The school year started out slow. Whether your child was going back in person, or rejoining the joyful ranks of us workers from home, they took baby steps. It almost seemed like summer vacation wasn’t ending; it was just … changing.

Well, that’s over. Fall is back, in all its over-the-top, busier-than-ever autumn-ness, with festivals, virtual play dates, Zoom storytimes, serious craft projects, live music lessons, vital teen forums, and obligatory Halloween haunts. Good luck with that.

Delaware River Festival

Through October 4, various times and platforms, free, schedule here, (ages 4 and up)

A live, virtual watershed lesson is part of this week's Delaware River Festival.
Courtesy of Delaware River Festival
A live, virtual watershed lesson is part of this week's Delaware River Festival.

You might not make an immediate connection between the voracious spotted lanternfly and river-related fun. But, the reviled and omnipresent insect has invaded more than our environment: It’s invaded our kids' minds. So, among the festival’s live watershed lesson (11 a.m. Tuesday) and virtual storytime (7:30 p.m. Monday 1 p.m. Wednesday) are a craft lesson in lanternfly trap-making (register here) and a lanternfly-theme Q & A (2:30 p.m. Wednesday).


Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse hosts a Virtual Autism Play Date on Sunday, Sept. 27.
Photo by Rosie Simmons for Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse
Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse hosts a Virtual Autism Play Date on Sunday, Sept. 27.

Virtual Children’s Read-Aloud

10:30–11 a.m. Thursdays in October, pay-what-you-wish, via Zoom, (ages 7 & under)

The Brandywine River Museum of Art has moved its in-person storytime to Zoom. The museum's associate educator for school & family programs, Liesl Mahoney, will read "Make Something Beautiful" this Thursday.
Courtesy of the Brandywine River Museum of Art
The Brandywine River Museum of Art has moved its in-person storytime to Zoom. The museum's associate educator for school & family programs, Liesl Mahoney, will read "Make Something Beautiful" this Thursday.

Sitting on the floor, facing the river through a curved glass window, Wyeths in the background, storytime at the Brandywine River Museum of Art is an in-person delight. But watching from a cozy spot at home can be a delight, too. The museum kicks off a month of live readings of art-centric books such as Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell (this week), Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner (Oct. 8), I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison (Oct. 15), Layla’s Happiness by Maria Hadessa and Ekere Tallie (Oct. 22), and, in time for an artful Halloween, Frankencrayon by Michael Hall (Oct. 29).

The Clay Studio: Virtual Handbuilding

3:30–4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8 & 15, $60, registration required, (ages 6–12)

Just pick up supplies at the Clay Studio in Old City and they'll help lead you through the rest at home.
Just pick up supplies at the Clay Studio in Old City and they'll help lead you through the rest at home.

Those of us who long ago threw in the towel on leading at-home craft projects can instead throw some newspaper on the floor and let the Clay Studio do the work. The three-week workshop starts when you pick up materials in Old City, and continues when the kids make animals out of pinch pots, craft a mug from clay coils, and build a knickknack box out of slabs.

Spooky Twilight Tours

6–8 p.m. Fridays in October (9, 16, 23, 30), $10, tickets available onsite or in advance, (ages 10 & up)

Halloween at Eastern State Penitentiary is the definition of scary.
Halloween at Eastern State Penitentiary is the definition of scary.

Between the friendly storytelling of Once Upon a Nation and the terrifying spectacle of a Halloweening Eastern State Penitentiary, Historic Philadelphia’s ghost tours are an appropriately scary medium. They’re also heavy on truly grim health issues — infection, smallpox, yellow fever, bloodletting — and end with a visit to the Betsy Ross House.

Live Out Loud

7 p.m. Friday (playground open until 6 p.m.), free, registration required, (ages 6 and up)

"Live Out Loud," a documentary about students from the Overbrook School for the Blind and dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet, plays outside at Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse Friday evening. Pictured here are dancers Santiago Garzon and Justin Morrisey at rehearsal.
Courtesy of Live Out Loud/Art-Reach
"Live Out Loud," a documentary about students from the Overbrook School for the Blind and dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet, plays outside at Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse Friday evening. Pictured here are dancers Santiago Garzon and Justin Morrisey at rehearsal.

Who says outdoor movie nights are over? Yet again, Smith Memorial Playground sets up its socially distanced play pads to host a family-friendly free screening of the documentary Live Out Loud from Art-Reach and the Pennsylvania Ballet. The plot: A group of students from the Overbrook School for the Blind learn and put on an extraordinary tap performance.

Kids' Music Day

Friday, various locations, info here, (ages 2–17)

Matthew Morrison is the official spokesperson of this year's Kids' Music Day.
Photo courtesy of Kids' Music Day
Matthew Morrison is the official spokesperson of this year's Kids' Music Day.

Founded in Delco, this global day features discounts (Guitar Center!), free virtual guitar, piano, and saxophone lessons from Music & Arts, an online movement and music class for 3- to 5-year-olds from Kindermusik in Orlando, (11 a.m.), virtual musical instrument petting zoo from the Ridley Township Public Library (1 p.m.), and livestreamed performances from Fort Washington’s School of Rock (through Saturday). And that’s just in the U.S. There are also musical opportunities to be had in Brunei, Nigeria, the U.K., and beyond. Big-deal spokesperson for this year’s festival: Disney’s own Matthew Morrison, fresh from a new performance on the Grammy Museum’s YouTube channel.

Rise & Dream Philly Teen Conference

Noon–2 p.m. Saturday, free, registration required, (ages 13–23)

The Rise & Dream Philly Teen Conference takes place virtually this year, on Saturday. Pictured here is Wallo267 at last year's conference. He'll be taking part again as a speaker this year.
Courtesy of Rise & Dream Philly Teen Conference
The Rise & Dream Philly Teen Conference takes place virtually this year, on Saturday. Pictured here is Wallo267 at last year's conference. He'll be taking part again as a speaker this year.

Things sure aren’t getting easier for Philly teens. Youth Service Inc. comes to the rescue with a two-hour YouTube conference starring Philly talent — Wallo267, rapper Gillie Da Kid, rappers Mac N Chees, dance group Project Positive, and rapper Eli Capella — and some powerful messages on gun violence, drugs, tobacco, getting through, and rising above.