Keep little ones occupied with fun, sustainable activities throughout the changing season.

Autumn is often a challenging time for parents. The colder weather, longer nights and escalating excitement of an imminent visit from Santa means kids can be harder to keep amused. Add to that the ongoing pressures of coronavirus restrictions and it’s no wonder mums and dads are finding themselves at a loss for things to do when the kids are at home.

But autumn is also one of the most abundant times of year for fun, sustainable activities that get kids out in the fresh air and acquainted with nature. It’s a season rich in colour, smells and texture, and these simple, no-fuss activities are the perfect way to make the most of it.

  1. Go on a leaf scavenger hunt

The world is awash with bright oranges, yellows and reds right now, and this carpet of colour is within easy reach of those with little legs. Go on a leaf-picking expedition and see who can find the most colourful leaf, or the most different types of leaf. You could also encourage your kids to find leaves in every shade of yellow to red, and create a pretty leaf rainbow. Once you’ve collected your haul, take them home for arts and crafts – leaf-rubbing is a satisfying project for small hands and doesn’t require constant vigilance on your behalf.

  1. Make autumnal play dough

Get your kids to embrace the smells of the season by making your own spice-scented play dough. We love this no-cook recipe from The Imagination Tree, which takes just four minutes to whip up with ingredients you’ll already have at home. Give it an autumnal kick by adding a tablespoon of nutmeg, cinnamon or allspice right at the end of the mixing process. Couple it with textured autumnal objects like pinecones, leaves and sticks, and you have a wonderful sensory set-up for inquisitive little hands.

  1. Bake simple cinnamon cookies

That lovely-smelling play dough might have you all in the mood for a sweet treat, and this super simple four-ingredient recipe for cinnamon cookies is the perfect answer to that. All you need is flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon, and a little bit of elbow grease to mix them all together, which shouldn’t be a problem for kids that like to get mucky! Plus as an added bonus you’ll get to enjoy the wonderful smell of cinnamon throughout your home.

  1. Make a pine cone bird feeder

There are loads of ways to make your own DIY bird feeder, but ours is without a doubt the simplest. All you need is a pinecone, a bit of twine and some peanut butter. Slather the pinecone in the peanut butter, then hang it in a bird-friendly spot in the garden or by a window – easy! This is a great exercise for getting kids interested in wildlife, and for keeping them occupied later on as they watch to see which feathered friends stop by for a snack. Learn more about attracting birds to your garden here.

  1. Get creative with chalks

One thing you can be assured of during autumn is the likelihood of rain, so now’s a great time to send the kids out onto the driveway or patio with a box of chalks. Let their imaginations run wild, or encourage them to take inspiration from the season by drawing their own carpet of leaves. If they’re into creepy crawlies, you could even suggest they draw a ‘race track’ and find a couple of snails to race.

  1. Play Pooh Sticks

Simply going for a walk might not be enough to capture the hearts and minds of little ones who would rather be at home in front of the TV, so up the ante a bit with a good old game of Pooh Sticks. Find a bridge over a gentle river or stream, then get each player to drop a stick into the water on one side. The person whose stick emerges first on the other side of the bridge is crowned the winner. Go for best out of three, or however long their attention span lasts – kids get competitive over the smallest things, so you could be there a while!

  1. Listen to an audio book

Sometimes the weather and dwindling energy levels means that flopping on the sofa is the most appealing activity of all, but instead of the go-to screen-based options, consider putting on an audio book instead. This helps to engage kids’ listening skills and gets them used to sitting quietly without the help of a TV or iPad – and it’s something the whole family can enjoy, even if you’re doing something else at the same time. There’s a huge choice of audio books out there for kids of all ages – you can even rent them for free from your local library!

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