7 Natural Autumn Play Resources & How to Use Them
The changing of the seasons brings all sorts of excitement for early years children, with so many new delights for their senses and endless new play opportunities to explore! For us grown-ups, it’s easy to forget how incredible nature is as Autumn arrives. We’ve seen the seasons shift time and again, after all.
If you’d like to bring more natural joy into their play this autumn, here’s a reminder of what resources are out there ready for the taking!
1. Try hands-on numeracy with conkers & acorns
Who said maths had to be boring? It’s definitely not true, and using conkers or acorns will show your little ones why. There are lots of different ways to explore counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with conkers/acorns. One easy idea is to draw a tree outline with a number or sum on it and have your child place the correct number of conkers/acorns down to reveal the answer! Sticking two cardboard tubes to the wall with a bowl underneath and having your child use the conkers/acorns to complete an addition sum (by seeing what lands in the bowl!) is also a lot of fun.
Other ways to play with conkers & acorns:
- Make conker-back snails using playdough or clay
- Roll conkers in paint
- Add string for a classic conker battle
- Add holes and use pipe cleaners to make a conker caterpillar
2. Turn nature into art with dried leaves
Crunchy leaves underfoot has to be one of the best things about autumn with kids. But have you ever thought about picking them up and using them in painty, creative ways? Dried leaves make a great collage resource, simply stuck down on paper. Or you can add colour by painting or adding chalk details. Felt tip pens and googly eyes can be used to turn leaves into characters too.
Other ways to play with dried leaves:
- Make piles of leaves outdoors and kick through them
- Rip them up for the sensory experience
- Build nests for animals
3. Mark-make and create with sticks
For resistant little writers, sticks are a great tool for practising fine motor skills come Autumn. Spend time looking for the perfect stick, then challenge them to write their name or copy the numbers or letters you write in mud or sand. You can also get a bucket of water and dip the sticks in water to make natural pens to write on walls, fences or pavements.
Other ways to play with sticks:
- Race them down a stream in a game of Pooh sticks
- Make a pretend campfire
- Use them as drumsticks
4. Get outdoors and get messy with mud
Getting kids outside in the autumn can be a bit of a challenge, but for those who like getting messy, it’s the season for it! Dress them up appropriately and find a muddy spot to just let them explore. Stomp. Splash. Get their hands stuck in! Adding water and bowls is another way to up the fun by making it into a mud soup game.
Other ways to play with mud:
- Mix with water and use as a natural paint
- Drive toy cars through mud, then wash them off
- Make mud cupcakes and decorate with other resources from this list
5. Let their imagination free with pine cones
Pine cones are an open-ended play favourite around here. Let your children’s imagination free and see what they come up with. Cakes, supersonic charging devices, little pets… These chunky natural gems are fun to use in all sorts of imaginative play.
Other ways to play with pine cones:
- Roll in paint and use as spiky stampers
- Place in a jar of water to experiment with how they open
- Pop in a sandbox for an autumn sensory invitation
6. Add small world texture with dry bark
Tree bark is amazing stuff. Take a nature walk and see what you can find lying about to add to your small-world setups. Bonus points if you can find a curved piece that can act as an interesting bridge or cave for toy figures.
Other ways to play with bark:
- Make bark rubbings straight from the tree
- Use paint sticks to add bright colours and patterns
- Collect different types of bark and compare them
7. Practice motor skills with pumpkins
Pumpkins are such a versatile resource this time of year, whether it’s carving shapes and scooping out the insides for cooking or you want to cover them in chalk paint for an unusual mark-making invitation. A really fun motor skills activity is taking golf tees and having your child hammer them in. Get those little arms working before practising their pincer grip as they pull them back out!
For other ways to play with pumpkins see this blog.