Monday, October 29, 2012

Annual Fall Festival for the School-Age Crowd

In the lead-up to Halloween, my branch celebrates all things autumn with an annual Fall Festival. While it's not technically a Halloween program--we don't want to cause any non-Halloween celebrators to feel excluded--there is plenty of candy and traditional autumn fun. Think sweets, black and orange, and not-too-scary things that go bump in the night. Our school-age program crowd has come to look forward to our annual Fall Festival, where they know they will encounter a few program elements that are always at hit. The general program elements at each fall festival are in bold; the details of the specific thing I did this year follow.

Treats -- Really, what is a festival without yummy things to eat? One of my staffers always buys a ton of candy to have for her preschool fall festival and to pass out in the branch on Halloween, and the school-age fall festivities benefit from her generous candy purchasing. I have yet to find a kid who is not a fan of Double Stuf Oreos.

Storytelling -- I like to tell a story whenever I have a group of school-age kids in a program; sometimes it's the only opportunity they have to hear oral storytelling. This year I opted to go with a cut and tell story: "The Little Orange House". I love cut and tell stories for two reasons. Reason number one is that it gives the more fidgety listeners something to focus on while they are listening; reason number two is that young listeners always seem fascinated at how a few simple cuts in paper could result in something story-related. Try it out.

Craft -- This year we made sack-o-lanterns, or carved pumpkin luminaria. I had paper sacks, black construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, and markers out on our tables, and the children were able to cut out whatever shapes they wanted to create their sack-o-lanterns' faces. Several children insisted that mine needed a mustache, so I obliged.

Team Game -- School-age program attendees are split pretty well in half into two categories: those who attend alone, and those who attend with a sibling or friend. I like to have a mingling, camaraderie-building aspect to the program so kids meet new people, so I try to always include a team game. For this fall festival, I had a ring relay race. The kid were split into two even teams, and each team had a set of 10 rings (either orange spiders or black bats). One team member at a time had to put on all ten rings, run to the other side of the room to tap a chair, run back, remove the rings, and then pass them on to the next team member. The first team whose members all completed the challenge first won. It was a close race, and we witnessed some very creative definitions of what it meant to "put on" the rings.

Candy Corn Bingo -- I am pretty sure that veteran Fall Festival attendees would mutiny if we didn't play Candy Corn Bingo. Using pieces of candy corn, kids mark custom bingo cards from DLTK that are decorated with fall-themed images as each image is called by the program leader. Whenever a child got a Bingo, he or she got to claim a fun-size candy bar or Blow Pop, clear his/her card, and start anew. We kept playing until everyone had won twice. These kids get really into Candy Corn Bingo, and ending our Fall Festival with the game is always a hit.


  1. Ooh, I might try the BINGO sheets with our afterschool groups. How many kids do you typically play with?

  2. We've done 30 kids tops, I think. Although you can print as many sheets as you want--you just might get some duplicate winners.

  3. We do a Boo-Ha-Ha at our public library for 3-8 year olds. I'll be incorporating some of your ideas. Thanks for posting!


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