Natural Autumn Activities To Keep the Kids Busy
Some of my fondest childhood memories are surrounded by nature. Quite literally. …And somehow Autumn always seemed like an especially magical time of year. To this day there is nothing quite like the smell of Autumn: it’s crisp fresh air sprinkled with the one- of- a- kind smell of falling leaves. I cannot step outside my door without taking a huge deep breath to breathe it in. In literature and life it seems Autumn is often used to symbolize the beginning of the end, the beauty of ripeness, and the bittersweet nature of change. For me it is actually a time of rebirth that feeds my soul and senses. While I think I long for Winter most of all, Autumn is the beginning for me. It is the season that arouses my senses and fills my heart with a kind of joy unparalleled by the other seasons. As you might imagine, this is a time I truly enjoy sharing with children and I think it is an important time to be in nature.
I’m sure that most people would not argue the benefits of outdoor play. Studies have shown that outdoor play can increase a child’s cognitive development, imagination, problem solving skills, independence, and overall love of learning. And of course there are all of the physical benefits including calorie burning, muscle strengthening, and motor skill development. Other studies have also found that children who spend time in nature are just happier, more emotionally stable people. I’m no scientist, but I agree so strongly. I know saying that being in nature feeds my soul might seem hokey to some, but I literally crave a connection to nature. We are all so different but I can say that honestly, for some of us, nature truly is the best medicine for so many things that ail us. I think that when we are excited about the wonder all around us the kids will feel this too! I know not everyone loves nature like I do , but perhaps there are a few things you do like about autumn. Think about your favorite things to share with the kids!
But let’s get real: It’s getting cold and the pool and beaches are closed, the festivals folded, the garden hoses frozen solid (or just about!) So what can they do outside? That’s just it! They can explore, they can help rake the leaves, they can figure it out! Fall is a wonderful time for them to just play. So let them be and you might be amazed at some of the activities they dream up! So bundle them up and let them play!
…Then when the novelty of it wears off, I have some other ideas:
Leaf Play! Jumping in leaves (of course check for sticks, broken glass, anything that might be harmful.) You could be shocked at how much your kids WANT to rake up leaves if it means they can jump in them! You can rake up one huge pile, a couple small ones, or even encourage them to move about the yard with scattered piles you can use for little relay races and activities. Then, when the pile fun is over race to see who can fill their bag first. Yes, it’s a sly way of getting the kids to clean up the yard! Mom and Dad will probably earn bonus points if they get to push or ride in a wheelbarrow!
Leaf Hunt and Learn! (pictured) Take a walk and have the kids collect as many different shaped leaves as possible. When you get home you can go though them all to examine each of them and learn their names, habits, history, etc.
Scavenger Hunt! Start this one inside by having the kids sit down and make a list together with you or their caregiver. Give them each a brown paper bag and write (or draw for little ones who cannot spell yet) down the items they’d like to find (examples: red leaf, mutli-colored leaf, acorns, something round, something beautiful, something strange, something magnificent, something pointy, something unique, etc.) then set out to find them! This can be done on a walk or just around the yard.
Hide and Seek! An oldie but ALWAYS a goodie! Nothing says you can’t play hide and seek any time of year! Different seasons offer different perspectives and kids might look at hiding spaces in a whole new way!
Leaf Catch! If leaves are still falling around you see who can catch the most leaves as they fall from the trees!
Leaf Maze! Rake the leaves into a little maze in your yard. the kids can then race or place games within the maze. Once again, see who can fill their bag(s) fastest once the maze play is over.
Painting with leaves! The veins of leaves are a truly natural beauty. For this activity, you will get the kids outside and ask them to collect about a dozen different leaves. You can take a walk or do this in the yard. Have them take their time (play and explore in between) to find leaves that they see to be truly special. Then set up some paints on the picnic or outdoor table and create leaf art by dabbing the leaves in the paint and then onto your paper, poster, etc.
Nature Hike/Walk! Take a walk or hike and have the kids identify things that they think look different in autumn than they did in the summer. Use this as an opportunity to explain the seasons, the different typos of trees, etc.
Build a scarecrow! This is a great one because it will keep the kids busy indoors and out! Have them gather up some old clothes and then get outside and start stuffing them with leaves. This can be a great exercise in working together if you have multiple children or each child can take pleasure on the creativity of making his/her own. Little ones will obviously need some help getting it together but this is sure to be a fun time spent outdoors together and you will have a new little friend when it’s all said and done!
Pretend Play Pie Shop! Fall is a great time of year for pretend play. Less mud and mess and more good clean fun! Mix up a pot of leaf stew or gather some pie plates and make beautiful leaf pies.
Have an apple cider party outdoors! Spread out a cozy blanket or tablecloth and set up a little picnic and cider party outdoors. lay down and look to the clouds to find shapes or talk about the leaves and trees around you. Be one with nature and your little one and cherish the moment. (Get our homemade apple cider recipe on the website!)
Build an outdoor fort! Let them use their imaginations to build an awesome outdoor fort! Depending on your yard, they might be able to find all they need outside or supplement with the usual blankets, tablecloths, pillows, etc. Bring out some favorite fall stories and read together in the new fort.
Plant some winter/cold weather veggies! Depending on your zone, Vegetables like Cabbage, Brocolli, Curly Kale and more can be planted and harvested in the colder weather. Check out www.Burpee.com for a guide in your area. If it’s already too cold where you are, you might want to plant some flower bulbs that will bloom next Spring. This is a wonderful exercise in teaching the children the beauty of patience and nature’s circle of life.
Collect Pine Cones! Collect all different sized pinecones and save them for a post coming later this month for ideas regarding how to make your own scented pinecones for the Holidays.
Create Nature Dioramas! Spend some time playing and collecting in the yard and then set up some supplies on a blanket or outdoor table. You will need one shoebox or plastic container per child and whatever else they want to create their own diorama. Have them create their own autumn scene within the box and then share a story about what is happening in that little world they created.
Let them Decorate! Let them decorate their own little play house for autumn or designate an area in the yard that is theirs to decorate as they please!
Let the Compost! If you have a compost container or area, kids will love helping with this. It can be a tad destructive and messy so that’s right up the alley for most kids! Let them smash the leftover pumpkins in the garden and/or help empty out planters and pots to get cleaned up for winter.
Leaf and Seek! This is a great one for the little ones. Have them fill a large container or box with leaves and then hide some of their favorite little toys in them and have them search until the find each of the toys! You will want to do this outside so they can splash around in the leaves and get into it!
Make an Obstacle Course! I am a big fan of obstacle courses any time of the year. They are quick and easy to set up and kids of all ages will have fun for some time. Use whatever you have around and use nature to create things for them to run through, around, over, etc. You can create one for them to race or just run through and then let them help create new versions. The same course can be used for multiple ages with minor modifications (Perhaps a toddler will run under something older kids can jump over for example.)