Autumn is in the air. As the leaves change from green to gold and apples are prime for picking, we move into pumpkin picking season; one of the best family activities for autumn. No matter where you live there will be pumpkins available to you, whether at the farm or the store, but if you have a u-pick patch near by be sure to beeline it there with the kids. Why? Because getting your rain boots muddy while you traipse through a pumpkin patch with a baby, toddler, grade school kid, teen or tween is a rite of passage. It is a time when everyone can come together to find that one perfect pumpkin to carve and sit on your porch this Halloween season.
Pick your own pumpkins
Many farms have pumpkins already picked and ready for you to carry home. Look for a farm that has hay rides out to the patch so you can pick your own. This adds a little more time to your excursion, entertains the kids and shows your children where those store bought pumpkins come from.
Fresh apple cider
Pumpkin picking is hard work. You will need to rehydrate with some freshly pressed apple cider, preferably warmed up and from the apples on the farm. Hot cider is the perfect antidote to a muddy pumpkin patch on a rainy day, or to remind you that it is indeed the fall season. Pick up a gallon to take home with you to sip on while you carve out your pumpkins.
Naturally if you have hot cider you need to have fresh donuts as well. Many farms now host entire weekend festivals that include fresh cider, donuts and other autumn favorites (pumpkin spiced latte anyone?) Bring cash with you so no one is disappointed when you get to the front of the line at the stand for cinnamon sugar or apple cider donuts and find out they don't accept cards.
Most farms do have some animals living on them, whether it is chickens, sheep, donkeys, goats, pigs, cows or simply the horses pulling the wagons out to the pumpkin patch. You can also find pony rides at many pumpkin patches these days, which are great photo opportunities for parents.
Pumpkin catapults or cannons
Like a little excitement in your day? Search for a pumpkin farm that offers pumpkin catapults or shooting pumpkins out of a cannon. Now there is a sight your kids will never forget. Witness a flash of orange as it leaps through the sky and smashes upon the grass into a thousand pieces. Stay clear though unless you want to get splattered with pumpkin guts.
Round out your visit to the pumpkin patch with a walk through the hay maze (or corn maze). Expect your kids to get a little hay in their hair and lost as they explore this pastoral labyrinth. Their squeals of glee from inside the maze will be worth the extra bath that night. If the maze is built for the whole family make sure you let your children lead the way. Sometimes it is fun to sit back and let the kids be in charge.
Not all farms have all of these elements, but if you can find one or more of these activities you are guaranteed a great morning or afternoon out with your kids in the country.
Where is your favorite pumpkin patch?