Look for squirrels, collect conkers, splash in puddles, crunch on leaves – in short, go outside!
Going out for a walk or an adventure is my favourite thing to do with Frida all year round, but in the cool crisp autumn there is something truly magical about walking through the falling leaves. She is starting to learn about the seasons – I asked her today “why do the leaves fall down?” and she replied with one word: “autumn”.
Pack some snacks, a flask of tea, and off you go! Frida has good wet weather gear – a puddlesuit and some wellies – but I think I need to get myself some proper waterproofs.
Even babies who aren’t yet walking can get so much out of being outside, lying on the grass or in leaves, being held up to trees and bushes to feel the different textures, and having the different sights and sounds and weather explained to them.
Paint (or carve) a pumpkin
There’s little more seasonal than decorating pumpkins.
Frida tried painting directly onto a pumpkin which worked OK but the paint flaked off a bit once dry. We are still using it as our current table centrepiece though. I have also prepped some pumpkins by giving them a coat of white paint first and that worked much better.
Even babies can get involved with finger painting once they are sitting up. Stickers, glitter and glue could all be used to great effect to decorate them too, and older children could of course carve them instead!
Cook (and handle) seasonal food together
Apple crumbles, roasted squash, pumpkin soup, spiced porridge, stewed pear…
Even young children can help by mixing crumble topping, kneading dough, grating apples, or adding chopped fruit or vegetables to a pan (not a hot one obviously!). They can also smell and handle jars of spices as a sensory experience.
It’s also lovely for them to handle seasonal fruit and vegetables, learning a little bit about them as they go as you can tell them “that apple came from an apple tree” or “that pumpkin grew in the ground”. Why not open an apple to look at the star and pips inside? Frida is particularly taken with “baby pumpkins” at the moment which are a lovely size for little ones to handle.
Bonus points for going to a farm or orchard or for growing your own!
Play with spiced playdough
This takes all of three minutes to prepare and can be used over and over again. I just added some dried nutmeg and cinnamon (and, erm, some coriander because I was tired and thought it said cinnamon) into my usual dough mix. It smelt divine and Frida really enjoyed using “di-da’s dough”.
I’ve found that it works well to offer dough with some tools, especially for younger children. Cutlery, sticks, cooking utensils – practically anything can be used as a tool. I offered Frida a fork, spoon, serrated chip cutter and a spanner.
Read seasonal books
What could be better than curling up under a blanket or duvet with a pile of books and a hot cup of tea just outside the reach of little grasping fingers?
Some of our favourite autumn books are The Very Helpful Hedgehog by Rosie Wellesley (a sweet book about helping each other), Autumn by Shirley Hughes (only available to buy as part of the “nursery collection” set but I think it’s well worth it – her books are just so beautiful and I really recommend them), and Autumn by Gerda Muller (a wonderful picture-book; there are no words so it encourages discussion about the illustrations).
Create ephemeral leaf art…
Rainbows, mandalas, faces, patterns – you name it, it can be made in leaves! At this time of year there is such an abundance of colour out there carpeting the grass, it would be rude not to take advantage of it. Creating ephemeral art out of natural materials a lovely activity to do with children.
Frida was able to help me find leaves in the right colour but wasn’t very interested in helping me arrange them (I think there were too many birds and squirrels to look at!).
…and use leaves to craft with at home
A few simple ideas:
- use them in collages
- make leaf embellished glass-jar lanterns
- do leaf rubbing with crayons (bonus points if you’re outside! You can also do bark rubbing)
- string together simple leaf garlands
Light candles (and blow them out)
Our summer flowers have made way for our autumn pumpkins and candles. The simple ritual of lighting candles before a meal and then blowing them out at the end can be a lovely way to mark mealtimes. Frida is working hard on her blowing skills – she can’t quite blow one out yet without help but she’ll get there.
Needless to say, although she knows that we don’t touch them because they are hot – not even “big boys” can touch them apparently! – we never leave Frida unsupervised with candles.
How will you be making the most of this wonderful season?
Personally I’d like to go and visit an arboretum before the leaves finish turning, and I’m planning on a lot more soups and baked fruit in the kitchen.