The Autumn Equinox (around the 23rd September) is a time of balance, where the hours of day light and night are equal in length. The Sun has positioned itself exactly above the equator between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.
When you live a lot of the year in hot sunshine and subtle season changes it feels really special to experience Autumn in England and see the colours of the leaves change, whilst rummaging through the hedgerows. It has helped us really appreciate the magic and wonder that is the rolling countryside around our home country
Our favourite Autumn activity is always to go exploring woodlands. Nature walks, crunchy leaves, welly boots, blustery showers and all those colours and textures.
Family nature walks finish with baskets full of treasures to bring home and safely stash away in the stockpile to love and cherish. We love finding ways to make the fun last for longer.
Things to do with a Basket of Autumn Nature Treasures:
1. Conkers and Leaves Small World Play.
Set up your small world people (or animals!) as an informal dolls house, car garage, grocery shop or a jungle. Add the treasures from your walk in a basket or tray and watch as the leaves become blankets for nap time or a super hero’s cape, conkers transform into dinosaur boulders and leaves and twigs are ripped up to become soup for dinner or ice-cream for sale in the shop.
2. Decorate the Home, Hearth or Van.
The Autumn equinox is the turning point towards long wintery nights and a desire to spend more time appreciating the comforts of our homes. Make your home feel special for winter, clear a space for a nature table or add your collections to a fireplace as a connection to the outdoors as you are tucked up indoors soaking up the warmth. Find vases, pots, jars or tins from the backs of cupboards to display your special treasures. In our van we always have little jars of nature dotted around to make us smile.
3. Measuring Sticks.
A nice simple one that doesn’t involve a lot of prep. All you need is the tape measure out of the toolbox and a collection of sticks. Then get measuring! For older children you can draw up a table and record the results, find the smallest and largest and then play around with calculating a mode, median or mean average.
4. Leaf Painting
We really enjoy open ended creative sessions where there are no templates to follow or pressure to achieve an expected outcome. So put down an old blanket on the floor or newspaper, add a few pots of paint and brushes, maybe some paper, add the leaves, feathers or twigs and see what happens.
5. Outdoor Kitchen
If you have a mud pie kitchen or an indoor play kitchen, great. However you can easily create the feel of a kitchen by sharing a few bits from the cupboard…a couple of plates or bowls with spoons, tongs a whisk or a sieve. Adding water in a measuring jug can extend the activity, if they fancy making up a big pot of nature treasure soup. You can even practice chopping some leaves or ferns with a knife and chopping board with adult support. A large dinner plate is a great way to introduce fractions also, chopping cakes in half, sectioning of the late into quarters and filling each with different imaginary foods.
6. Number Mosaics
All you need is some bowls of woodland treasures (such as different colour leaves) plain paper, pen, scissors and glue. Draw the outline of some numbers on plain paper, cut the leaves into smaller pieces and decorate the numbers mosaic style. It’s a nice way for little ones to develop some hand eye co-ordination with their cutting skills. Creative skills for all ages categorising and selecting their different materials from nature plus a gentle way to introduce some number recognition.
7. Fairy Houses
As soon as our small ones have an opportunity to collect treasures from nature, fairy houses spontaneously arise all around us. Collect up your twigs, find little openings in tree roots that look like fairy doors and build them a porch, a chair, or a house with a little garden.
8. Blackberry Pancakes
When we were house dwellers an afternoon blackberry picking usually meant blackberry and apple crumble for dinner. A small van life kitchen with no oven has lead us to adapt this tradition somewhat to blackberry pancakes, which turns out is just as popular! Basic Pancake recipe, topped with blackberries and honey. Perfect way to celebrate your foraged woodland finds with a nourishing cup of nettle tea.
100g Plain Flour
Butter for Frying
1. Mix the flour, eggs and milk and whisk to a smooth batter.
2. Pour the mixture into the pan with a little fried butter.
3. Cook each pancake for 1 minute on each side, then serve with blackberries and a drizzle of honey.
9. Leaf Mobiles
Take a large needle and thread and practice sewing skills by looping the thread through the top and bottom of one leaf and then on to the next, as if making one large daisy chain out of leaves. Then hang in a window or above a fire as a reminder of your walk.
10. Pine Cone Bird Feeders
This one does take a bit more prep and time but it means a lot to our children to be able to give something back to the woods after enjoying the gifts that they have gathered. They love birds and are excited to share food with them as the winter draws in.
1. Cut a piece of string with a loop on one end and attach it to your pine cone.
2. Mix equal parts of lard & peanut butter and smother in and around the pine cone.
3. Sprinkle with birdseed, nuts or berries.
4. Hang them back on the tree on your next walk.