10 Simple, Fun Fall Activities with a Toddler

Fall is in the air! Well, if you live in Southern California, it is in the air only in the crisp mornings and as the day goes on, it suddenly reverts back to summer weather.  But hey, I can pretend that we actually live in a place that experiences the magic of autumn.  Even though the weather is not quite allowing for me to pull out all my scarves and sweaters, all the pumpkins in our house and the smell of Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread baking in our oven are definitely helping me feel like it is in fact October, not July.  

Along with pumpkins everywhere, it feels more like fall when we fill our calendar with fun, fall activities and events!  From visiting pumpkin patches to costume parties to art projects, there are so many fun ways you can spend your fall days with little ones to help get you in the mood of the fall season, even when you are still sweating in a tank top.  

There are a lot of lists out there in the Pinterest world of round-ups full of fall crafts and activities for toddlers.  Those are great, but this is not that type of list. I am just not that type of mom, maybe one day, but I just can’t seem to find the time to create those elaborate sensory bins and messy craft projects.  This is more of a simple, everyday list that is budget-friendly and accessible to the everyday mama, like me!

1. Decorate Your Home 

Our pumpkin collection throughout our home is growing, largely thanks to my mother-in-law, whose love for pumpkins is contagious.  Our friends were over Sunday evening and they counted 27 pumpkins! I took some pictures just to prove it. We love pumpkins over here at the Capel home.

I know some people don’t even bother with putting out the pumpkins and scarecrows because it feels like a lot of extra effort and work for a season that often feels very fleeting. And let’s just be honest, it does not quite compare to the magic of Christmas, but I am here to tell you that I think you should put up a few fall decorations to help make your home reflect the change of season. It does not need to be super expensive or extravagant, you can keep it real simple. You can make it into one of the first fall activities you do with your toddler to help expose them to the colors and shapes of this fun season. 

toddler boy decorating window with fall window stickers

Fall-themed window stickers is a great and easy way to make the home feel more autumn-like, while giving your toddler a fun activity.  Especially if you have large windows, this is a great way to easily make a room feel transformed for fall.

As I mentioned, we have pumpkins everywhere. Some really nice and fragile ones that are high up, but we also have little ones that I don’t care much about.  These have become the perfect toys for Hudson to play with. His pumpkin obsession is real, wonder where he gets that from? These fake foam pumpkins are the perfect decor to put out that you won’t need to worry about if your toddler decides to throw them across the room or chew on them. Just speaking from experience.

2. Take Fall Porch Pictures

You don’t need a crazy porch set-up to make this one happen.  All you really need is just a couple pumpkins and maybe a fun fall-themed sign.  A wreath might also be a nice touch. I love the one I bought at HomeGoods this season! Wreaths are one of those things that can be a bit expensive, but I think of wreaths as good home investments.  I plan to use this wreath every year for a long, long time. Like we are talking great-grandchildren long, if I am so blessed to be around that long. Anyways, a wreath goes a long way and I think it really pulls a porch together.  

We had our little photoshoot last week.  It was one of the first colder mornings so I took full advantage of it.  I was actually able to dress Hudson in pants and a vest! This is a big deal if you live in Southern California. These photos are a great way to capture the amount of changes that happen in a year.  Try to make it a tradition to have these fall porch photoshoots. It will be a great collection to look back on as you see how your kiddos and home-decor style changes over the years!  Hopefully that expensive wreath you bought will be that one unchanging element.

3. Visit a Pumpkin Patch 

toddler boy with halloween dinosaur skeleton shirt from Target smiling in a  pumpkin patch

Well of course. Yes I know this is an obvious thing to do in the fall season, but this is such a fun tradition, I can’t just not include it.  I briefly told this story on Instagram a couple weeks on my pumpkin patch post, but I am going to tell it again here.

We have gone to the same pumpkin patch for the past three years.  It is a farm in Irvine, CA called Tanaka Farms.  Two years ago, we found out we were pregnant the very same day we visited the pumpkin patch with my mother-in-law.  I got the positive test result the morning before we left. We kept it a secret that day just between the two of us, but I can still remember that giddy feeling I had in my heart as we rode the wagon ride.

Last year, we were again at Tanaka. This time with a little, 4-month old baby in a pumpkin hat and overalls. It was so fun to pose him by the pumpkins and place him in the wheelbarrow.  We got some really precious pictures from that trip.

This year, we went again at the same early October time. We had a blast and it was such a different experience from even a year ago. He was running all about, pointing out things that looked interesting, and laughing and enjoying the time with his cousins.  The point in all of this, is to encourage you to find a pumpkin patch that is either local or a bit of a drive and stick with it. Go there each year. Make special memories. Before you know it, that very pumpkin patch will be a place that is extra close to your heart because it is a beautiful reminder of the amazing changes a year brings.

4. Attend Local & Free Halloween Events 

I am all about free events in the community! It is even more fun when they are themed for the fall season or for Halloween.  One of the best ways to be in the know of some fun, family-friendly events happening in your city, is to notice the flyers when you are out and about.  I try to be really observant over these types of things and then jot it down in my calendar, so I don’t forget. You can also visit your city’s website and check out their calendar of events.  Mommy Poppins is also a great resource for events and things happening in your local city.  Facebook can also be super helpful in suggesting events near me and also showing me what some of my other mommy friends are planning on doing! 

This week, Hudson and I are excited to attend an event called “Mummy” and Me that is held in El Segundo at The Point shopping center.  Do some research, find some free events in your area, and actually go to them (and plan ahead because often times free events like these get SUPER crowded). 

5. Attend a Trunk-Or-Treat 

Is your church hosting a trunk-or-treat? Get involved and have your kiddos help you decorate your trunk.  We are planning on doing a Toy Story-themed trunk to match our little Buzz Lightyear. If you are in the South Bay area, you should attend our church’s Falloween Fest!  Lots of churches host these free and fun events, so you should research and find out if a local church to you is having a trunk-or-treat.  There might even be a free dinner served and games and even a movie shown (ours will!).

6. Go to the Library and Check Out Fall-Themed Books 

mother reading Stumpkin book to her toddler boy at the local library

If you are already part of the tmng community, you know I am a fan of the library. Go to your local library and check out a few books that are fall or Halloween-themed.  Most libraries will have a seasonal section displaying some of the librarians favorite books of fall!  At the library we go to, their display is behind the counter, so if this is the case, just ask the librarian and they likely will be happy to check them out for you! If for some reason you do not see a lot of seasonal-themed books out, ask your librarian! Our sweet librarian brought us out out about 20 books that they had in the back room. So just because you don’t see a large selection does not mean they don’t have ample supply of pumpkin books!

selection of fall and halloween themed books for toddlers and children at the library
  • EEK! Halloween
  • “Hallo-What?”
  • Spookie Pookie
  • Trick or Treat, Marley!
  • It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse! THIS IS Hudson’s FAV! He literally gets spooked and laughs out loud all at the same time! Now that is a good story. I am all about the library, but this is such a hit for Hudson, I might just need to buy it to have a copy for our at-home library!
  • Ollie’s Halloween
  • You Are My Pumpkin
  • Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round
  • Penguin and Pumpkin
  • Boo! Haiku
  • Stumpkin
  • In the Middle of Fall

7. Pick 1 or 2 SIMPLE Pinterest Fall Crafts 

simple fall and halloween craft projects completed at home with a toddler

Pinterest and blog posts about a bunch of fall crafts to do with your toddler REALLY stresses me out.  For one, I am not very creative and also, it just feels very overwhelming and messy. Hudson is still not quite at the age where he is fully into arts and crafts, but I still think it is fun to plan ahead and choose one or two fall-themed crafts to do with your little ones at home.  Why do I think this is a good idea? It is an activity that fills time, it feels festive, it acts as unique decoration to put on your walls, and it is a great memory keeper. For the really special crafts, I would even recommend laminating it to help preserve it throughout the years. 

Especially at the baby and toddler age, it is always fun to find a craft that uses hand or foot prints to help remind you how little they used to be! We did this REALLY simple, “itsy bitsy spider” handprint craft with some ladies from my MOMS Club.  All you really need is orange paper, googly eyes, black paint, and a marker to draw the web.  You also should try to do a pumpkin-type craft, whether that is with actual physical pumpkins or paper pumpkins.  Here are some fun pumpkin craft ideas.

8. Bake Fall Recipes 

Trader Joe's pumpkin bread on decorative pumpkin platter

This is a fun one to get your toddler more involved in the kitchen with you.  Not only will they love “helping” out, they will most definitely love being a taste tester.  I started to let Hudson help a bit more in the kitchen as he started showing interest. I am thinking about getting a kitchen step stool to help make our kitchen time a bit safer!  Anyways, choose a simple fall recipe that your toddler can help get involved in on. 

I keep it real simple and usually get the boxed pumpkin bread from Trader Joe’s, which I linked to at the very beginning of this post. Try to choose something like this that takes only 10-minutes to whip up together.  His attention span is very short these days! Allow them to hold the spoon and mix batter. Talk through the different ingredients you are pouring in. Show them how you crack the egg.  The egg crack is always the most fascinating to Hudson. I have a pumpkin bread pan that I love. This is a fun way to visually make the outcome even more fun for your toddler.  Give them a slice of the bread as their reward for helping out! Hudson literally gobbles this stuff up.

9. Walk Through a Neighborhood that is Well-Decorated 

toddler boy in blue push car pointing out to Halloween decorations on a house

Find a neighborhood that is especially well-decorated with fall and Halloween decor and take a walk through it.  This is one of Hudson’s favorite fall activities. He literally points out every single pumpkin. He is also a fan of scarecrows and spiders.  You can even use the walk as a way to help expand vocabulary and make a game out of it. “Can you show me where the big, purple spider is?” “How many pumpkins are outside of their house? Let’s count together.  1, 2, 3…” And so on. This is a totally free activity and if your toddler is anything like mine, they will LOVE it.  

10. Organize a Costume Parade with Friends 

toddler boy dressed in Buzzlightyear costume for Halloween with a buzzlightyear toy from Disneyland

This fall we are in a couple Mommy and Me class that will have costume parades the week of Halloween.  If you are not enrolled in any classes that are doing something similar, create your own costume parade!  You could make it super simple. Reach out to a few close friends with little ones. If you are in a mom’s group, maybe host a whole event for your group.  Either meet at a home or a park and bring Halloween-themed music, treats for the little ones, and be sure to take lots of pictures as they march around in their costumes!  

I hope you liked some of my toddler fall/Halloween ideas!  I tried to keep them really simple and manageable.  Do not get overwhelmed with Pinterest! There are so many fun, fall-themed things you can do to keep your little ones entertained that are budget and time friendly!  I would love to hear what you are doing with your kiddos this fall season! Leave a comment below.

Summer Activities with a 1-Year Old

It is officially summer! Summer has a different meaning for everyone. For some of you, it might not feel that different because you still have to work. For the teachers, it is a glorious time off, but if you have little ones, it is an adjustment of figuring out a new routine. For stay-at-home moms, summers can become more work as you adjust to having your older kids at home more often. Regardless of your feelings towards summer, my hope is that wherever you find yourself, whether that be a house packed with little children, moving out your last child to college and about to be empty nesters, or hands full with a 1-year old who is in that awkward in-between phase of desiring independence, but still being wobbly and out of control; you can enjoy it and soak in as much sunshine as possible. I can only write from where I am and that currently is being at home with that wobbly and out of control 1-year old. I am finding this phase to be a lot of fun as he is becoming a little person, but it also has been a challenge because he is still at a place where he is not quite that active toddler that can do more things on his own. He thinks he is, but he is not quite there. He is not yet walking, so wants to crawl when we are out, which often results in very dirty hands. I have been struggling with finding the right activities to occupy him with. When I search for summer activities with a toddler, I have found that a lot of the ideas seem to be a few months ahead of him. So, if you are with me, and also find yourself in this awkward in-between phase of baby-toddler, I want to give you a list of 5 ideas of things to do this summer. Most of these things are not revolutionary, but hopefully it can give you some inspiration if you are feeling stuck. I am finding especially as he is getting older, the best for both of us often involve getting out of the house. While especially as a new mom, getting out the door can be a real challenge. So, if you are in a place where getting out of the house a ton just doesn’t feel possible, that is absolutely okay. Give yourself grace. Take baby steps. I just had a great conversation with another mom this past week about the pressure the sun brings. The weather doesn’t always match our mood. For me, I am in a season where I am welcoming the sun. I want to soak it all in and be outside, but it is very likely that you are reading this and the sun coming out feels like more pressure to get out. Maybe for you winters are easier because there are more excuses to stay inside. Wherever you are, I hope you can try one of these ideas and if not, give yourself a lot of grace. There is a whole lot of fun to be had at home too!

5 Fun Summer Activities with a 1-Year Old

1. Go to a baseball game

I get it, MLB games can be expensive, especially when your little one might not be the most focused on the game. But, the nice thing about going with a little one is they won’t mind if you don’t get the best seats; it is more about the experience. They will love the people, the lights, the colors. I would also take advantage of going to the ball park before they turn 2, so you don’t need to buy them a ticket! We recently took Hudson to his first game at Yankee Stadium. He had a blast. A major tip if you choose to take young kids to a game is to check and see if they give out “first game” certificates. Someone informed us about this at the game. We went to the guest services office and within seconds Hudson had a personalized certificate. This was an amazing souvenir that was totally free! I believe a lot of stadiums give out these certificates, so be sure to ask or research it for the specific stadium you will be attending. We are located in Los Angeles, so I am linking here Dodger Stadium’s policy. Based on the website, it looks like you need to email a request for the certificate beforehand!

2. Picnic at the Park

Take advantage of the nice weather and instead of the same old lunch routine with food flying from the high chair, take it out to a park. Some of you reading this may be thinking I am so sick of the park! And I get that feeling too, so maybe this summer you could try some new and exciting parks that you have not been to. You can make an outing and adventure out of it. Parks that have wildlife and ponds are always a plus because it adds an extra layer of interest. If you are local to the South Bay Area, Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach and Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach are two parks we recently went to. Both of these parks have a pond with turtles, ducks and coy fish.

3. Visit a Farmer’s Market

Here in Southern California there are tons of farmer’s markets. This is a great outing with a one-year old. Hudson loves sampling the fruit with me! This can be a fun way to get your kids excited about trying different kinds of foods they might not be used to. Take a look at the different markets in your area and try to find one that is especially kid-friendly. I love going to the farmer’s market in Manhattan Beach because it very much catered to little ones. There is a train ride that runs every week at the market. It is just $2 and it is a fun activity for Hudson. There is also a balloon man and face painting!

4. Beach, Pool, Splash Pad

The beach with a newborn was not always the most enjoyable experience for me, but this summer, the beach is much more relaxing and fun. Hudson is so happy when we are at the beach. Sand toys are already a huge hit with him. He doesn’t really use them correctly, but he loves holding the shovel and different tools. The pool and splash pad are two other fun water activities. You can sign your toddler up for a swim lesson or you can find a pool and just spend some time getting them used to the water. At this age, I am not even sure it is worth spending money on swim lessons. We have a pool, so I am planning on spending some time with him in the pool getting him to enjoy the water. We just went into the pool for the first time this summer and we used the Swimways Baby Spring Float. It worked well and he seemed to really enjoy it. Taking a visit to a splash pad is another fun way to get your little one enjoying water. For us, Hudson is still not walking, but the splash pad will be especially fun when he can walk on his own.

5. Try a Local Class with Kid Pass

When you get tired of the typical park days, it can be fun to give your toddler a new experience. I recently discovered Kid Pass, which is very similar to the Class Pass model, but geared specifically towards kids and families. You can do a free month trial and get 5 credits to use at the different classes and facilities they offer. I just tried it for the first time yesterday and it was awesome. We went to a Gymboree class and Hudson had the best time. Not to mention, it was totally free! He got to interact with babies his age and he got to release lots of energy. Not to mention, it was fun for me and he was entirely entertained and happy for a full hour. Kid Pass is a great way to try classes out without a huge investment or risk. It is a great resource to get tangible ideas of things to do to get out of the house.

And if that doesn’t satisfy, here are a few other things we plan to do this summer: visit daddy at work, visit other family members we don’t typically see as much, take a train ride to San Diego, Knott’s Berry Farm (AAA has a discounted rate and kids are free under three), visit the zoo, visit the aquarium, visit a children’s museum, make ice cream at home, take a nature hike, attend free summer concerts, and play dates with our MOMS Club (check out my post this coming Saturday for more about MOMS Club).

Like I said, I know, nothing revolutionary, but if you are feeling overwhelmed with how to occupy a very active and energized one-year old this summer, I hope this can give you a little inspiration. Also, remember, you are not a camp counselor. Don’t feel crazy pressure to have every second of every day planned. Part of the fun of summer is freedom and rest. Make sure there is also a lot of free and restful days. Happy summer!