Great Outdoor Activities for Kids to Do in Autumn
Even the smallest gardens can be home to many varieties of plants and wildlife and a great source of knowledge and fun for children of all ages. Nooks and crannies or piles of fallen leaves can be home to many bugs and creepy crawlies just waiting to be discovered, for example. Many plants grow happily in even the smallest and most urban environments. Some of these may be consider a nuisance and as weeds but can still be pretty and even useful to us. If you don’t have a garden of your own then most parks, woodland and other open green spaces can be used instead.
Plants and Trees
Around September and October fallen conkers can be collected and used to play a game simply called ‘conkers’. In this game conkers are strung on shoelaces and the game is played with two players. Each player takes it in turns to hit their opponent’s conker with theirs in an attempt to break it from the string. More details information on scoring and techniques can be found on this website - http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/conkers.html
Conkers can also be used to grow horse chestnut trees. The whole brown conker should be placed in a pit of soil approximately 3cm below the surface. In the spring a seedling will push up through the soil and can be repotted as it grows. It is worth bearing in mind that horse chestnut trees can grow as high as 30m (100ft) tall so you will need a lot of space to grow a full sized tree.
Walnut trees fruit in autumn and can sometimes be found growing wild or in parks and gardens. The brown nut that can be bought in shops grows inside a green fleshy coating similar to a conker. Walnuts are full of protein and contain omega-3 and omega-6 oils.
The leaves of walnut trees can be used to make a dye. To do this boil walnut leaves in water until the water is coloured. Remove from the heat, strain the liquid and reserve. Soak whatever material you would like to dye in the liquid and leave it overnight. Other plant dyes can be made using petals, berries, beetroot and red cabbage.
Collect autumn leaves and use them to make a leaf collage. Stick the leaves down and label them with the correct names. Leaves can also be used to make rubbings or prints.
Wild growing blackberries are also sometimes known as brambles. This prickly plant can make its home almost anywhere from countryside to city parks and wasteland. The fruits can be picked and eaten raw or baked into pies, cakes and puddings. Blackberries can also be used to jam.
Plant some Bulbs
Autumn is a great time to plant many types of bulbs and these will flower the next spring. They can be planted straight into the ground or in pots and other containers. Common bulbs that are suitable for autumn planting are crocuses, irises, tulips, daffodils, snowdrops, hyacinth and scillas.
Bulbs should be planted in holes that are roughly three times as deep as the bulb is high. So if the bulb is 1cm tall, plant it 3cms below the surface. Cover the bulbs with soil and water. If you have planted the bulbs in pots they should be placed somewhere where they will not get too wet but will not be able to dry out completely either. A sheltered pot in the garden will be fine and in late winter/early spring you will see the green shoots start to appear.
As it is possible to plan where bulbs will grow a little easier than with seeds you can plant different types or colours of flowers in patterns and even simple pictures to create interesting displays for your garden.
Create Hibernation Spots for Animals
Winter is on the way and many animals will be preparing to hibernate through the colder months. Sleeping through the winter uses a lot of energy so animals need to be able to eat as much food as possible before they go into hibernation. Not only do they need to find extra food but animals will also need to find a safe spot to sleep. You can help animals by creating areas that attract their food, making hibernation homes or by leaving food out, for example nuts for squirrels. You can buy hibernation homes or make them yourself at home. Bug hotels can be a great and fun project to work on.
Beetles like to hibernate in cool, damp and shady areas of the garden. Piles of logs or large branches or undisturbed spots under bushes are perfect.
Ladybirds create a dry nest for the winter and old dried out plant stems and twigs are ideal for this. A simple home can be made using short lengths of hollow bamboo sticks that have been tied together. Hang the bundle somewhere dry such as under roof eaves.
© 2014 Claire