An alternative to a Halloween celebration, a fall or harvest party is a great idea for churches and schools, and a wonderful way to celebrate the coming of autumn.
Apples and pumpkins and gourds, oh my! From delicious harvest vegetables to gorgeous, colorful leaves, fall is definitely a great time to throw a party to celebrate the season.
Get in the autumn spirit with browns, yellows and reds. Consider farm-themed decorations such as bales of hay or plates with farm animals. Collect up gourds and pumpkins, and get even more creative by creating a scarecrow (you can even do this as a party activity for the kids with some old clothing, a ratty bedsheet for the head, and stuff it with shredded newspaper).
Think "fall fair" when you're creating recipes. Snacks can include roasted pumpkin seeds or popcorn. Homemade breads such as pumpkin or zucchini bread are sweet, autumn snacks. Have an "apple tasting" contest allowing kids to try different breeds of apple slices such as Granny Smith, Fuji, Red Delicious and more. Check local farmer's markets for a grand selection of different apples. Other great snacks include candy or caramel apples, hot dogs or sausages (in celebration of Oktoberfest) and of course, apple pie or oatmeal cookies.
Explore the inside of a gourd or pumpkin with your little ones. Let them feel, taste and smell the wonder of the season. Have a pumpkin seed spitting contest! Bob for apples...it's been a while hasn't it! Fill a wagon with hay and take your little one on a "hay ride" around the neighborhood. Create "dried apple heads". Decorate mini pumpkins with paint. Enjoy fun wheelbarrow races. Go on a leaf collection hunt and pick ones to press into scrapbooks.
Dollar stores or farmer's markets are a good place to pick up party favors. Consider straw hats, fall-themed or farm animal stickers. Pick up a bunch of mini-pumpkins or gourds as gifts, or even give homemade caramel apples. Find cute fall-themed decorations at the dollar store or the craft stores to use as party favors.
Scents of the Season
You'll need cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg spices. Mix spoonfuls of these spices together. Pour them into a square of aluminum foil. Add a few drops of water and close leaving a small opening at the top. Place them onto a cookie sheet and into a 275 degree oven. As the water evaporates you will notice the aroma wafting through the house. You can also achieve this activity using a damp paper coffee filter sealed with a "twist-tie"
Funny Faced Gourd
Use acrylic paints to make a face on a gourd. The gourds naturally have characteristics that create a funny face.
Begin with a walk through the fallen leaves. Children love to explore the many textures an colors the cold weather creates. After you have collected the leaves place them in between clear contact paper to make autumn placemats.
Ring the Pumpkin
Line up three large pumpkins with stems, to form a ring toss. Use embroidery hoops or make hoops with rope and duct tape. Mark a throwing line on the floor and take turns trying to ring a pumpkin stem. It doesn't matter if the players make a "ringer" or not, reward them with small prizes or stickers. Smaller children can attempt to ring an entire large pumpkin with a hula hoop.
Roll the Gourd
This sounds simple enough...but it's quite a challenge! Use empty plastic pop bottles for bowling pins. Each child gets three chances to roll the gourd into the pins. The gourds go every which way but straight. Lots of giggles for this one.
Popcorn Relay Race
The object of this game is to be the first team to successfully transport popcorn from a full bowl to an empty bowl, using only a small measuring cup.
On one side of the room place the bowls filled with popped popcorn. This is where the teams will line up. Then place the empty bowls on the other side of the room. Players take turns filling the cup, running to empty bowl to pour out the popcorn and returning to the team to pass the cup to the next player. Continue until the bowl is empty. This is a messy game - plan it for the end of the party! (Note: popcorn is a choking hazard for children under three).
Cotton Ball Scoop Game
Fill large mixing bowls with cotton balls and give each guest a spoon. Kids must scoop out as many cotton balls as possible in one minute - without using fingers!
Scarecrow Relay Race
The object of the game is to be the first team to complete a scarecrow. You can pace this in a variety of ways depending on the age of the children or the group size. Provide each team with the clothing and stuffing. They can take turns running to work on the scarecrow or stuff the scarecrow or simply work together as a group. Either way it's fun and will require cooperation.
A Pumpkin Race
This is a simple race but since pumpkins are not nice smooth balls and refuse to roll in nice straight lines, you will need plenty of room! You need two large pumpkins and two sturdy sticks. The racers, line up on the starting line with the pumpkins turned on their sides. On the signal, the racers use the stick to roll the pumpkins to the finish line. Younger players may want to use their hands instead of the stick. If you want to play this as teams, make it a relay race. Can be played inside, using small pumpkins.
Needle in a Haystack
Hide quarters or prizes in a large pile of hay. The children will take turns digging got prizes.
Follow the Leader - Harvest Style
Use the traditional playing rules for follow the leader only the leader is dressed-up like a scarecrow-- march, hop, skip around pumpkins, jump in a pile of hay etc. the children will follow suit!