There’s no denying that autumn is well underway. The air smells sweet and musty, the wind finds every gap in your scarf, and puddles dot the pavements. As it grows colder and darker, it can be tempting to curl up on the sofa and watch TV. But what about your kids?
Everyone benefits from getting out and about in the fresh air, and it’s always great to have alternatives to screen time. So here are five fun autumn activities for kids, indoors and outside.
The best autumn activities for kids
1. Log patterns
Collect some natural materials—conkers, leaves, catkins—and create concentric circles on the flat face of a tree stump. You could also clear an area on the ground of leaves, and make that area whatever shape you like. Start on the outside and work inwards, creating one circle at a time. Circles can be made of one material, such as a circle of stones or a circle of leaves, or a mixture of materials. Model the vocabulary for shape: ‘circle’, ‘side’, ‘curve’. Extend this learning by making other patterns and exploring other shapes. And if it’s wet outside, don’t let it stop you having fun. That’s where the puddlesuits come in!
2. Baby in a box
If it really is too rainy and windy to go outside, you might be looking for a fun indoor activity for kids. Getting a lot of things delivered to your door? Save the boxes—the bigger, the better. A simple cardboard box will be your cheapest and most versatile ally when you’re hunting for fun things to do with your kids indoors.
Here’s one idea for babies: Cut a piece of mirror on a roll to size, and stick this to the bottom of the box. Turn the box on its side and hang ribbons or lengths of material from the top. Lay babies inside the box to reach for the hanging materials and see themselves in the reflective mirror when on their tummies.
You can create a mobile inside the box by threading a wooden dowel through. Hang ribbons, wooden spoons, or bells on the dowel for reaching.
For older children, the box can be literally, anything!
Drawing in the box
If your child is old enough to use crayons without eating them, pop them inside the box with crayons and let them go crazy. 10 minutes (or more!) of peace for you, with no risk of crayons all over the table-top, walls or floors. Is it time for a hot cup of tea? Yes. Yes it is.
3. Conkers and numbers
Conkers are surprisingly versatile. As a child, you probably remember quite a few games of conkers with your friends or parents. They are the all-natural hero of fun autumn activities to do with kids.
Below, Jessica has gathered conkers on a tray. A white or silver marker is all you need to write numbers 1–20 on the conkers, transforming them into a fun way to teach numbers to your children.
What can you do with numbered conkers?
- Number recognition turned into a competition: ‘Who can find the number… 5?’
- Basic maths, outdoors style: ‘How much is this conker plus this conker?’
- Bingo with older children, drawing up basic boards on A4 sheets: ‘Who has conker number 13?’
- Active maths: spread them out across the lawn randomly, and everyone runs around gathering as many as they can. See who ‘made the most’ when you add together the numbers for each child’s conkers. Children will learn that having the most conkers and having the most from the numbers on the conkers won’t necessarily be the same!
4. Natural portraits
Jackie Slaughter is an early years specialist who shared her knowledge of Forest School activities with Koru Kids to create a treasure trove of autumn activities to do with kids. Drawing on experts like Jackie helps us support our after school nannies. They get lots of inspiration, and don’t have to spend too much time planning–meaning more time to play.
In the picture below, Jackie has gathered leaves, bark, conkers and berries to create a lovely portrait. Grab a big basket or bucket—or even some empty plastic shopping bags from the stash—and go out to forage. This starts with a lovely long walk as you all spot the best things to use together, and ends in creative fun on the kitchen floor, or table.
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Autumn treats and warming meals
5. Halloween mummy stones
Since kids love collecting pebbles and stones anyway, bring them home and rinse them off. For this fun activity, you’ll also need some ‘Loom bands’ (white or glow in the dark), or white wool. Model how to wrap elastic bands or wool around the stone, randomly overlapping and crisscrossing them. If using wool, children may need support to secure this when finished. Either draw two eyes, or add googly eyes or stickers. Your finished mummies make great spooky Halloween decorations!
If you’re really stuck for materials, you probably have kitchen towel, tissues, or toilet roll. Just cut into thin strips and use these to wrap around the mummy stones!
Mindfulness for little children
An activity doesn’t always have to be organised to be fun. If you don’t want to spend time preparing something, just dress everyone well, and bring snacks and drinks. And don’t forget the nappy-bag, or asking toddlers to go before you leave the house! Puddle suits can be tricky to get off when you have an outdoor emergency ;).
Google for great outdoor places in your area, and head there right away. Then let the children lead. Give them a chance to listen, smell, talk about what the see and hear, how everything feels. Take a break yourself. When you don’t feel so stressed, your children will relax more too. It’s a win-win for parents.
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The Koru Ethos
Being outdoors is such an important building block in the Koru Ethos. We want children to grow up healthy, in body and mind. We know Forest School and guided outdoor learning really help children’s overall wellbeing.
“Forest School is so magical. You’re out in the open air, the children follow their interests, and get the freedom to explore. They’re learning, not in a traditional way, but they’re learning about the environment and to communicate in a group. It is brilliant.
Their physical development as well; the motor skills. They’re picking up twigs, creating art with malleable mud, climbing trees… There were never any behavioural issues because everyone was allowed to do what they wanted to do (within reason!). You get more out of children when they’re following their interests.”
Hannah, Koru Kids advisor and ex-Forest School leader
Whether you’re a childminder, nanny, or parent, take a moment to enjoy this season with kids. And keep any fun autumn activities low-maintenance—the last thing you need is to add more work and stress to your life.