20. Go clothes shopping. Fall colors, like burnt orange, and fabrics, like corduroy, make everything all warm and fuzzy.
21. Play Chutes and Ladders or Scrabble in a coffee shop. Trust us, the others there for the free Wi-Fi will be jealous.
22. Find a dance, theater, or opera production based on a spooky story. Things like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, and other dark classics become popular again in the fall.
24. Make a bonfire, then eat beside it (don’t forget the s’mores), play a guitar, and sing some songs.
25. Host a lobster bake. Be sure to melt plenty of butter.
26. Compete in a Turkey Trot (a walk/run race) in your area around Thanksgiving. Even if you or your grandchild can only walk the mile or the 5K (3.1 miles), it’s a satisfying experience that you’ll share with each other — and with hundreds of others, too.
27. Remember that spring cleaning you did? That was six months ago. Time for you and the grandchildren to do a fall tune-up inside and outside the house, including the gutters, now that all the leaves have fallen off the trees.
28. Find a haunted house or go on a haunted hayride. Remember, as a kid, what it was like in that moment of anticipation, waiting to be frightened? Get the shivers all over again with the grandkids.
29. Navigate a corn maze and enjoy getting lost for a little while.
30. Celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. It’s a major holiday in India, celebrating light over darkness, good overcoming evil. But you don’t have to be in India to celebrate its universal message.
31. Go horseback riding. Trail rides are the way to go for the most inexperienced, and youngest, riders.
32. Watch the World Series together, and tell your grandchildren why they call it “The Fall Classic.” (Here’s why: When the NFL and the NBA were in their infancy in the 1950s, and baseball was regarded as the country’s most popular game, sportswriters dubbed the World Series “The Fall Classic.”)
33. It’s planting season for grass, trees, shrubs, bulbs, perennials, even some vegetables. Get your green thumb on.
34. Have a movie night and make popcorn. Make Rice Krispies Treats for those with a sweet tooth.
35. Celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Enjoy the tradition of dipping apples in honey for a sweet new year. Follow up by building a sukkah, an open-air hut to celebrate Sukkot, the holiday of the harvest.
36. Now is a good time to start making your holiday gift lists. Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and Eid al-Adha will all be here before you know it. Sit down with the grandkids and get their wish lists, then have them make a list of presents they will buy or make themselves for other family members.
37. Love the outdoors? Then get ready for winter by splitting firewood and stacking it.
38. Show your grandchildren the importance of helping others by volunteering. Collect cans of food from the pantry, or buy a few new toys to donate to a food or toy drive.
39. Pick some wild flowers, gather some gourds, and make a beautiful cornucopia for the table. The more pungent finds can become a potpourri.
40. On Halloween, show your grandchildren how to use candy corn to make Dracula’s fanged teeth.
41. Grab a few flashlights and play flashlight tag outside.
42. Take some construction paper, trace your hand, and cut out and decorate a Thanksgiving turkey for the front door. Have your grandchildren trace their hands to make a family of tiny turkeys.
43. Become a grandparent who attends every school activity, like sports games, plays, and recitals.
44. There are fewer than 500 drive-in movie theaters left in the U.S. If you’re one of the lucky ones who live near a drive-in, catch a double feature before the cold weather shuts it down until spring.
45. Do a challenging jigsaw puzzle together. Make a goal of finishing it before winter.
46. If you want to truly take in the origins of Thanksgiving, visit Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.
47. Host an Election Night party and teach your grandchildren about the electoral process.
48. Make it a point to visit some indoor exhibits at an art gallery or museum.
49. Have your grandchildren interview you. Even if it’s not for a school project, they’ll get to know you far better than they already do.
50. Love the thrill of the hunt? Now’s the season to share the sport with your grandchild (with parental permission, of course).
51. Preschoolers are always curious about what’s in that building where all the yellow buses go. So play school with your grandchildren and give them an idea of what a school day is like.
52. Up for a chilly swim together? Join your local Polar Bear Club. Or form one of your own.
53. Enjoy a long, slow bike ride. With or without training wheels.
54. Attend an Oktoberfest. The kids certainly can’t enjoy one of Germany’s tastiest products, but they can take in all the culture, sample the brats, and learn how to dance one of the many polkas.
55. Remember the simple pleasures? Indulge in one by rolling down a lush hill together.
56. Gather items, make up a list, and have a scavenger hunt both inside and out.
57. Fall offers the ideal weather for backyard sports. Teach your grandchild how to throw a perfect spiral. Grab some handkerchiefs and play flag football. Set up some empty plastic bottles for a makeshift bowling alley.
58. Have a yard sale. Not only will you de-clutter the garage and attic, you’ll make a few bucks in the process, which you know you’re going to spend on the grandchildren anyway.
59. Scope out the new fall season on TV and pick one show that you and your grandchild will watch all season. Then have a post-show discussion about it. This is perfect for long-distance grandparents.
60. Make a holiday centerpiece together.
61. Teach the children — or yourself — how to carve a turkey.
62. Cut up a paper bag and show your grandchildren how you used to make your own book covers — complete with your own decorations.
63. Watch an early sunset together.
64. Catch a meteor shower or eclipse. Use stardate.org to see when it might happen in your area.
65. No shower in your area? Just go out on a clear night and find the constellations in the night sky.
66. Explain why the clocks need to be changed during fall and spring and what “Fall back, spring ahead” means.
68. Are you the patient type? Build a house of cards.
69. Start a hobby that’s just for you and your grandchild. Bird-watching is big this time of year. See if any birds you haven’t seen before are passing through during the migration season.
70. You can play and enjoy music at any age. Help your grandchild pick an instrument. Better yet, if you play, teach him yourself.
71. Go to a local petting zoo. Many farms and orchards have them during the fall, as will many fairs and festivals.
72. Collect and paint pine cones for decorations around the house, theirs and yours.
73. Some dry cornhusks, a pan of water, string, scissors, and markers are all you need to make cornhusk dolls.
74. Carve a face in an apple and use it as the head for an apple doll. Due to the way apples dry, rarely will the faces look the same.
75. Vote. And if you have a grandchild 18 or older, make sure he or she votes as well.
76. Surprise your grandchild by meeting him at the bus stop after school and going out for hot chocolate.
77. Simpatico with the changing leaves, work on a family tree together. This will give your grandchildren a new perspective on ancestral history. If your grandchild is adopted, make sure to do a special version that honors his or her biological roots.
78. On a rainy fall day, break out the smocks and the easels and do some fingerpainting.
79. Take in the sights from a different point of view by going for a hot air balloon ride.
80. Pitch a tent in the backyard and have a campout.
81. At Halloween, write your own ghost stories together, then act them out for the family.
82. Make Thanksgiving placemats. Cut out colorful Thanksgiving-related pictures and images from magazines, glue them onto card stock; take them to an office-supply store and have them laminated.
83. Conduct your own “in-house” news report using a video camera. Talk about what went on in the house that day. For example, “3:30pm and we have breaking news: Grandpa is actually loading the dishwasher as we speak…”
84. Play Geography. Start with the name of a country. The next person adds the name of a country that begins with the last letter of the previous country. So if the first country is Greece, you could say Ecuador, and then Russia, and so on.
85. To get the chill out of your bones, join your grandchildren on the trampoline.
86. Teach them how to jump rope: fancy, double dutch, and boxer style.
87. Learn about the history of Halloween. To further the discussion, talk about how superstitions, such as black cats crossing your path and walking under a ladder, emerged.
88. Go to Washington, D.C., for a long weekend. Some of the best attractions, such as the National Zoo, are free, and are a great way to enhance any child’s education.
89. Technically, fall doesn’t end until December 21. So, come November, get together with your grandchild and start planning your holiday decorating.
90. Here’s a traveler’s secret: Many popular tourist destinations are relatively empty during the fall. Why not visit a traditional summer vacation spot, such as Myrtle Beach, S.C., Walt Disney World, or LEGOLAND. Hotels are less expensive and the wait time for the attractions and restaurants is practically nil.
91. Go to a fashion show and see what’s going to be hot next spring. If you can’t get to one, thumb through a fashion mag with your grandchildren and talk about what looks they like and dislike.
92. Ask the grandchildren to help you clean and properly store all the items you won’t use again until spring, like golf clubs, swimming gear, and tents.
93. Hold onto summer produce by making preserves.
94. Play a wicked game of paper football on a table or desk (see here for how to make a good one). The art of sliding that triangular piece of paper across the table so that a piece hangs off the edge, while still staying on the table, is truly a skill.
95. Head to the park but forgo the swings for a game of chess. Some parks have permanent chessboards set up; if not, bring a portable version. You may just start a trend in your neighborhood.
96. Celebrate Zhong Qiu Jie. This is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which is always celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. That usually puts it from mid- to late-September on the traditional calendar.
97. Play the rhyming game. Use fall colors, such as brown and red, and have your grandchildren pick out words that rhyme with them — and then stump them by asking them to find words that rhyme with orange and silver (two of several words that have no known perfect rhymes in the English language).
98. Make origami leaves. (Origami is the ancient art of folding paper into elaborate items, such as flowers.)
99. Look for animal tracks and try to identify the marks left on the ground. In the sky, identify the different types and species of birds migrating for the winter.