Alternative October

Time to think outside the box! Jan Millward says that October isn’t just about Halloween – and offers suggestions for celebrating harvest festival, planting bulbs and singing seasonal songs, as well as marking the Hindu festival of harvest, Navratri…

How can it possibly be October already? This year seems to have flown by, even though we have been in the middle of a pandemic.

There may well still be restrictions on outside entertainment coming into your home and, as the weather turns colder and the clocks go back, the lovely singers will not be able to perform in your car park as easily. Equally, as local lockdowns increase and many care homes have again closed their doors, it’s likely to be feeling a bit challenging for you all.

There has been a lot of talk about the emotional wellbeing of residents (and staff) in care homes and it is more important than ever to provide lots of opportunities to join in with meaningful activities.

Don’t forget that we have a host of suggestions of one-to-one activities on our Hub, and for subscribers, our Activity Bank has a wealth of ideas and plenty of activities that residents can do by themselves if they’re isolating, or with a member of the care team. We’ve also suggested lots of ways that friends and family can stay in touch if you and your care home are now isolating. Find some suggestions here and here.


If you haven’t already celebrated with a harvest festival, now is the time. Get creative with your decorations and use autumn leaves to add colour to your home. Make a display of vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, squash, pumpkins and broccoli and then get your residents to convert them into a tasty soup for a harvest supper!

As well as traditional harvest hymns, such as ‘We Plough The Fields And Scatter’, use some of these old favourite songs and rhymes:

  • ‘Shine On Harvest Moon’
  • ‘Oats, Peas, Beans And Barley Grow’
  • ‘Oh, What A Beautiful Morning’
  • ‘I’ve Got A Brand-New Combine Harvester’
  • ‘Chick, Chick, Chick, Chick Chicken, Lay A Little Egg For Me’
  • ‘Run Rabbit Run’
  • ‘I Had A Little Nut Tree’
  • ‘Underneath The Spreading Chestnut Tree’
  • ‘Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree’
  • ‘One Man Went To Mow, Went To Mow A Meadow’
  • ‘The Farmer’s In His Den’
  • ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’
  • ‘Little Boy Blue’
  • ‘There Is A Season, Turn! Turn! Turn!’
  • ‘To Be A Farmer’s Boy’

You could invite the local vicar in to lead a service in your home or use the Hindu festival Navratri to add a twist to the celebrations. Navratri is a nine-day long festival running from 6-14 October this year. Part of the celebrations include harvest, and Hindu women traditionally plant nine different types of seeds and also decorate clay pots and plates. Both of these activities could easily be added to your programme of events. Give your harvest supper a twist by exploring some of the foods associated with this festival, even if it’s just a hint of curry in the soup!


Other special days in October include:

  • 6 October – Captain James Cook discovered New Zealand on this day in 1769. Use this day to try and build up links with care homes in New Zealand. Try establishing a pen pal link with residents in a care home over there, or try Skype or Zoom, if the time difference allows.
  • 14 October – Roger Moore’s birthday. You could run a James Bond themed day, show one of his films and make mocktails – shaken not stirred!

Now is also the time to:

  • Plant bulbs for Christmas presents
  • Have a go at leaf rubbing
  • Feed the birds as it gets colder
  • Have a go at making a hedgehog out of an old book
  • Make some chutney out of the last of the season’s apples
  • Reminisce about pickling, jamming and preserving
  • Wrap up warm and go for a walk to find conkers and leaves
  • Get ready for Halloween – ice cakes in bright orange, make crafty spiders, hollow out pumpkins and fill them with flower arrangements.