When the weather begins to turn cooler, pumpkin spice is in the air, and Friday night lights are in full swing, it's probably time for your church to promote its fall festival. These gatherings can be a great opportunity to provide free fun for your community. To ensure a good time is had by all, you need to plan for some stellar activities for all ages. With a bit of prep and planning, your church fall festival can be full of fun for everyone! Here are eight ideas for a non-boring good old-fashioned time.
1. Knock Down
What kid doesn't like to throw stuff? They're born to do it! So why not make it into a game? Gather some tin cans, wrap them in colorful paper, and stack them in a pyramid. Grab a few balls, and you're ready to roll…or throw, as the case may be. Depending on the ages of your guests, have varying distances from which participants will stand. Give them three shots to knock down the cans and give them a prize at the end!
2. Ring a Pumpkin
Another classic carnival-type game is a ring toss. Make yours fall-friendly and a bit different from the norm by having contestants ring pumpkins with hula hoops. This super-easy setup just involves setting out medium-sized pumpkins, spacing them a few feet apart. Your standard hula hoop will be just the right size for kids and adults to toss up and around the gourds to secure a prize. If you have a lot of pumpkins available, you could even give those away to the winners.
3. Putt a Pumpkin
In keeping with the pumpkin theme, this next game involves just a bit of craftiness in preparation. Find a medium to large-sized box. With the open flapped size down, you'll create a large painted (or drawn) pumpkin on one side of the box. When that's done, cut out an opening around four inches wide at the bottom of the picture. This hole at the base of the box will be just the right size for gamers to hit a golf ball through. The only other things you need are a putter (a few different sizes if available) and an orange golf ball. Designate a starting point and line guests up for a chance to get a hole in one through the pumpkin.
4. Obstacle Course
Everybody likes an obstacle course. Twists and turns, climbing, and crawling can make a fun adventure. How you set it up is up to you. It can be as simple as following a path to spin around a chair three times, then hopping through hula hoops on the floor until you reach a table you must crawl under. Everyday objects that you already have on hand make this a simple game to set up. For added fun, set up two identical courses side by side. Then have two people compete against each other in a race. If you just have one course set up, you could time participants and keep a running scoreboard of the fastest times. Those competitive families will keep coming back for more.
5. Pumpkin Tic Tac Toe
Tic Tac Toe is a game everyone knows how to play. To make it fall festival-friendly, create a large area on the floor where you can tape off these classic lines. Then use mini orange and white pumpkins for the Xs and O's. A great thing about this game is that no one has to manage it. It's always good to have some low-key activities families can do that are self-sufficient. A simple sign can point to what they're supposed to do in this area. You might even plan for several tic tac toe boards so many people can play at once.
6. Duck Pond
The Duck Pond is an iconic carnival game, and although it might be 'boring' for some of your older festival-goers, the young ones are sure to love it. It's easy, takes no strategy, and even toddlers can manage to play this game and win. Fill a kiddie pool with a shallow amount of water. Get a lot of rubber ducks and write a number on the bottom of each duck. Vary the numbers using one, two, and three. Make a simple sign that shows one equals candy, two equals a sticker, and three equals try again. Little ones will love touching the water, picking up the ducks, and earning a prize. Have some towels nearby to keep the splashes cleaned up. Another option, if you don't want to use water, would be to do a fish pond with laminated paper fish cutouts. Attach a large metal paper clip to each fish and toss them into the empty kiddie pool. Create fishing poles by tying a piece of string to one end of a dowel rod. Attach a magnet to the other end of the string. Kids can toss the magnet into the pool and catch a numbered fish. It's less messy and can keep toddlers entertained for a long time.
7. Cake Walk
Anyone can set up a classic cakewalk, but with a little more effort, you can put a spin on this game to make it more interesting. Of course, you need access to music and some numbered squares of paper. Laminate these cards so they will last through your event and be able to be stored for future use. For prizes, instead of having full-sized cakes, ask for donations of cupcakes or small snack cakes. To play the game, instead of the normal walk around the circle, have a variety of cards with different actions listed on them. For each new game, pull one out and have the walkers do this action as they move around the circle. You might have them hop like a bunny, walk backward, sidestep, or tiptoe. This makes the activity more interesting as they wander and wait for their number to be called.
8. Bounce Houses
Kids have a lot of energy, and you may not have a lot of space for them to be running around your area freely. A bounce house can help them get their wiggles out in a fun way. Different sizes for different ages are a great option. You might have a small bounce that is only for preschoolers or younger. Bigger bounce houses can be for older kids. Be sure to set a time limit and follow the guidelines for maximum capacity, so everyone stays safe. If you have the money and storage space, you might want to invest in some of these pieces. If not, rentals are well worth the money for a bouncy time.
A Few Bonus Tips
When hosting a fall festival, be prepared. Have plenty of volunteers to help out and schedule them in shifts, so everyone has time for work and play. This is a great opportunity for families to serve together. Have enough food ready. Whether you're having hotdogs and chips or just small snacks and water bottles, make sure there's enough. Ensuring there is enough candy and prizes is important as well. Nothing makes a worse impression than having a family show up to play only to realize your candy buckets are empty. To save on costs, one idea is to ask families to donate two bags of individually wrapped candy as their admission to the event. These can be used as prizes for your games and help offset your budget.
Expect things. Expect that your evening is going to be loud, there will be messes, and something may go wrong. Having answers ready for your issues will help you handle them with less stress and more grace.
View it as an outreach. Families will often don the doors for this type of free event way more likely than stepping into your foyer on a Sunday morning. Be ready to welcome them and show them your church is a place that loves people. Prep your volunteers for this aspect as well. First impressions are everything, so have door greeters who are gracious and smiling, and ready to help.
With some time, a few simple supplies, and the right people, your church can host an amazing, non-boring, fun fall festival! Create activities that are enjoyable for the whole family. Be ready to feed those who arrive physically and emotionally, so you might have the opportunity later to feed them spiritually.