Bonkers For Conkers! An Autumn Nature Walk


What a magical time of year! I love how symbolic and strangely quick the season change to autumn is. There is usually one evening or morning when you suddenly feel that chill in the air and then you notice the colour of the leaves and you realise that it’s autumn again. It envelopes this feeling of change and a strange calm seems to come over me. It marks the beginning of the colder days, the wholesome meals and for us, it is the beginning of some of the best outdoor play.

This is one of our favourite times to home educate as it’s not too hot and not too cold. All the schools head back for a new term so it is lovely and quiet at all of our favourite places and there is an abundance of learning opportunities in nature at this time of year.

We are very lucky to live in the thick of the English countryside and have many woodland walk opportunities here on our doorstep. However, nature really is all around no matter where you live and there’s no better time to start some family traditions than in the autumn. I think it’s so important to help mark out different events throughout the year to help your child understand the flow of time, seasons and important events. Our two are now almost as excited about the beginning of autumn as they are about the festive period. (I said almost.) I think this is because they know it means lots of lovely outdoor play time and plenty of arts and crafts. It also means lots of quality mummy and daddy time without the distraction of work, housework or other commitments. I find it’s so easy to spend our lives getting distracted with everyday events and for us, getting away from all of those things brings us closer together.

Aside from being a great way to get in a bit of quality family time, there are endless positive effects for spending more time outside. The most obvious impact of allowing your child more outdoor play is that it reduces the risk of childhood obesity. More exercise can also help strengthen muscles, bones and improve memory. (Although the memory bit doesn’t seem to be true for hubby!) Aside to this, being outdoors more will give you the opportunity to soak up more vitamin D which will help you improve your immune system and reduce stress. And after all of that lovely fresh air, your sleep clock will have been regulated allowing you and your children a better nights sleep! Win, win!

With obvious health benefits, what else can you and your family gain from more time in the great outdoors? Well, it teaches your little ones an appreciation for their environment. To respect the world they live in. It gives them the freedom to explore and play in a controlled risk environment. For example, balancing on logs, jumping across brooks or climbing trees. All these activities help improve their gross motor skills and build their confidence in their physical abilities.
Children cannot bounce off the walls if you take the walls away – Erin Kenny.

There are endless play opportunities in nature. A stick can be a magic wand, a leaf can be a plate and a pine cone can be a ball! Children can completely rely on their imagination and let their creative side run wild. So whether you prefer, mud pies, grasshoppers, tadpoles, acorns, bees or butterflies there are limitless teaching and play possibilities all around you.

So have I sold it to you yet? If so, here are 3 ways to bring your nature back home with you and continue your little ones play and learning whilst you snuggle up in the warm.

Autumn small world play

After collecting millions of conkers you may get home and then find yourself stumped as to what to do with them. They aren’t the best shape for a large array of crafts and unless your kids are old enough to enjoy the conker smashing game you may slightly wish you hadn’t collected so many. Have no fear. These tactile little balls of shininess are great for all kinds of imaginative play. They make a great addition to a Montessori environment but on this occasion we decided to use them to help us create ‘Digger Land!’ We collected together all of our favourite digger toys and filled our tuffspot tray with a selection on conkers, autumn coloured bricks, sand, gravel and sticks but you could really fill it with anything from porridge oats to pasta.

You can let your little ones (and not so little ones) play with this for hours. All of the different textures help to stimulate their senses and they seem to go into their own little world of play. I think it’s very therapeutic and calming and always gives some welcome calm to our home. Be warned that most of what’s on the tray will probably end up off the tray but for a couple of hours of quality playtime a little clean up at the end is so worth it. Encourage the expansion of play by adding new elements every 20 minutes or so. For example, bring out some toy saucepans or some paper and pens and see how their games evolve seamlessly from one thing to the next. This time around it started off as a lesson in autumn colours and a game of digging to a builder tea party with conker cupcakes!

Autumn maths station
We have always struggled with maths more than any other subject in this house. That was until Fin was born. I’m not a major maths fan and my formal approach to maths teaching with Pops, in the beginning, set us off on the wrong foot and turned maths into a frustrating battle of wills between the two of us. Along comes Fin and he seems to naturally love everything to do with numbers. His natural exploration to measure everything he sees and to steal my weighing scales whenever my back is turned has opened all our eyes to how to learn maths through play. Quite often I will set up little maths stations for them that include tape measures, mirrors,(symmetry) shapes and numbers and every time I am surprised by how much they learn. It is such a relief for me to see them enjoying maths. So thanks to Fin for reminding us that we can learn anything when we are enjoying ourselves.

Collect together a selection of weighing and measuring devices and lots of loose parts for them to count. Be sure to have notepads and pens for them to record their results down and you can even add in an abacus or calculator too. Don’t feel limited to an autumn inspired maths station. You can do it in the bath with water measuring or in the garden with grass and stick measuring and of course in the kitchen for baking and weighing too. Maths really can be fun if you see it through a child’s eyes!
Conker snakes

Now this one is one of my favourites. The kids adore their yearly conker snakes and name them and pet them as if they were real pets. (So much easier to look after too!) It is such a simple crafts and depending on their age you can involve them at many different levels.
What you will need:
  • Conkers (approximately 10)
  • Some twine or strong acrylic wool
  • Either a metal skewer or a small drill (only for adults to use)
  • A thick needle with an eye large enough for the twine
  • Googley eyes
  • Hot glue gun
How to make:
  1. Line up your conkers from smaller to larger. The smaller end will be the head end
  2. Pierce or drill through each conker
  3. Double thread your needle with your chosen thread and put a large knot in the end. (So you are threading 2 strings through at a time.)
  4. Thread your conkers on starting with the largest one
  5. Once you’ve threaded the last conker (the head) then tie a knot in your twine
  6. Cut your twine leaving about 1cm of length. The two threads will look like a snake tongue
  7. Hot glue your eyes on and you’re done.

Time to name your slinky pets and make them a special bed. And don’t forget to research what foods they like to eat. Maybe you could make a conker mouse for its lunch?
I hope you enjoyed checking out our autumn inspired activities. I’d love to hear what you do with your autumn finds. Relish the hygge life and go and explore where you live. You may be surprised by what you find.