We’re well into October, there is a wee chill in the air in the mornings and TK Maxx has all the pumpkin spice candles you could ever want. It feels like we’re definitely into autumn: the season of cold mornings and cosy jumpers, bonfires, crunchy leaves, all the beautiful yellow and orange and red colours of nature, hot chocolate, cosy nights by the fire, pumpkins, and a good apple crumble.

The darker evenings, the colder days and the change in the trees all around us. Halloween and bonfire night both coming up. It makes for a pretty magical time of year. And there’s lot’s to fit into the next few months…

I’m still hoping to enjoy some outdoor time, so I thought I’d make a little list of things to do with kids this autumn. There’s lots included here, including some cosy indoors things. And where I’ve been able to, I’ve made suggestions for places in or around Glasgow where you can do each activity.

I’m going to use it as my little bucket list for the next couple of months. I hope it’s useful for you too!

Collecting conkers

Big Autumn Events

I know that it feels like we’re already in the run up to Christmas, but there is definitely some time before we get to thinking about reindeer and snowflakes. Autumn is usually full of events (apart from last year) and I’m so excited that lots of these events are back. Here are some of our favourite autumn events.

  • Glasglow. Yep that’s right; Glasglow is back again this year looking better than ever. This outdoor, walk through, light and sound extravaganza takes place in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens and honestly, is one of the highlights of my year. There’s always a themed, kinda Halloweeny story, and this year it’s ghosts taking over the city. The Botanics get totally transformed and some of the installations are truly impressive. We love this event. Glasglow lasts roughly 60-90 minutes and there’s street food carts and marshmallow toasting towards the end.
  • Paisley Halloween Festival. This is Paisley’s event of the year. There are activities, street performances, workshops, carnival rides, street food and an illuminated trail of installations and light displays around Paisley Abbey, Town Hall and the River Cart. There will be dragons, giant spiders, an alien invasion, flying caped crusaders and an installation of giant digital faces floating ethereally around town. The Paisley Halloween Festival provides fun, free family entertainment. It’s on 6pm-9pm, from Thursday 26th until Saturday 28th October.
  • Fireworks. I’ll try to update the Guy Fawkes firework displays page on the website for 2023 when they are updated. Here’s hoping some of them go ahead this year… There are some other events happening which I’ll try to put in a post on social media when things have been confirmed.

Pick Your Own Pumpkin

This is 100% the top of our autumn bucket list. There are a couple of places you can pick yours. (You must book in advance for all of these events.)

  • Arnprior Pumpkin Patch in Stirling. Pick pumpkins, do some crafting, get lost in a kale maze, sample some delicious grub and have some Halloweeny treats! It’s one of my favourite days out of the year and well worth the journey to get there.
  • Strathclyde Park Pumpkin Festival. When we went along there were pumpkins perfect for Halloween carvings, a hay maze, wand-making and potion-brewing workshops, Halloween themed games, storytelling with Folksy Theatre and themed food and hot drinks. I’m not sure what it’ll be like this year but the kids had a great afternoon there last year.
  • East Yonderton Farm. If you just want to simply go and choose your own pumpkin for carving, this is the one. Sweet and simple. You did need to call ahead and book a slot last year. Ring them on 0141 889 3492. (Booking opens beginning of October.)
Pumpkins at Arnprior Farm

Get Halloweeny

Halloween is one of the biggest dates in our autumn calendar. I just absolutely love Halloween and all the spookiness and fun stuff that comes along with it.

I made a huge list of Halloween activities and events. You can find that here: Halloween Events in Glasgow.

Daytime Activities

Autumn is a great time of year to be outside. There’s conkers and pine cones and brambles and all the colours of the leaves out there. These are some of our favourite things to do outside at this time of year.

Go for an autumn walk

I’m taking any opportunity I can find to get outside with the kids this autumn. You just never know when it’s going to rain for a fortnight again… The kids love doing a scavenger hunt: I make a list of things they have to find in a particular park (pine cone, duck, yellow leaf, squirrel, lamp post, whatever) and they can tick them off as we go. The other is making a nature mask: cut out a face shape with some eyes, stick a bunch of double sided tape on it and let them go nuts decorating it with leaves and sticks and whatever they can find out in the park.

Our absolute favourite places within Glasgow for a walk are Dawsholm Park, Rouken Glen, Victoria Park, Pollok Park and the Botanic Gardens. All of them have at least a little playpark if the kids are being horrors and refusing to walk anywhere (which has definitely happened in the past). If it’s not lovely weather but you still want to get outside, the glasshouses in the botanics are a really nice way to break up a drizzly walk.

Autumn walks

There are also usually some autumn/Halloween trails at a few places (like the RSPB sites near Glasgow) where you can get a wee trail pack and head out on a nice autumn walk. Will update whether those are taking place this year.

Collect conkers

Every time we go outside just now I end up with pockets and bags full of acorns and conkers. The kids can’t walk past them. They bring them home and leave them in wee piles for the squirrels. You could also play that classic game of conkers, or do some crafts with them. We’ve been finding them everywhere recently!

Go foraging

I don’t mean like, head out to find everything you need for a rabbit stew. But my kids love nothing more than a snack. “Can I have a snack? Can I have a snack? Snack. Snack. Snack.” I hear the word snack approximately 7,350 times a day. It’s their war cry. But this is the time of year when the brambles are out, and if you’re in the right place the blaeberries are still around – there are absolutely tons of them. So in September and October when we’re out on walks and in parks, they can grab their own snack as they go. They love it. I love it. Winner.

This time of year you can also collect apples if you can find an apple tree, or wild garlic. There are an absolute ton of mushies around as well but I know nothing about mushrooms and unless you do know which species are edible and which will make you ill it’s probably best you don’t collect those!

Fly a kite

It’s definitely a bit windier now that the weather has changed. The kids loved flying our kite on those couple of windy days during summer so this is right up there as an activity on our autumn bucket list. A great autumn beach day activity!

Jump in piles of leaves

Sometimes it’s the simple things that bring the most joy, like jumping into a big pile of autumn leaves. Glasgow is a pretty leafy city in autumn. Head to your local park (or even your back garden) to dive into your own leaf piles.

Autumn leaves

Head to the beach

Speaking of beaches….. For us, the beach isn’t just for those lazy summer days. I don’t avoid the beach when it’s cold – in fact as long as it’s not truly awful weather I prefer it. It’s way quieter when it’s not the height of summer and I find it a lot more enjoyable when I don’t need to worry about plastering sunscreen all over everyone.

The wee man usually likes to strip to the scud and leap straight into any water source we come across, and a few years back he face planted in the water by the edge of Loch Lomond fully clothed so I always keep spare jumpers, socks and warm trousers in the car just in case. It’s gotten much colder the past few days and it’s definitely heading towards wrapping up warm weather now. Our winter beach kit has all the regular stuff – towels, spare clothes, bucket & spade, watering can. But until about April we’ll also be kitted out in our wellies, waterproofs (Didriksons are our favourites we’ve found, but those lidl ones are also brilliant and super reasonably priced), a good jacket and a hat – the wind in your ears is the worst. I would say gloves too, but those would be soaked within seconds with my kids.

I made a wee list of our favourite beaches a while back. The photos in it are mostly from summertime, but they’re all good at any time of year. You can find the list here.

Plant bulbs for springtime

Tulip, daffodil and loads of other bulbs are available in our local supermarket just now and these, plus snowdrops and crocuses are definitely in any garden centre at the moment too. They are pretty cheap – in B&Q you can get a mixed bag of 100 bulbs for £11.

This year I’m letting the kids pick some of their own and then letting them plant the ones they choose in the garden. They’ll be so excited when they start to pop up early next year!

Have an autumn picnic

It’s never the wrong time of year to eat al fresco. Just wrap up warm and you’ll be grand. Flasks with soup or hot chocolate keep everyone cosy and warm. And there’s always a wee flask of tea just for me. Keeps the old hands nice and toasty. You could also try making some marshmallows or campfire toasties. More on that below…

Visit some deer

Autumn is the start of rutting season and it’s a brilliant time to visit a deer park, because there’s usually stuff happening. You can watch from a distance as the males battle head-to-head using their antlers to win over the females!

Some of the best places to see deer are the Scottish Deer Centre, Beecraigs Country Park and at Culzean Castle. Last year we went to visit the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd up on the hill in the Cairngorms. A bit further, but also worth a trip!

Visiting the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd

Collect pinecones

Pinecones fall in autumn too, just like conkers. My kids love collecting them. We have a little bug hotel in our garden now (thanks dad) and the kids have been collecting pine cones for weeks to fill the hotel up with space for our little buggy guests. They also make pretty good decorations – you can combo the decorations with some crafting and paint or glitter them up to use later as Christmas decorations.

You’ll probably be able to find some in your local park, but a few of the best places I know of to find pinecones are Chatelherault Country Park in Hamilton, Beecraigs Country Park near Linlithgow and Finlaystone Country Estate in Port Glasgow. (I’ll update this as I find more places to collect them!)

Play stick races

This is a game I’ve played since I was kid and I just learned the other day that it’s apparently called pooh sticks. Lol. Play it on any bridge over running water. Each person playing drops a stick into the water on the upstream side of the bridge and the first stick through to the other side of the bridge is the winner. We play it with leaves as well if we can’t find any sticks.

Evening Activities

Young kids tend not to be out in the dark very often. Mine get so excited when they see the moon or if they’re still out when it’s dark, so I like to make the most of the darker evenings and make things that little bit exciting for them. Obviously I don’t do this stuff every night, but they love being out after dark and spotting the stars.

Toasting marshmallows

Have a colander campfire

You can’t beat a freshly toasted marshmallow. I mean, as far as I’m concerned toasting marshmallows is a year round activity. It’s not just for summer nights. In fact, it’s way more fun when it’s a cold evening and you just want a wee heat.

Keep it classic with marshmallows on sticks, or serve up as s’mores. (I’m going to put up a wee s’mores recipe soon because I love them more than I can tell you and I want to share it with the world). Check out this wee colander campfire kit, an idea I first discovered via the brilliant Wandermaw facebook page (worth a follow if you’re on facebook or instagram) and a brilliant fun activity for any time of year. You can also heat up toasties on them too.

See the moonrise

This is another of our favourite being-out-after-dark activities. My kids are obsessed with the moon. I think it feels quite exciting seeing it, as during summer they’re rarely up late enough to do any mon spotting, and at this time of year when they do start to see it they feel like they’re out past bedtime! The moon rises a lot earlier in autumn so it’s a great time to let kids see the moon come up.

The Hunter’s Moon is the full moon that comes after the September Harvest Moon (happened a few days ago on the 29th September), this year appearing on the 28th of October. Sunset and moonrise in October are closer together than normal, making it a bit more orange than other full moons. And at this time of year the moon looks especially bright when it rises. So although this one is a ‘mini full moon’ it will most likely still look pretty spectacular. This moon will be at its fullest just after 6pm.

The final autumn moon of this year (the Beaver Moon; named when fur trappers were still a thing) will be on the 27th of November. This moon will rise at 3.20pm and the sun will set at 3.53pm, so if it’s a nice night this is the perfect one to get out and see the moon. And still be home by bedtime! Take some flasks of soup or toast some marshmallows and make a wee evening of it.

Moonrise over Loch Lomond

We have gone to Luss and watched the moon come up by Loch Lomond a few times in the past and it’s really quite spectacular (if you have decent weather). Boden Boo, just near the Erskine Bridge, is also a brilliant place to do some moon spotting.

Watch an autumn sunset

Sunset is waaaay earlier in October and November (it’s at about 4pm in mid-November) which means you can take the kids to go watch a sunset and still get home for dinner time.

Do a quick google search to see what time it’s due to set, and aim to be in your chosen spot about 10 minutes before then. The sun will disappear quicker than you think, then it’s home and bedtime!

Look out for bats

I know this isn’t everyone’s bag, but bats are honestly such cool wee creatures. They aren’t scary at all (promise) and they absolutely do not bite. They eat midges and other flying insects – apparently a single pipistrelle can eat up to 3,000 midges in one night. So yeah – ‘mon the bats!

Scotland has 10 bat species, but the most common bats you’ll see around Glasgow are the wee tiny pipistrelles. They have a wingspan of about 20cm and they weigh roughly as much as a £1 coin – so yeah – they’re very tiny! Note: For the scientists among you these will either be the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrelles) or the soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus).

Keep your eyes peeled if you’re out at dusk (which at this time of year is basically 5pm onwards…) I see them all the time flitting about in parks, near ponds, around leafy areas of the southside and at my parents’ in the east end. You can tell they are bats because they fly very differently to birds: they don’t glide and they’re a lot less… elegant.

Culzean Castle & Country Park is home to 9 of Scotland’s 10 bat species. So if you’re there later in the day keep your eyes peeled and you might be lucky to spot one!

Pic of my beaut pup because I have no pics of bats!

Go stargazing

Young kids don’t get to see the stars very often. They’re rarely outside at night so there’s not much opportunity. So when the darker evenings draw it’s the perfect time to head out of a clear evening and try to find some constellations. (Though the only one I can ever find is the big dipper.)

It’s pretty difficult to see many stars with all the street lights around, so heading somewhere a little outside the city will get rid of lots of the light pollution and you’ll be able to see loads more. Places like Whitelee Windfarm or Luss or a country park or even a beach will give you a much better view of the stars.

Cosy Times Indoors

It’s cold, dark and probably raining. There’s no way you’re heading outside today. So what’s the plan? Well, first up – jammies on! Once that’s sorted, here are some ideas for those lovely cosy nights in. Add a wee hot chocolate and it’s the perfect autumn evening in!

Carve Your Pumpkins

I mean, obviously. You picked your pumpkin so this is definitely what’s happening next! For a much easier idea that I’ve found to be fantastic for little kids, you could do pumpkin decorating instead of letting them loose with a knife. Put out some paints and glitter and just let them go nuts and get their art attack on. I’m not gonna lie, it is a messy activity, but my kids both really love doing this.

Pumpkins ready for Halloween

Watch a Spooky Movie

Grab your blankets, snuggle on the sofa and watch a spooky movie together. Share the snacks round, or order a takeaway, and you’ve got the perfect night in together. Our faves (for the big one – the wee one won’t sit through a movie yet) are:

  • Hocus Pocus. This is my all time favourite Halloween Movie. It’s funny enough to be not too scary.
  • Ghostbusters. Old school or the new one.
  • Casper. The original one. Old school is the best sometimes.
  • Nightmare Before Christmas. I mean, it really isn’t Halloween without watching this.
  • Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit. Not too scary and a really lovely, funny movie.

Build a bird feeder

You know those pines cones that you keep finding in your pockets? Well you can use them to get some bird feeders ready! Here are two ways to make a bird feeder that are super simple and take less than 20 minutes.

  • Pine cone bird feeder. Tie a bit of string around a pine cone, put a heap of peanut butter all over it and then shake bird seed all over the peanut butter. Boom. Done. (Note: this one is a bit messy…)
  • Apple bird feeder. Core an apple and put a bit of string through the hole, poke sunflower seeds all over the outside of the apple. Et voila. Finished.
  • Hang them outside and watch the birds come get their dinner!

Build a Den

This is one of my kids’ favourite activities. (It does make a mess but I just have to take deep breaths and remember that they’ll be going to bed soon and I can tidy it up.)

We’ve currently got a giant box in our livingroom from a delivery a few weeks ago. It has a bunch of blankets and cushions inside and the kids invariably sit in there playing with a toy or looking at a book. (The cat likes it too). If you don’t have a box, just layer blankets and duvet covers over a table or some chairs, leaving room for a doorway. The kids will probably take all your cushions in there to make it comfy, and half their toys will end up in it. But they’ll have great fun.

All the stuff the kids fill my pockets with at this time of year

Autumn Crafts

These are mainly leafy activities, because leaves are the easiest things to find outside at this time of year!

Leaf rubbings. Collect some leaves and make some leaf rubbings from them. All you need is crayons and some paper. See the leaf shape and patterns of the leaves appear. Super simple and keeps them busy for a while.

Leaf crowns. Make a paper headband to fit your kid, then let them go nuts sticking leaves they’ve collected to the crown. Crafts and dress up in one.

Autumn masks. This is an activity we like to do when we’re outside, but if you collect a bunch of leaves/flowers etc then you can use them to do this at home. Just cut a bit of card into a mask shape and then stick double sided tape all over it. Let the kids stick whatever they like to it to make a mask for themselves. Again, art and dress up in one!

Make collages. Card, glue, some paint, and whatever you’ve collected from outside. Combine it all, and it’s art!

Leaf painting. Super simple and my kids love this activity. It can get messy with the small one but he loves it.

Late autumn walks at Finlaystone. Perfect place to find pinecones.