It’s October now, and there’s been a shift in the weather this past few weeks. It feels like we’re definitely into autumn: the season of cold mornings and big 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!
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. This year is slightly different obviously, with the corona about and social distancing and no crowds or events. However there are still a couple of Halloweeny things to do this year out in the world, plus quite a few at home alternatives.
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. Last year 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 do need to call ahead and book a slot this year. Ring them on 0141 889 3492.
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 last year that I’m heading over to update as soon as I’m done here. There are far fewer things on this year but there are still some Halloweeny spooky things to do in and around Glasgow in October this year. Will post the link as soon as it’s live.
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 weather. 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 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.
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.
Every time we go outside just now I end up with pockets and bags full of conkers. They’re everywhere. 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 found them everywhere we’ve been recently!
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 – 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 please don’t collect those!
Fly a kite
It’s definitely a bit windier now that the weather has changed. I still haven’t gotten around to going old-school and flying that kite I was talking about back in spring, so this is definitely an activity on our autumn bucket list. Once they get the hang of it they’ll love it! (This is 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.
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.
Baby boy likes to strip to the scud and leap straight into any water source we come across, but from now on I’m going to have to fight him on that. It’s gotten so cold the past few days and it’s definitely 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 (those lidl ones are the best 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 and daffodil 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!
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 two of the best places I know of to find pinecones are Chatelherault Country Park in Hamilton 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. 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.
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.
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 rarely see it, 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, this year (2020) appearing on the 31st 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 rise just before 5pm.
The final autumn moon of this year (the Beaver Moon; named when fur trappers were still a thing) will be on the 30th of November. This moon will rise just before 4pm and the sun will set shortly before that, 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.
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 4.30pm in early November) which means you can take the kids to go watch a sunset and still get home for bedtime.
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!
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 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. Just 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.
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.
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.