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Frugal Fall Activities for Kids

Jon Lal

Fall has so many opportunities for children to play, learn and explore. With plenty of reasons to have fun outside, you won't need to spend much money on indoor activities to keep kids occupied. Fairs and festivals are abundant in the fall season, but between tickets, food and games, you can end up spending a pretty penny. If you're looking to keep costs low, try one of these frugal activities with your kids instead.

You've probably seen the large, orange bags created to stuff in leaves after raking. You can get these from your local hardware store, and many carry bags that have a jack-o'-lantern face on the side. Challenge your kids to stuff in as many leaves as they can to create a family of "yard pumpkins." You can even make it into a contest and offer Halloween candy to the winner. Not only is it a fun game, it's active, outdoors and a way for kids to contribute to the household by raking the yard. As a bonus, you can spend less on lawn maintenance services.

While they're raking, there are a few other leaf activities to try. If you have a flannel shirt and jeans you need to give away or get rid of, use it for a scarecrow instead. Kids can stuff the clothes with leaves and then head out on a scavenger hunt to find the other materials: sticks or wood to create the body, hay for additional stuffing and accessories like a bandana, hat or old boots.

Older children can be challenged to identify different types of leaves and the tree that they fell from. Kids can also use leaves to create artwork. After placing a leaf under a piece of paper, rub over the paper with the side of a crayon for colorful leaf rubbings. Another idea is to paint a large leaf and make a print on paper. You can browse Pinterest for more suggestions along these lines.

Use fall's abundant harvesting as an opportunity to teach your kids about cooking with seasonal ingredients. Picking apples and berries is a great family activity that doesn't cost much beyond the cost of the fruit. You can also visit farmer's markets for local fruit and vegetables, where children can learn about the importance of farming and when certain produce is harvested. Produce that is in-season and local will be less expensive as well, which is a bonus for your wallet.

After stocking up on seasonal fruits and vegetables, help your kids learn how to bake or cook a classic fall recipe. Apple crisp is an easy option and a little easier than making the crust required for a pie. (Of course, you could also purchase premade pie crust for a few dollars.) Winter squash is in season beginning in September, so recipes with butternut squash or spaghetti squash would work well, as well. You can also freeze some of these ingredients or creations to enjoy all winter long.

Of course, pumpkin is now the ingredient most recognized each autumn. Instead of purchasing expensive cookies, muffins or cakes already flavored with pumpkin, show your kids where that delicious ingredient comes from. Because pumpkins are large in size, you can create many different treats with the pulp, such as smoothies, pie, butter, bread or soup. Before you throw away the seeds, roast them instead and try different spices and flavors. (Seeds can be a choking hazard, though, so only try this with older kids who understand the importance of chewing thoroughly.) And finally, every kid will want to carve their pumpkin once they empty it out. You can even have a family design contest.

If you have a little money stored away in your vacation fund, you might consider taking a family trip this fall. Between the heavily trafficked Labor Day and Thanksgiving, there are quite a few deals to take advantage of. The exceptions to this rule are the popular destinations for leaf-peeping. However, do a little searching and you'll find plenty of areas with vibrant color that aren't inundated with tourists. Places off the beaten path tend to be cheaper, too.

I hope this gives you a few ideas to take advantage of during this wonderful season.

Jon Lal is the founder and CEO of coupons and cash back website, which saves shoppers an average of $27 per order thanks to coupons plus an average of 7 percent cash back at more than 4,000 stores.

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