Any child who grows up with a backyard overhung with deciduous trees will be familiar with a certain seasonal ritual. It goes something like this: spend five minutes raking brittle brown leaves into a pile, spend 15 minutes rolling around in said pile until it no longer resembles a pile, and repeat until the lawn is (eventually) cleared and ready for the next season’s first snow.
LIFE magazine took seriously its mission to cover all aspects of life, from major world events to the everyday joys of children. In keeping with the spirit of the latter category, Allan Grant—who could more often be found photographing the likes of Grace Kelly and Paul Newman—spent a fall day in 1953 in Rockland County, N.Y., preserving this autumnal pastime for future generations.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.