Fall is a wonderful time of crisp air and beautiful colors. It is my favorite time of year and when I feel my most productive. I have some great craft ideas for your kids that I think they will enjoy.
When you get your apples this year, take an afternoon and make apple prints. Slice an apple in half and using poster paints, have your child dip the apple and stamp it onto paper. These makes great note cards and if you use the wonderful paint that is heat-set, you can make some placemats for everyone. The frugal side of me would buy the woven cloth place mats at the dollar store. You can use leaf prints this way too.
Another great idea with apples is dried apple wreaths. Core and slice a couple of apples. Cut the slices in half horizontally so you have a bunch of almost triangular shapes. Dip into salted water for 15 minutes. Using wire about 12 inches long, thread the apple slices onto it leaving just enough bare wire to twist together and hide between a couple of slices . Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon powder and hang to dry for two weeks. The apples dry up and turn lightly brown but still smell wonderful. Once dry, hot glue a bow made of gingham to the bottom and hang it in a dry place. It lasts for years and the smell lasts for the entire time. The only reason you would throw it away is because it collects dust.
Indian corn napkin rings are another useful and cool thing for the kids to make. Buy some of that beautiful Indian corn that is available this time of year. Cut cardboard tubes (from paper towels) into 1 inch wide sections. Cut brown felt into 1 inch wide strips. Glue felt pieces on inside and outside of the 1 inch cardboard pieces. Let the glue dry. Dab the back of each kernel of Indian corn with glue. Place the corn kernels on the ring,lining them in rows. Mix up the colors for a more interesting design. These would make a great gift from the kids to someone.
Instead of cutting out jack-o'-lanterns, have the kids paint the faces onto the pumpkins. They last much longer and the younger kids can be more involved than just watching a grown-up cut out a face. I gave my son washable markers to color the pumpkins with and it worked fabulously. [Plus you can then cook the pumpkin for pie after Halloween! Just seed it, cut it into chunks, steam or bake it til soft, peel, and puree in the blender or food processor. It freezes really well if you don't want to make pie or bread with the puree right away.--Ed.]
Garlands are easy for older kids to do and they make really fancy gifts, if you can bear to give them away. Take dried apple slices as for the wreath above, bay leaves (buy these in bulk from a health food store or warehouse grocers) cinnamon sticks and a bag of cranberries. Using string or dental floss and a large needle, thread items in a repeating pattern until you have the desired length. For example: 1 inch of bay leaves, 4 apple slices, cranberry, cinnamon stick, cranberry, 4 apple slices, 1 inch of bayleaves. These are generally only made to be a foot or 18 inches in length, due to the amount of supplies and the weight of the finished product. To finish it off, leave a few inches of string or floss, make a loop for hanging and tie a country print bow on the end. They also look wonderful hanging horizontally from a doorknob-provided there aren't many young children around to play with it.