Oct 122016

twin halloween costume ideasHolidays are a lot of fun for parents of multiples, and Halloween is often a favorite. Having two (or more) matched siblings, so to speak, opens up all kinds of adorable costume possibilities. From pumpkins to peapods, lions and tigers, Batman and Robin, to our favorite Sesame Street characters, here are the top contenders for this year.

Peapod and Pumpkin Costumes

You can’t go wrong with baby vegetables – be it the classic “baby peas in a pod” theme costume or your own little punkin patch.

Twin baby Peapod costume Twin baby Pumpkin costume

Baby Bunting Peas in a Pod Costume

Twin Peapod costume reviews
A soft green bunting that velcros behind the neck and can open at the bottom for easy diaper changes.
Buy this costume now!

Infant Punkin Cutie Pie Costume

Twin Pumpkin costume reviews
This “pumpkin pullover” includes leaves and a hat with a little green stem. Adorable.
Buy this costume now!

Lion and Tiger Costumes

I just love dressing our twins as little animals, and these “big cats” are a great combination.

Twin baby lion costume Twin baby tiger costume

Lil Characters Unisex-baby Infant Lion Costume

Twin lion costume reviews
This adorable baby lion costume comes with lined jumpsuit, hood and slip on booties.
Buy this costume now!

Lil Characters Unisex-baby Infant Tiger Costume

Twin tiger costume reviews
This little tiger costume is a hooded jumpsuit with adorable skid-resistant footies.
Buy this costume now!

Mario, Luigi, and Friends

If your kids love the Mario brothers as much as ours do, here are four great options.

Twin baby costume Twin baby luigi costume

Mario Costume

It goes without saying that the alpha twin gets to be Mario.
Buy this costume now!

Luigi Costume

For your green-loving twin, here’s Mario’s brother Luigi.
Buy this costume now!

Twin baby costume Twin baby yoshi costume

Princess Peach

You can’t go wrong with this Princess Peach costume. It’s adorbs.
Buy this costume now!

Yoshi Costume

Pair up anyone with Yoshi, or let a sibling join the fun.
Buy this costume now!

Twin Superheroes: Batman and Robin

Nothing is cuter than dressing your little twins as a superhero pair. Batman and Robin might be my favorite.

Twin baby batman costume Twin baby robin costume

Deluxe Muscle Chest Batman Child Costume

Twin batman costume reviews
The complete Batman costume: jumpsuit with “muscles”, boot tops, cape, belt, and mask.
Buy this costume now!

Teen Titans Robin Romper Costume

Twin robin costume reviews
The classic Robin uniform as a red-and-green romper, with black cape and mask included.
Buy this costume now!

Twin baby superman costume Twin baby wonder woman costume

Superman Romper with Removable Cape

Let’s not forget about the man of steel. This romper has a removable cape.
Buy this costume now!

Wonder Woman Costume

How cute is the Wonder Woman onesie with headpiece?.
Buy this costume now!

Star Wars Costumes for Twins

One of the best things about the new Star Wars movies is the expanded set of costume options.

Twin BB-8 baby costume Twin baby R2-D2 costume

BB-8 Droid Costume

BB-8 has got to be the most popular Star Wars droid ever.
Buy this costume now!

R2-D2 Twin Costume

What better to match BB-8 than the original lovable droid, R2-D2?
Buy this costume now!

Twin baby costume Twin baby Chewbacca costume

Yoda, Jedi Master

A little kid in a Yoda costume is just the best.
Buy this costume now!

Chewbacca Costume

For your less verbal twin, Chewbacca’s always an option.
Buy this costume now!

Finding Nemo Costumes for Twins

If your kids love the Finding Nemo and Finding Dory movies, here are some colorful options.

Twin Nemo baby costume Twin baby Dory costume

Nemo Costume

A cute, colorful, costume. Just don’t let your twin get lost.
Buy this costume now!

Dory Costume

The matching blue tang costume for your forgetful little twin.
Buy this costume now!

Twins on Sesame Street: Elmo and Cookie Monster

A couple of Sesame Street characters make for a great twin halloween costume. Who doesn’t love Elmo and Cookie Monster?

Twin baby elmo costume Twin baby cookie monster costume

Elmo Comfy Fur Costume

Twin Elmo costume reviews
A plush, comfortable Elmo costume (jumpsuit and headpiece) that’s easy to take on and off.
Buy this costume now!

Cookie Monster Two-Sided Plush Costume

Twin Cookie Monster costume reviews
Plush on both the outside and inside! Your little one will love this costume and its googly eyes.
Buy this costume now!

Oct 062015

double stroller reviewsThere are a few baby products made just for twins that I’d consider essential, and first on that list is a double stroller. This is also a product where you need to do your homework! Between my twin boys and their older sister, we’ve had six different strollers in three years.

Three of these are single baby strollers that are reviewed elsewhere. The other three were double strollers for the twins: a lightweight umbrella stroller for travel, a tandem stroller for public outings, and a double jogger for walks in the neighborhood.

Here, I review and compare the features of the best double strollers for twins including umbrella models, tandem strollers, and double joggers.

What’s Important in a Double Stroller?
Lightweight/Umbrella Strollers for Twins
Delta Lightweight Double Stroller
Graco Quattro Double Stroller
Tandem Strollers
Graco Ready2Grow Sit & Stand Stroller
Contours Optima Tandem Stroller
Double Jogger Strollers
Instep Safari Swivel Wheel Double Jogger
Schwinn Turismo Double Stroller
City Mini GT Double Stroller
Once you have a double stroller, check out our article on must-have double stroller accessories.

What’s Important in a Double Stroller?

Since I currently own 3 strollers and use one about once a day, I’ve come to appreciate certain features of double strollers that matter more than others.

  • Tandem or side-by-side? This is probably the most important consideration when I’m deciding which stroller to dig out. If I’m headed to a store, someone’s house, or another place without extra-wide doorways, I’ll usually opt for the tandem stroller. Granted, the twin who ends up in back usually gets fussy about it. But that’s better than knocking down a product display or, you know, passerby.
  • Wheels for the terrain. One nice feature of jogging strollers is the big, all-terrain wheels. As you’ve probably discovered already, the standard double-wheels on most baby strollers are great on concrete but struggle with grass, gravel roads, or other bumpy surfaces. If we’re going to cross one of these I’ll take the jogger out.
  • Comfort for the babies. The longer the planned outing, the more important the babies’ comfort is to me. Any stroller will do for a quick walk around the block. If we’re headed to a walk-a-thon or long shopping trip or all-day event, I go for the tandem stroller because it has the most padding and extra storage.
  • Compact and lightweight for travel. We recently took a 10-day road trip and had bought our third twin stroller, a lightweight umbrella one, just for that voyage. It turned out to be really nice for day-to-day use because it folds up to be more compact and is lighter weight than our two others. There’s also the weight limit for airplanes to consider. Any time there will be lots of folding and lifting involved, go for a stroller that’s under 30 pounds.

See also this article, 5 tips for choosing the best stroller, from And have a look at our favorite double stroller accessory.

Umbrella Strollers for Twins

Umbrella strollers are designed to be compact and lightweight. You’d be surprised at how cleverly these fold up even when they hold two babies at once.

Delta Lightweight Double Umbrella Stroller

lightweight stroller reviewsBuy this stroller This is a lightweight, compact, and reasonably priced umbrella stroller for twins. It’s safety certified by ASTM, and has brakes on all three sets of rear wheels. Retractable sunshades for each seat provide some protection from sun, rain, and even well-meaning strangers.

I can’t emphasize enough how useful it is to have a compact umbrella stroller that will hold both of your twins. It doesn’t take up nearly as much space compared to other twin strollers. You can throw it into a mostly-full trunk, you can gate-check it on most airlines.

Features: •   Lightweight frame fits through standard 30″ door
•   Meets or exceeds all ASTM standards; JPMA certified
•   Shock-absorbing 360-spin front wheels
•   Parent cupholder and 2 hanging storage bags
Dimensions: 31 x 33 x 40 inches ; 21 pounds
Price Rating: double stroller price rating
Reviews: delta double stroller reviews

Kolcraft Jeep Wrangler Twin Umbrella Stroller

twin umbrella stroller
Buy this stroller now
If you have two little adventurers, you might want an umbrella stroller made of sterner stuff. This one from Kolcraft is ready for off-road if you need it to. A 3-point buckle holds your twins securely in their seats, but has a quick-snap release so that you can get them out easily. One really nice feature is the cool-climate roll-up backs for the seats, which give you the option of creating more airflow to keep the little ones cool.

Despite its rugged features, this umbrella stroller is light and compact. Plus, it folds up easily to make travel a breeze. We own two different (single baby) strollers made by Kolcraft with the Jeep label, and both live up to the reputation. The all-terrain tires are the best I’ve seen on a stroller: they can really handle thick grass, gravel roads, and other rough ground.

Features: • All-terrain tires to handle more than just concrete
• Reclining padded seats for baby comfort
• Removable cargo bags and parent cupholder
• Safety certified by JPMA
Dimensions: 30 x 32 x 38.2 inches ; 18 pounds
Price Rating: double stroller price ratingdouble stroller price rating
Reviews: Jeep Umbrella Stroller Reviews

Graco – Quattro Tour Duo Double Stroller

twin umbrella stroller
Buy this stroller now
If you have two little adventurers, you might want a folding double made of sterner stuff. Technically, the Quattro isn’t an umbrella stroller, but it folds flat to allow for easy transport and storage. Even so, it’s full size with plenty of room for both twins. Each seat has a cupholder, tray, and its own canopy.

This stroller has the one-handed gravity fold, which I love. You can also lock the two front wheels to use it as more of a jogger.

Features: •   2 multi-position reclining seats (rear seat can lay flat)
•   Parent’s tray with storage and 2 cup holders
•   Extra large drop-down storage basket
•   Convertible 3-point or 5-point harness
Dimensions: 29 x 22 x 44 inches ; 47 pounds
Price Rating: double stroller price ratingdouble stroller price rating
Reviews: Graco Quattro Stroller Reviews

Tandem Strollers

Tandem strollers let one twin ride in front, and one behind. This may or may not work for your multiples, depending on their personalities. But a tandem stroller is useful for, you know, going through regular-sized doors and shopping in stores with narrow aisles.

Graco Ready2Grow Stand and Ride Double Stroller

graco double stroller review Graco double stroller options Buy this stroller Perhaps the most popular tandem stroller for twins is made by Graco. The latest model, the Ready2Grow Stand & Ride, is an all-around tandem stroller; if you had to buy just one twin stroller, this would be it. There’s stadium-style seating, which helps the twin in the back see out better. Each seat has its own canopy and footrest. The rear seat reclines to essentially flat – I used that very feature tonight to give my younger son a bottle while we watched his older sister’s swim lesson.

The ability to plug in 1-2 Graco car seats really makes this stroller versatile: you could use it for an infant and an older child, two children, baby twins, or some combination thereof. Perhaps the best feature is the one-hand fold: you push, twist, and the stroller folds all the way down and latches. It’s fast and easy, a useful thing for when you’re holding a baby in a busy parking lot.

There are twelve different configuration options accommodating twins or siblings of different ages. Last but certainly not least, each seat has a storage and snack tray!

Features: •   12 different seating options for 2 children, starting at newborn
•   Rear seat holds child up to 40 pounds, front seat or bench up to 50 pounds
•   Accepts one or two Graco car seats
•   Front swivel wheels and suspsension
•   Storage and snack trays
Dimensions: 27.2 x 22.5 x 41.5 inches ; 34.4 pounds
Price Rating: twin stroller pricetwin stroller price
Reviews: Graco double stroller reviews

Contours Options Tandem Stroller

Contours double stroller
Buy this stroller now
Here’s a robust tandem stroller with a lighter frame. Weighing in at less than 37 pounds, this stroller has a lot of flexibility: the reversible seats can be positioned six different ways, and there’s even an attachment for an infant car seat.

For me, when it comes to strollers (or minivans, or anything else), cupholders are a make-or-break feature. This stroller has four: two for the adults, and two for the little ones. There’s also a large storage basket underneath, and a small storage bin on the handle (great for keeping your keys or cell phone).

Features: •   Lightweight aluminum frame
•   Independent reclining seats
•   Height adjustable canopies
•   Extra large storage basket
Dimensions: 30.5 x 21.7 x 15.0 inches ; 36.6 pounds
Price Rating: double stroller price ratingdouble stroller price ratingdouble stroller price rating
Reviews: contours double stroller

Double Jogger Strollers

Double jogger strollers aren’t just for the fitness-crazed. True, the wheels are larger and can be locked in position to cruise at jogging speeds, but these lightweight strollers are well-suited to family outings, walks, and other outdoor activities.

InStep Safari Swivel Wheel Double Jogger

Instep Double Jogger Stroller
Buy this stroller now
One of the most popular strollers on Amazon is the Instep Safari double jogger with swivel wheel. This stroller is designed for comfort and safety, with high-performance pneumatic tires (12″ front, 16″ rear) and a dual-trigger folding mechanism to prevent mishaps.

It seats two children up to 50 pounds each (that’s like, a 4 year old) and has built-in handles for carrying the stroller when it’s folded. The manual swivel lock lets you flip between jogging mode, when a fixed front wheel is essential, and strolling mode when you’ll need to turn easily.Weighing in at nearly 50 pounds, this stroller is built for comfort and stability.

True, you can easily snap the wheels on and off during transport, but there are lighter strollers out there if you do much traveling. I do like the molded parent tray with two cupholders and the slip-resistant rubberized grip. And the 110+ reviews of this stroller are largely positive.

Features: •   12-inch front and 16-inch rear pneumatic tires
•   Dual trigger folding mechanism for extra safety
•   Pivoting child trays with two cup holders each
Dimensions: 49 x 32.2 x 40 inches ; 49 pounds
Price Rating: stroller pricestroller rating
Reviews: Instep Safari Jogger Reviews

Schwinn Turismo Double Jogging Stroller

Schwinn Turismo Double Stroller
Buy this stroller
If anyone knows how to make a good jogging stroller, it’s a bicycle company. The Schwinn Turismo double jogger is a higher-end jogging stroller and it shows. Lightweight aluminum frame, independent 5-position canopies, and quick release rims are just some of the conveniences this model has to offer. The handle is rubberized (no-slip) and adjustable for maximum comfort. The seat-backs are also independently adjustable, and there are built-in speakers for your iPhone or MP3 player.

The seats are truly independent, which will help keep your twins from bickering while you’re out and about. That’s a key feature that separates this stroller from most other side-by-side strollers I’ve seen.

Features: •   Lightweight aluminum frame with rubberized, adjustable handle
•   Aluminum Quick Release rims with extra-thick tires (12″ front and 16″ rear)
•   Parent and pivoting child trays with cup holders
•   Independent 5-position canopies to protect from sun/rain.
Dimensions: 50 x 33 x 40 inches ; 43 pounds
Price Rating: double pricestroller pricestroller rating
Reviews: Schwinn Turismo Double Jogger Reviews

Baby Jogger City Mini GT Double Stroller

City Mini Double Stroller Buy this stroller Baby Jogger’s City series of strollers are wildly popular. They’re safe, lightweight, and easy to fold. This one, the City Mini Double GT, recently won the Parent Tested, Parent Approved (PTPA) media award for baby strollers. This could easily be your everyday stroller; you can lock or unlock both front wheels for walking or jogging, respectively. Both seats fold back to a near-flat position and have mesh backs with retractable weather covers. The individually adjustable sun canopies have little peek-a-boo windows. There’s lots of built-in storage: an under-backet and pockets behind each of the seats.

The Citi Mini Double will hold up to 100 pounds, but it still fits through a standard-size door. A patented one-hand quick-fold technology lets you easily collapse the stroller, at which point it weighs only 26 pounds. That’s impressive!

Features: • 8″ quick-release EVA wheels with sealed ball bearings and front wheel suspension
• Dual lockable swivel front wheels for jogging or long walks
• Universal mounting bracket for stroller accessories
• Unique one-hand quick fold up.
Dimensions: 30.5 x 7 x 33.5 inches (folded), or 44 x 29.75 x 30 inches (unfolded); 32.5 pounds
Price Rating: double pricestroller pricestroller ratingbest stroller

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Books for parents of twins Video Monitors for Twins Help Teething Babies 6 ways to contain and entertain twins
Study up! Read about our recommended 7 books for new parents of twins. See our reviews of the latest video monitors for twins if you want to keep an extra close eye on your little ones. When your babies are teething, here are a few ways to offer some relief. Twins taking over the house? See our 6 ways to contain and entertain twins for helpful ideas.
Oct 032015

best video monitors for twinsNothing is more rewarding than getting both of your twins down to sleep at the same time. You tiptoe out of the room, congratulate yourself, and kick back to relax. Then the worry sets in. Are the twins both asleep? Are they safely positioned in the middle of the crib? You’d like to peek in, but if your twins are anything like mine (very light sleepers), even the slightest disturbance risks waking them up.

If only there were some magical way to monitor both of your twins while they sleep. Luckily, there is. Two of the best video baby monitors now have additional camera capability, letting you monitor two or more babies at once.

Here, I compare their features in detail and describe how to set them up to monitor your twins.

1. Motorola MBP36S Wireless Video Baby Monitor

motorola monitor for twinsBuy This Monitor at Amazon Motorola was the first to come out with a high-quality video baby monitor. Their latest model, the MBP36S, is perhaps the finest video baby monitor on the market. It comes with a 3.5″ full color LCD screen, with the ability to pan, tilt, and zoom the camera remotely. Other features include:

  • Real time video and sound to let you monitor your little ones as they sleep or check on them when they’re fussing.
  • Infrared night vision so that you can see your baby even when it’s dark in the nursery.
  • 2.4 GHz FHSS wireless technology with data encryption provides a strong, private signal for the video and sound from your monitor.
  • Two-way communication, so you can hear your twins’ cries and reassure them with your voice if they wake up.
  • 5 built-in lullabies that you can trigger remotely to help soothe a woken baby back to sleep.
  • Remote room temperature reading tells you if it’s too warm or too cold in the nursery.

There are more than 240 reviews on Amazon of this monitor and most of those reviewers gave it 5 stars. People love the night vision, the remote pan and zoom, and the two-way audio. With an inexpensive audio visual cable, you can hook the receiver up to your television. I own Motorola 2-way radios myself (they use the same FHSS technology), and it provides a very clear encrypted signal that only Motorola devices can pick up. Overall this video monitor is top of the line.

For Twins and Multiples: Additional Camera Capability

Extra twin camera for monitor
The Motorola MBP36S also is equipped to work with additional cameras; it supports up to four of them. This lets you monitor your little ones from different angles, your twins in different cribs, or even another child sleeping in a different room, all from the color LCD screen. Like the original camera, you can pan, tilt, and zoom extra cameras once you set them up.

To view the feeds, you can set the LCD to either scroll through all of the cameras, or else you can choose a specific camera. This is a nice feature if you want to flip between “monitoring” and looking in on a particular little one. You know in the movies where the FBI zips through all of the security footage to find what they’re looking for? Yeah, it’s like that.

2. Vtech Safe and Sound Video Baby Monitor

Vtech Video Monitor for TwinsBuy This Monitor at Amazon Another outstanding video baby monitor, another bestseller at Amazon, is the Safe & Sound video monitor by Vtech. It’s less expensive than the Motorola but has a smaller (2.8″) TFT screen. Still, there’s good value here. My favorite features include:

  • Infrared night vision auto-sensed by 8 LEDs.
  • 2.4 GHz digital wireless transmission, giving you a static-free range of up to 150 feet.
  • Vibrating sound alert and 6-level sound indicator so you don’t miss anything
  • Zoom the camera and play 5 lullabies from the parent unit
  • Talk-back intercom lets you soothe the baby remotely

The parent unit is pretty nice – it lets you control zoom and has a split-screen operation mode for when you have multiple cameras. You can also check the nursery temperature, play lullabies, and talk to your baby with it. There are 180+ reviews on Wal-mart and it gets 4/5 stars, so people are pretty happy with it. If you want a video monitor but can’t spring for the Motorola, this is the way to go.

Multiple Camera Capability

You can add up to four additional cameras to your Vtech Safe & Sound monitor, and its split-screen capability makes it easier to monitor more than one. Or you can buy the Vtech twin video monitor bundle, which comes with one parent unit and two cameras.

Video Monitors for Twins: Are they worth it?

Since video monitors aren’t cheap, you might be asking yourself this question. But you’re going to spend $30-40 on an audio monitor anyway. There are good reasons to want a video monitor instead:

  1. It lets you watch your babies more closely without disturbing them. The peace of mind is priceless.
  2. You can see which twin is fussing and make an “action plan” before entering the room.
  3. The video feed lets you figure out the problem – is it just soft fussing that will self-resolve? Or is the baby standing at the crib crying?
  4. Two-way audio and push-to-play lullabies make it possible for you to soothe those babies without going in. Will it work every time? Of course not. But one time out of five is a big, big deal.
Dec 252014

diaper bags for twinsIf you ever manage to leave the house with your twins while they’re still in diapers, you’ll need a good diaper bag. Nearly all of the supplies you need to change a baby are essentially doubled – diapers and wipes, spare outfits, toys, everything. You need a diaper bag with capacity! At the same time, you don’t want a suitcase hanging off of your shoulder while you juggle (or chase) two little ones. Finding the right diaper bag that balances space, size, and style isn’t easy.

Key Features of Diaper Bags for Twins

The best diaper bags for twins have several features in common, including:

  • Storage. You need a good-sized cargo area for diapers, wipes, and outfits, plus some exterior pockets for snacks, formula, your keys, and everything else you’ll be toting around. And zippered pockets are a plus.
  • Carrying options. Most diaper bags come with tote straps, but a shoulder strap is a must for parents of twins. I really like the diaper bags that put extra thought into this and make it wider and ergonomically supportive.
  • Stroller attachment. A shoulder strap, or better yet specially-designed clips, to fasten your diaper bag to a stroller’s handles should be your priority. This frees your hands to wrangle your little ones, pick up discarded toys, you name it.

Skip Hop Duo Double Deluxe Diaper Bag

Double deluxe diaper bag
Buy this diaper bag now
This double-sized version of the popular Skip Hop Duo is designed specifically for parents of twins. It claims to be the only diaper bag that attaches to a double stroller, which is accomplished through clever “shuttle clips” on the bag. You can carry it by the handles or messenger-style with a long shoulder strap. The magnetic closures, extra cargo space, and sixteen pockets make this an excellent choice for lugging along everything you need to diaper two little ones.

Features: -Can be carried by tote or shoulder strap
-16 pockets total
-Shuttle clips for attaachment to double stroller
-Magnetic closures throughout
Dimensions: 18 x 4.2 x 13.5 inches
Reviews: Double deluxe diaper bag reviews

Diaper Dude Diaper Bag

Diaper Dude Bag
Buy this diaper bag now
Say goodbye to flowery girly diaper bags! This bag, featured in US Weekly, Parenting Magazine, and other places, is designed with the dad in mind. It’s cool, hip, and masculine. And modern, too: there’s a key ring and cell phone holder. The main compartment has a pouch for diapers and plenty of room for clothes, wipes, and other essentials. Three large outer pockets give you the cargo space you’ll need for two of everything.

Features: -Ergonomic carry strap for comfort
-3 exterior pockets with zippers
-Large inner compartment with diaper pouch
-Includes padded changing pad
Dimensions: 16 x 4 x 14 inches
Reviews: Diaper Dude Bag Reviews

Diaper Diva Zipper Diva Bag

Diaper Diva Twin Diaper Bag
Buy this diaper bag now
Here’s the girl’s answer to the Diaper Dude: the Diaper Diva. It’s nearly identical but with pink highlights instead of gray. The same three exterior zippered pockets, large main compartment, and elastic pockets provide plenty of storage for diapers, wipes, toys, food, etc. The shoulder strap is extra wide, adjustable, and has an ergonomic “shoulder-saving” design; that’s a great feature of this diaper bag.

Features: -Wide, adjustable, ergonomic shoulder strap
-Bottle pocket plus two large elasticized slots in back.
-Removable cell phone pouch
-Interior key clip to hold car keys
-Stroller straps included
Dimensions: 16 x 3 x 14 inches
Reviews: Diaper Diva Bag Reviews

Vera Bradley Baby Bag

Vera Bradley Diaper Bag
Buy this diaper bag now
Here’s a stylish diaper bag that you’ll want to keep using as a large tote once your twins are out of diapers! It’s Vera Bradley and comes in dozens of different patterns. It’s made of sturdy soft cotton with reinforced double handles. Easy zip top opening with the ribbon pull, and four exterior pockets of varying size. There’s also a large, soft, machine-washable changing pad included.

Features: -Full zipper pack with 11 pockets inside and out
-Large 26″ x 14″ terry-covered changing pad included
-12″ strap drop, and machine-washable
-Dozens of Vera Bradley designs available
Dimensions: 17 x 7 x 12 inches
Reviews: Vera Bradley Diaper Bag Reviews
Oct 162014

fall activities for familiesFall is my favorite season, a time of change when the cool weather means long sleeves and regular use of the crockpot.

As the mosquitoes and heat of summer relent, it’s the perfect time to take your family outside for a last hurrah. Remember, winter is coming. So is cabin fever and flu season. You might as well enjoy the outdoors now while you can!

Here are twelve fall family activities to help you make the most of it.

1. Rake leaves, and then jump on them

Let’s start with the age-old classic of raking leaves — something those of us with mature trees in the backyard are going to have to do anyway — but getting the kids involved. All you need is a dry, crisp fall day, a rake, and possibly your allergy medications.

If you can persuade them to help with the raking, great. Usually that keeps their interest for about ten minutes. Before you bag them up, however, the kids will definitely be on board for jumping, burrowing, and playing in big piles of leaves.

Fall family leaf jumping

Credit: Flickr user deedsfam

2. Build or fill a bird feeder

Autumn brings plenty of feathery friends around. Some of them need to bulk up for the migration south, while others who stick around could use an extra meal or two. Why not fill the bird feeder and get your little ones to watch the animals it brings?

Even better, get them involved by building your own bird feeders. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pine cones, optimally the shorter, squatter ones with big gaps in them.
  • Peanut butter. Spoon a couple of tablespoons into a plastic bowl
  • Bird seed or sunflower seeds

Let your little ones slather peanut butter on the pine cones, and then sprinkle them with (or roll them in) the bird seed. Tie a string to the top to fasten these to trees, bushes, or other places within easy view of the window. Sprinkle some loose seed on the ground nearby to help the birds find them. The local critters will thank you.

3. Visit the pumpkin patch

family pumpkin patch

Credit: Flickr user glennf

Support your local farmers by visiting a bona-fide pumpkin patch. The day your little one gets to pick out his own pumpkin (especially if it’s still on the vine) will probably be the highlight of his fall, at least outside of October 31st. Pumpkin patches usually have other fun stuff for families, like hayrides, playgrounds, and face painting.

Your child’s first visit to the pumpkin patch as a baby, and also the first visit as a self-mobile toddler, are photo-worthy moments. The fall colors and bright orange of the pumpkins really make photos pop. So make sure the bring the camera! You can save all of your family photos on sites like Shutterfly.

4. Carve pumpkins and roast pumpkin seeds

Now that you have a whole mess of pumpkins, let’s make the most of them. Carving pumpkins is one of our all-time favorite fall activities. It’s incredibly messy, but that’s part of the fun. I highly recommend buying a pumpkin carving kit, whose narrow carving saws are ideal for the job. They’re much safer to use around little kids, too.

Your job is the carving, but the sticky job of seed and gunk removal can be delegated. Your little ones might also be good at picking out designs, doing the design-poker thing, or washing the seeds.

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds make for an easy, healthy snack. They’re very simple to make, too. Here’s my tried-and-true recipe:

  1. Wash the seeds thoroughly and spread them out to dry. Note, it takes hours for them to dry completely, and you have to keep spreading them around. It’s best done overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  3. In a large skillet, melt a few tablespoons of butter and stir in the pumpkin seeds. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each of salt and garlic powder. Season salt also works well.
  4. Spread the seeds out on a baking tray or pizza pan.
  5. Bake for around 45 minutes, stirring the seeds occasionally so that they cook evenly. They’ll be dark golden brown when finished.

5. Drive for leaf peeping

Fall leaf peeping activities

Credit: Flickr user vampa___

Yes, this is a real thing. You pile everyone into a car and take a drive to enjoy the colors of fall. Timing is everything for this activity: you want to find a day when many of the leaves have turned, but most haven’t yet fallen. For us, it’s like a 2-week window. Everyone piles into the car, and you take a long drive along the river or up into the countryside.

Bright colors should be enough to distract the average toddler for about 2 minutes. This activity is best combined with your farm visit, apple picking, or pumpkin picking, so it’s not the only point of the journey.

You can look up the best time to go for your area online. For example, ABC News has a map of the peak leaf peeping times across the U.S. In some areas, especially the west coast, you might be in for a bit of a drive. Plan to make a whole day of it!

6. Visit a farm

A farm might not be the first place you think to visit in the fall, but there are plenty of reasons to go — fresh produce, close-up encounters with farm animals, and probably a hay ride. The newspaper is probably the best place to find these, both in advertising sections and in the entertainment / around town sections. Word of mouth is good, too. Failing that, you can always search for your city name and farm with hayride, which is a staple of most family-friendly farms.

Fall family farm visit

Credit: Flickr user anjanettew

We make an annual trip to a family-friendly place where the favorite activity is feeding baby goats (you get a baby bottle full of milk for like $1). We also visit the cows, horses, chickens, ducks, etc. It makes for some great pictures; just be sure to wash everyone’s hands afterward!

7. Go apple picking

All right, I saved one of our all-time favorite activities for number seven. This one is again a matter of timing, and perhaps a little bit of research too. There’s probably a big, commercial orchard in your area where you can go pick apples, peaches, or any sort of fruit/vegetable throughout the year. They’ll have plenty of parking, and regular hayrides out into the right orchards where you can pick red, green, or other varieties of apples. You can’t go wrong with these kinds of places, though they can be crowded.

Family apple picking

Credit: Flickr user joyosity

Alternatively, it might be possible to find a small orchard or apple farm for a more rustic and intimate experience. These family-owned farms might not be able to afford the big advertising, but they’re a lot of fun. No matter where you go, be sure to bring some little bags for the kids to carry. Side note, unless you watch them, they’ll probably do most of their apple picking on the ground. Since you’re paying by the pound, you’ll probably want to go through the harvest before you leave the orchard to pay.

8. Make caramel apples

You’ll probably get home with more apples than you can possibly eat in the next month, which leads me to my next activity suggestion: making caramel apples. It sounds a lot harder than it is. All you’ll need is about 6 of your best apples, a package of those square caramel candies (14 oz), and 2 tablespoons of milk.

  1. Wash and dry the apples. Remove stems, too.
  2. Microwave the caramels and milk in a microwave-safe bowl for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. While that’s going, set up a drying/cooling tray with foil or wax paper.
  4. Roll the apples in the caramel dip

That’s all it takes! Now you have a tasty fall treat to help you celebrate the orchard harvest.

9. Take an outdoor hike

Fall family hiking

Credit: Flickr user abplanalp

A hike is a great form of outdoor exercise to help your family enjoy the fall colors. Dress everyone in warm, comfortable clothes and most importantly, good walking shoes. You might also want to bring a backpack with drinks and snacks.

I’d recommend that you don’t venture too far from the car, especially since little legs have to take about two steps for every one of yours. Also, remember that every step taken away from the car is a step you have to take back. In other words, if you walk 1/2 a mile, your total hike will be 1 mile. Keep that in mind!

10. Press a leaf collection

Did you have to do the leaf collection and identification project in elementary school? I did, and it was torture, because that was the pre-internet era. Now it’s easy to identify leaves — there are even apps for your phone that can take a picture and match it to the correct tree — and so this is a fun project for kids. On which they won’t be graded (thank goodness). You can even make an art project or scrapbook out of it, since pressed leaves last a long time. Here are some other creative, crafty ideas for leaves on Pinterest:

11. Tackle the corn or haybale maze

If you live in the midwest, you’ll probably notice once of these unique attractions in early fall. Corn mazes are usually gone by late October, though, because the corn has to be harvested. Hay bale mazes are another long-lasting option, and lots of fun to enjoy with the family. You know the right-hand rule for solving a maze, right? If you don’t, now is a good time to learn it.

Family fall zoo visit

Mongoose (Credit: Flickr user airwolfhound)

12. Visit the Zoo

Last but not least, I’d like to suggest the fall activity we most recently enjoyed: going to your local zoo (or, failing that, a petting zoo). Fall is a great time to visit the zoo because it’s far less crowded, the blacktop doesn’t get as hot, and many of the money-sucking displays have closed, so there’s less temptation for your little one. You might even be able to find free parking!

It’s Your Turn

It won’t be long before winter’s here, and the crummy weather forces your energetic, restless little ones inside. I hope you take advantage of some of these suggestions. What’s your family’s favorite fall activity? Please use the comments below to share it!