The October half-term is my favourite. As a teacher, I always found that it could never come soon enough. There is just so much to look forward to – Halloween, Bonfire Night and (don’t shoot me) Christmas. It’s all so exciting. If you find yourself dreading the thought of half-term, don’t despair! I have got you covered with lots of fun ideas that won’t break the bank.
Grab your pumpkin spice latte, put on your Hunter wellies and co-ordinate your family outfits! Just kidding (unless that’s your vibe – then crack on). This is a tradition that we have adopted (the pumpkin picking, not the family outfit thing), and it led to my husband attempting (and succeeding) in growing his own pumpkins from the seeds of our chosen squashes.
Our first pumpkin-picking experience involved an enormous amount of mud, a rather wet tractor ride, and consuming large quantities of overpriced hot beverages in an attempt to thaw our cold fingers. I’m not selling this very well, but I can assure you that when we were sitting in a nice, warm pub with all of the cousins chatting and playing together, we were able to laugh about it AND we came away with enough pumpkins for an entire feast.
Even if you’re not into Halloween and pumpkin carving, it’s a great family day-out and it’s always fun to see which pumpkins the children decide are worthy of picking – Big J needs the largest pumpkin in the field whereas Middle J has a soft spot for the pumpkin outcasts. We always come away with an interesting if not varied selection. If you have very young children and the thought of them wielding an implement sharp enough to carve a pumpkin fills you with terror (and who could blame you?) then might I suggest painting your pumpkins instead - family handprint pumpkin is a sweet way of commemorating the occasion – and the outcome can be just as effective and a lot more colourful.
The beauty of this activity is in its simplicity. It doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but it is so versatile that it can be adapted for different ages and purposes. Can you find leaves with rounded edges? Can you find six different coloured leaves? Can you arrange your leaves in size order? Can you find a spotty leaf? And just what are you supposed to do with all of these leaves that you’ve collected? Leaf collages. Leaf crowns. Leaf suncatchers. Leaf printing. Leaf mobiles. Symmetrical leaf art. Leaf wands. Still not sure? Just be-leaf in yourself (help me).
Nature Hunt with a Spooky Twist
I love a good nature hunt. I like having a purpose for finding beautiful and interesting bits on our walk so this is always a good one. Tell your littles that you are collecting the ingredients for a witch’s potion and provide them a list of everything that you will need.
For example: 2 red leaves, 7 twigs as long as their thumb, 1 white flower, 10 blades of grass.
You could also make the list more abstract and see where their imaginations take them. For example: 6 pixie fingers, a toad’s teardrop, the legs of a spider, the wings of a bat, a teaspoon of fairy breath, and the feather of an owl.
You could then let them have turns being the witch and coming up with their own potions and list of ingredients – a fantastic opportunity to help older ones develop their reading and writing and a brilliant way of using up any treasures found on a nature walk.
Throw a Halloween Party
Yes, I know. The thought of throwing a party just for the sake of it sounds horrific and why on earth would you put yourself through that? Because it’s fun, that’s why. Also, it doesn’t need to be anything wildly extravagant, and you needn’t invite anyone else. The fun is in planning the party together.
You could have an activity per day and then throw your party at the end of the week using all that you’ve planned and created. Have your littles think of food that they could serve – satsuma Jack-o-lanterns, choc-chip banana ghosts (literally bananas cut in half with 2 chocolate chips for eyes…ta-da!), Gruffalo claws, Oreo spiders etc.
The costumes needn’t be expensive either. Raid the dressing-up box or provide old clothes and sheets that are no longer used. Old cereal boxes, loo rolls, and milk cartons are excellent for creating props like swords, telescopes, and outrageous accessories.
Then there are the decorations – pumpkin sun-catchers, garlands of white card ghosts, paper plate spooky spiders, jam jar tealight holders, and the very simple yet effective black, yellow and orange paper chains.
The windy, wet Autumn weather also provides the perfect opportunity for cuddly film days. You can up the ante here by building a den together in which to watch your favourite films – even just throwing a few strands of fairy lights over the top of a large white sheet can transform a simple den into something a little more magical.
I’d love to see your take on these ideas and any other ideas you may have for a fun-filled October half-term. Tag both me - @bornforblueskies – and Bambinista - @i.am.bambinista - as we'd love to see them.
Have a fun, spooky, and safe time.