Autumn is the perfect time to get outside and into the woods, which are full of activities and adventures.
1. Find your own food
Autumn is a great time for taking the kids out foraging – and there’s nothing better than eating fruits and berries picked by their own fair hands. Blackberries, elderberries, hawthorns, nuts, apples and mushrooms all flourish. Visit www.wildmanwildfood.com for useful information on how to forage safely.
2. Make a nature picture
Take a walk in a wood and ask your child collect fallen leaves in a host of different colours – golds, reds and browns – as well as interesting looking twigs, mosses and ferns. Then, once you return home, get the glue out. Create your own autumnal landscape from all of the items your child has collected on her woodland foray. She will love the textures, the colours and using lots of glue.
3. Go on safari
Get the wellies on, wrap up warmly and hand out magnifying glasses, jam jars (for viewing catches) and notebooks for sketching. Autumn is the best time of year for collecting leaves and seeds, and slugs, snails, millipedes, woodlice can all be found, collected and inspected. Count their eyes and legs and watch how they move, then bigger children can have a go at sketching them. Download a useful leaflet describing wildlife in autumn from www.ni-environment.gov.uk
4. Build a den
Woods and parks are full of natural building materials, such as fallen branches, leaves and bracken. And in autumn there are leaves, leaves and more leaves to use as carpeting and roofing. Organisations such as the Forestry Commission (www.forestry.gov.uk) even organise den-building events. Structures may collapse, however lovingly built, so watch out for toddlers hiding inside.
5. Get conker bonkers
Generations of children have collected and played conkers each autumn. The best conkers to play with are uncracked and round. Make a hole through the middle and thread through some string about 25cm long. Tie a knot at one end of the string. Players then let the conkers hang down and take turns to hit each other’s conker. The loser is the one whose conker is completely destroyed. There are many complicated rules (visit www.projectbritain.com), but you can ignore these and just go for the total destruction angle. The village of Ashton in Northamptonshire hosts the World Conker Championship each October (www.worldconkerchampionships.com). Children can turn up and play on the day.