As the nights draw in, there’s plenty of cause for celebration. Dark skies are perfect for stargazing, scarecrow trails are an autumn staple, and The Great British Bake Off is an excellent excuse to get baking. There’s no doubt that this season is set for fun galore.
Autumn craft evening
The beautiful colours of autumn are the perfect inspiration for children’s creativity. Run the event after school, offering a selection of activities for the children to enjoy. When choosing crafts, look at what materials you have available and what you can find outside: pinecone hedgehogs, leaf art, pebble painting and air dry clay pumpkins are all good options. Or plan it for later in the year and encourage the children to make Christmas gifts for their families. Charge a small fee to enter and include snacks and drinks to fuel pupil’s artistry. For adults, try willow weaving as a pine needle-free alternative to wreath making. Find a local expert to run the event and guide attendees through the process.
Space and stargazing event
Celebrate World Space Week (4-10 October) with a space and stargazing event. Start the evening in your school hall, with a talk from an astronomy expert about observing the stars. If you don’t know of anyone local, contact the Federation of Astronomical Societies for help sourcing a speaker. Engage the audience with experiments, demonstrations and a space quiz. After sunset, head outside for the main event – stargazing. Ask guests to bring folding chairs and torches, plus telescopes and binoculars at their own risk. Add an extra activity, such as a space-themed treasure hunt, to engage fidgety little ones and provide entertainment in case of a cloudy sky.
Hold a campout-style evening where families can gather around the bonfire. Wet parents’ whistles with beer from a local brewery and tempt them with a barbecue or hog roast – ensuring you have a vegetarian alternative – with ginger cake for pudding. Before sunset, hold friendly games, such as a football match or den-building competition. Run dream-catcher workshops or friendship bracelet making so there’s something for everyone. After dark, add music for a festival atmosphere. Keep it simple with a relaxed sing around the bonfire, or go all out by asking local acts to perform.
The whole community can enjoy a scarecrow trail. Once you’ve set a theme (try book characters, sustainable scarecrows, or even the adventures of your school hamster!), source scarecrow makers by leaving sign-up forms in local shops or posting on social media. The only outlay for the PTA is printing and advertising costs, plus any prizes. Once you’ve found enough makers, create a map plotting the location of all the scarecrows. For an extra challenge, assign questions or clues to each display and ask visitors to work out the answer. Enter correct guesses into a prize draw.
Halloween trick or treat trail
Ask children to dress up in spooky costumes – holding a second-hand sale in advance – for some detective work on the school field. Someone has been up to some naughty tricks, but can they work out who? Set up mini crime scenes where children can look for clues – think Elf on the Shelf pranks on a larger scale. Keep things simple for the little ones: the school rabbit has been misbehaving; can they follow the trail of nibbled carrots and pieces of hay? Older children can work out which teacher has confiscated all the treats by solving puzzles about the class or subject they teach. Once they’ve cracked the case, their reward is a disco in the school hall. Always check your school is comfortable with a Halloween celebration.
Decorate your outside space with autumnal bunting and hire hay bales as seating. Serve hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows, and satisfy grown-up tastes with pumpkin-spiced lattes. Keep hunger pangs at bay with a barbecue, and serve toffee apples or marshmallows roasted on the firepit. Fence off any potentially dangerous areas, making sure there’s always an adult keeping an eye on them. Hold a pumpkin competition – pumpkins can be carved beforehand or on the day if you have plenty of volunteers. If you’re unsure about carving, children can draw on them with Sharpies or decorate hollowed-out pumpkins. Keep kids engaged with potato printing and conker painting if they have to wait for their turn. Set up a hay bale photo spot to capture memories.
With The Great British Bake Off airing in the autumn and National Baking Week falling in October (14-19), it’s a prime opportunity for some batter-based battles. Choose a theme for your creative cake makers, which your current fundraising project could inspire. If you’re raising money for a library, how about literary bakes? For a playground, try sporty sweets. Ask entrants to bring the bakes in for judging by your headteacher and sell portions with hot drinks after school.
More reasons to celebrate
1-31 October – The Big Draw: Run an art exhibition yourselves or through a company such as Images
1-31 October – International School Library Month: Celebrate this precious resource with a sponsored readathon
6 October – National Poetry Day: Compile and sell a poetry anthology book, with contributions from pupils on a set theme
16 October – World Food Day: Host an international evening celebrating different dishes from the cultures in your community
3-9 October – National Curry Week: Hold a quiz and curry night in your school hall
17-23 October – Chocolate Week: Set a silver Smarties challenge ready for pupils to collect their earnings over half-term
4-9 November – National Spa Week: A relaxing pamper evening is also an opportunity for some early Christmas shopping