Does your child’s school have a fall break scheduled this year? This “mini-break” during the fall months is typically a long weekend with one or two extra days off school. But if your response to another school break is to groan and roll your eyes, don’t worry. We’ve compiled a few easy ways to handle childcare and maximize the time off with some fun fall activities—whether or not you have PTO to burn.

Consult the calendar and make a child care plan.

First things first: break out your work calendar and determine if you’re able to take time off. If it’s not possible for a parent to be off for the entire break, is a day or even a half day of PTO possible? Do you need a sitter to watch the kids during the days that you cannot? Once you’ve figured out your schedule and a plan for how you want to manage childcare, it’s time to consult your list of sitters.

Check in with your favorite sitters.

For some, the end of summer means a diminishing pool of sitters as young adults head back to college. But many universities also schedule short breaks during the fall semester that could line up with your child’s days off. Reuniting with a favorite sitter can make the break feel special to kids whether they are playing in the yard or heading out for their favorite fall activities. Are your usuals unavailable? Start the search for the perfect sitter now.

Use the break to live your best fall life.

Whether you’ve decided to cash in your paid time off, hire a sitter or are doing some combination of the two, you can make fall break special for your kids by taking full advantage of the season. Here are a few ideas:

Plan a trip to the apple orchard or pumpkin patch. Struggling to find a weekend day when you can pencil in those autumn-only activities? Apple season runs through November in various parts of the United States—from the east coast to the mid-Atlantic states, through the Midwest and across the country to the Pacific Northwest. Fall break is the perfect time to skip the weekend crowds and plan an apple picking outing or take a trip to the pumpkin patch.

Get a jump on Halloween.  Kids love Halloween—and not just trick-or-treating. Take time during the fall break to make the most of the holiday. Plan and shop for costumes, visit a haunted house, and get ready for trick-or-treat by adding some spooky decor to your home.

Schedule annual family pictures. Fall foliage is the perfect backdrop for family photos. Find a local photographer who can take photos of your kids during the break then use those shots for your holiday greeting cards.

Carve jack-o-lanterns.  After you’ve picked your pumpkins, it’s time to get creative. Review carving safety with kids before you allow them to use sharp tools and always make sure that an adult or sitter is present for pumpkin carving. Keep in mind that smooth, lighter weight pumpkins are easier to cut. Keep designs simple and use a sharpie to draw them on the pumpkin before carving. Want to skip the sharp tools? Decorate tiny pumpkins with markers, glitter, paint and rhinestones.

Hunt for fall foliage. Get your kids outside and make the most of mild weather during the fall break. An outdoor fall scavenger hunt is an easy, customizable activity that can accommodate one kid or a group. Simple scavenger hunts for young children can involve finding pinecones, leaves, sticks and rocks. For older kids, the items can be more specific, such as searching for leaves from various kinds of trees. Keep your planning simple: All you need is a list of items and a pen for marking off items as they are found.

Get crafty.  Pick up some pinecones during your scavenger hunt? Here are some simple pinecone crafts that are appropriate for kids in elementary school. Try one or several during your fall break!

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