Autumn is here, with its vast array of colours, smells and sounds – perfect for family walks in local forests, parks and woodlands.
We have compiled a wide range of autumn-related outdoor and indoor activities, for sparking your child’s interest in nature and enhancing their learning.
Walks and scavenger hunts
Sensory walks are great at this time of the year, for kicking up the leaves, smelling the ripe fruits, spotting the vibrant colours and hearing the crunching sounds underneath your feet.
Scavenger hunts can help to engage your children further, extend their language development and make the walk into even more of a fun adventure.
Look for items like helicopter seeds, berries, acorns, conker cases, chestnuts and different coloured leaves. Encourage them to describe these items using adjectives, such as crunchy, spiky and prickly.
Brightly coloured fungi are also great to spot, with the reminder not to touch, as many varieties are poisonous.
With the nights getting darker and winter approaching, many creatures are getting ready for hibernation and others are enjoying the longer, darker nights to search for their prey. You may be lucky enough to spot some, if you know where to look.
What to look out for and where:
- Bats can be found within dense woodlands, on farmland or grasslands and even in urban areas. They may also be spotted near water. You might find them around trees, caves, buildings or rooftops.
- Owls are adapted to hunt swiftly and silently, mainly inhabiting farmland.
- Foxes are common nocturnal predators that can be seen at dusk and through the night, in the countryside, woodlands, towns and cities.
- Wildcats are small, carnivorous mammals. They are more muscular than domestic cats and have brown, mottled fur. Found in the Scottish Highlands, they eat small mammals, including mice, voles, rabbits, hares and some small birds.
- Pine martens are predominantly nocturnal and they are rare in most parts of the UK. Impressive predators, they have a similar prey to wildcats, but they also eat eggs, insects, berries and fruits.
- Badgers usually live in woodlands in underground burrows called setts. They eat fruit, nuts, acorns and wheat, as well as earthworms, slugs, beetles, rats, mice, frogs, rabbits and even hedgehogs.
- Hedgehogs can commonly be found foraging during Autumn, getting ready for hibernation. They create shelters out of dead leaves, twigs and sticks. In more urban areas, they may choose to hibernate under logs or in sheds.
- Moths can be found in gardens, moorland and hedgerows. They are attracted to light.
Fallen leaves, seeds and fruits can be great for autumn art and craft activities. They can be carried out at home, or even while out and about (please take other craft materials home afterwards, to help to protect the environment and the creatures who live there).
Here are some of our favourite activities to try:
- Make a tree picture, or forest scene, using fallen leaves and seeds and a large piece of paper or a groundsheet to place them on.
- Make an animal picture with leaves. Acorns and conkers are great for eyes and noses.
- Create leaf prints, using autumnal colours.
- Try leaf rubbing – lay your leaf on the table, with the veins at the top, pop a piece of paper over it and use the side of a crayon to colour over the leaf until the shape and pattern emerges.
- Make an autumn mobile, by crossing over 2 sticks and tying on natural items that you find in the forest, eg leaves, feathers, conkers and acorns, etc.
- Make funny face pictures on card. Sycamore seeds and other helicopter seeds make great moustaches.
- Use leaves and sticks to create your child’s name or first initial on the ground.
- Read ‘Stick Man’ by Julia Donaldson and then create your own stick person, using sticks, leaves and string.
You could photograph your artwork and send it to us. We love to see what families are creating.
Maths and matching games
- Play a counting game, such as collecting 10 orange leaves, or seeing how many acorns you can collect.
- Try a matching game. Start with a cardboard grid, with 6 pictures of things that you know can be very easily found in your local woods at this time of year, eg a red leaf, an orange leaf, a conker, an acorn, etc. Find each item together and place it on the corresponding picture, or see who can fill their grid first. To extend the challenge for older children, put different shaped leaves on the card for your children to match.
After an autumn walk in the forest, it’s fun to warm up with a hot chocolate and cuddled up together for an autumn-themed story.
Here are some of our suggestions, but there are many more to choose from:
‘Because of an Acorn’ by Lola M Schaefer and Adam Schaefer
‘Play Hide and Seek with a fox’ by Sam Taplin
‘Hedgehugs’ Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper
The Busy Little Squirrel’ Nancy Tafuri
‘Stick Man’ by Julia Donaldson
‘Leaf Man’ Lois Ehlert
‘Pumpkin Soup’ by Helen Cooper
‘The Gruffalo Autumn and Winter Nature Trail’ by Julia Donaldson
‘Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble’ by Paul Cookson (an anthology of poems)
‘Be a Tree’ by Maria Gianferrar
For older children (9-11 years) try:
‘Leaves’ by Stephen Hogtun
‘A place Called Perfect’ by Helena Duggan
Looking for Autumn activity books?
Try ‘Little Country Cottage’ by Angela Ferraro-Fanning, with nature-based crafts, recipes and other ideas.
We hope that you will have lots of fun enjoying our autumn-themed, nature-based activities.
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