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38 Fall Activities for Kids That Are Safe in a Pandemic

Haunted houses are out. Turnip carving is in.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still dragging on, and while the shock factor has worn off, the danger remains real. Restaurants and schools are opening up, people have (mostly) stopped hoarding toilet paper, and working from home no longer feels temporary. But without a vaccine or a proper testing infrastructure, social distancing and mask-wearing are still necessary. As temperatures drop and we all head inside, the number of COVID-safe fall activities for kids are dwindling. 

Luckily, there are some fall activities that are inherently socially distanced and therefore low risk. Bobbing for apples is out, and trick-or-treating will require masks, but even in the midst of a global pandemic, things like carving pumpkins and collecting leaves can still be done. Just remember to mask up in public and keep your distance. 

  • Create a candy chute so you can distribute Halloween candy from a safe distance.
  • Build a fire from scratch. Tell ghost stories around it. 
  • Make a leaf mandala.
  • Collect leaves, then preserve them by wrapping in newspaper and leaving them between the pages of a heavy book for a week or two until they’re dried out. Alternatively, place them between two pieces of wax paper and iron them. The wax will preserve their color. 
  • Go for a family bike ride before it gets too cold. 
  • Carve a turnip. Legend has pumpkin carving can be traced back to the Irish, who carved turnips and placed them near doors to scare away spirits.
  • Watch a scary movie.
  • Decorate with “spider webs” made of stretched out cotton.
  • Make butterbeer. (Optional: Drink real beer while the kids enjoy it.)
  • Get lost in a corn maze.
  • Try gravestone rubbing. Go to a cemetery, look around for the oldest headstone you can find. Place a sheet of paper over it and color over it with a pencil. Watch the words appear.
  • Go foraging for pretty fall berries.
  • Make skeleton leaves by soaking leaves in washing soda and gently peeling away their outer tissue to reveal the leaf’s intricate veins.
  • Make a bird feeder out of a pinecone, peanut butter, and birdseed: Find a pinecone, tie a string to it, slather it in peanut butter, and roll it in birdseed. Then hang on a tree and watch the birds go to town.  
  • Go on a hike. Look out for animal tracks. Bonus points if you assign them to imaginary animals. 
  • Make your own fog machine.
  • Build a fort outside.
  • Take up whittling.
  • Have a Harry Potter marathon.
  • Go apple picking. Divide into teams and have a Chopped-style contest to see who can make the best apple dessert with an oddball ingredient. 
  • Make a shrunken head decoration out of a dried apple.
  • Plant some apple seeds.
  • Try leaf rubbing. Place a leaf under a piece of paper, scribble over it, and watch the leaf shape appear. 
  • Make homemade candy.
  • Run a cider or hot chocolate stand.
  • Have a pumpkin-carving contest.
  • Roast the leftover pumpkin seeds.
  • Watch football.
  • Watch the sky for birds flying south for the winter.
  • Have a picnic at a local park.
  • Build a scarecrow.
  • Make chili.
  • Collect acorns.
  • Make wind chimes out of sticks
  • Try a ouija board.
  • Make lollipop ghosts. Just wrap the top part of a lollipop in a tissue, secure a ribbon or rubber band at the base of the pop, and draw two eyes with a black marker. 
  • Carve a pineapple. It’s like carving a pumpkin but with funky hair. 
  • Go camping. If you drive to your destination and set up camp far away from others, it’s the rare form of vacation where the risk of transmission is low.