Fall Playground Burnout? 4 Fun and Budget-Friendly Activities to Mix it Up!


It’s no secret that I am all about maximizing outdoor time during every season. Looking for opportunities to be out in nature, stretch our legs, and get out some energy are important throughout the year. Time outdoors helps with building gross and fine motor skills as well as core strength and balance. It also can provide opportunities to negotiate social skills at playgrounds and different sensory experiences – and easier bedtimes and naptimes from kids who have gotten out all of their wildness don’t hurt either!

We are coming off some of the easiest seasons for getting outside and exploring all of the gorgeous public parks and playgrounds Rhode Island has to offer. Who doesn’t love a playground date in the spring, tossing a frisbee around the park in summer, or finding a new nature trail that hopefully leads to some water to splash in on the hottest days?

And then comes fall, with apple picking and corn mazes, harvest festivals, and pumpkin picking. So festive! So many people. SO. EXPENSIVE.

So how do you extend the free fun at your favorite parks and playground into the fall? Read on!

1. Outdoor Story Time

Gather up your favorite fall books or hit up the library for some new ones, pack a blanket or two and some snacks (and maybe a thermos of hot chocolate), and head to your favorite green space. Once your crew has gotten some wiggles out, get out the blankets and the books and snuggle up for story time. Some suggestions: Pumpkin Town!, We’re Going On A Leaf Hunt, Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, Room on the Broom, and Five Little Pumpkins. For older kids, Goosebumps, The Worst Witch, or of course, Harry Potter.

2. Building Found Object Fairy Houses/Animal Habitats

Fall is a perfect time for building fairy houses! Take a walk on your favorite trail and gather up supplies. Use found bark, leaves, acorns, and fall flowers to create the perfect dwellings for forest sprites up against tree trunks or rocks. If fairies are too abstract for your littlest ones, bring along a few animal figures and build some habitats for them. If your children seem particularly enchanted with the fairy house concept, consider a trip to the Florence Griswold Museum’s Wee Faerie Villages through October 28th.

3. Art in the Park

Plein air painting isn’t just for the pros! Bring along some sketchbooks and colored pencils or watercolors, or simple drawing paper and crayons. Join your kids and draw what you see – the smallest detail of a leaf close up, or the biggest October sky. For little hands, watercolor on some rocks or bring along some sidewalk chalk.

4. Scavenger Hunt

Grab a few similar objects from home, like four or five animal figures or different colored blocks. Make a simple checklist to track what has been found, on a mini dry erase board if you have one. Go to your favorite park (or your backyard) and take turns hiding the items and then hunting for them, checking off each one as you go! Or, if you are familiar with the park or trail, make a checklist ahead of time with some things you might see – a squirrel, a red leaf, a rock bigger than you.

We’d love to hear some of your best ideas for fall playground fun, please share them in the comments!


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A transplant from southeastern Massachusetts by way of Wells College and Bridgewater State University, Alana has been in Rhode Island long enough to feel the loss of 95.5 WBRU and Benny's, and to give directions based on where things used to be. After living in Providence, Woonsocket, and Lincoln, she happily planted her toes in the sand in Narragansett almost a decade ago with her husband Eric, a Rhode Island native. Two sons and a daughter came along afterward, and she transitioned from working full time at an intensive behavioral health clinic in Providence to her own private practice in Peacedale, Essential Parenting of Rhode Island, in 2010. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor Alana focuses on helping parents navigate the transition to parenthood, supporting families with young children, and assisting people across life stages with anxiety and other mood issues. To further her mission to get families off to the best possible start, she also leads groups for new moms and developmental play groups for babies and toddlers at Bellani Maternity in Warwick. (As a mom, Alana tries to take her own advice at least 85% of the time). She is an avid reader, totally addicted to podcasts, never says no to trying out a new restaurant, and is always DIYing some type of home improvement project. She would also like to say she enjoys running, but believes it's important to be honest. Along with her family, Alana loves exploring Rhode Island's many public parks and natural areas, gardening, cooking, and - to the surprise of many who know her - going to visit a certain mouse's house on the regular.