This time of year, trips to the apple orchard or the pumpkin patch are at a premium as kids and parents scramble to squeeze in some fun before the winter weather. Penny Warner, author of Kids' Outdoor Parties (Meadowbrook Press, 1999), suggests a way to "open the doors to the great outdoors" by throwing a hayride party for kids. Warner suggests the following activities for your autumn frolic.
Use the phone book to locate someone who hosts hayrides. Nearly every community has a rural area with a farm that offers this fun activity.
Provide harmonicas to all the guests so they can play some tunes on the hayride. Teach the kids how to play a few simple tunes, such as "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain," "On Top of Old Smokey (or Spaghetti)" or "Over the River and Through the Woods."
When the kids get tired of the harmonicas, let them sing songs as they ride around the farm or ranch. Bring along an inexpensive songbook for ideas and lyrics. You can also make photocopies of the words if you prefer the kids to sing on their own. Great songs for hayrides include "Old MacDonald," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "Make New Friends."
Cover a picnic table with newspapers. Give each guest several sheets of white paper. Set out poster paints and sprinkle the table with hay. Have the kids paint their pictures on the paper using the hay as brushes.
Gather some old clothes, accessories (such as eyeglasses, hats, gloves, scarves and jewelry) and lots of hay. Divide the group into teams and have each team create their own scarecrow. Consider using pumpkins for the heads.
Refresh your rosy-cheeked guests with this fabulous fare:
- Have a picnic on your hayride with easy-to-eat sandwiches, chips and canned drinks.
- Make Chocolate Haystacks for dessert. Melt chocolate chips in a small pot, pour in shredded wheat cereal and cover with chocolate. Heap spoonfuls of the concoction onto waxed paper. Serve when cool.
- Give the kids trail mix for the hayride trail.
"The great outdoors is the perfect place for hosting a children's party, no matter what the season," says Warner. "There's plenty of open space, lots of natural decorations and the options for fun are limitless!"