As the weather gets cooler and the evenings draw in, we are reminded that it’s no longer summer. In the UK, we have four seasons, each with a very different climate. Of all the different times of the year, I think autumn is my favourite, not least because of the beautiful colourful trees and yummy fruits that are readily available! In addition, autumn can be a very special time with young children and there are lots of lovely activities we can do.

In the past, this time of year was referred to as ‘Harvest’, but as farming communities decreased and more and more people lived in towns, the term Harvest lost its significance and now predominantly refers to the process of reaping or harvesting the crops, and we use the word ‘autumn’, after the Latin ‘autumnus’, to describe the season. There are also a number of festivals and celebrations that take place in autumn and we may choose to acknowledge them in our settings, for example, All Saints Day (Christian), All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), Thanksgiving (Canada and United States), and Sukkot (Jewish). So there is lots of scope for celebration!

For me, however, the best part about autumn is depicted in a cool, crisp morning walk, in dappled sunshine under trees with fiery leaves. The leaves of deciduous trees change colour from green to all shades of red, orange, yellow, gold and brown. Usually a leaf is green because of the levels of chlorophyll and as the sunlight hours shorten and the air cools in autumn, the chlorophyll begins to decrease and the leaf loses its green colour leaving us with a beautiful landscape. Part of teaching children about the world around them will include teaching them about growth, decay and changes over time. So talking with children about the changes they notice with autumn leaves is a really good introduction to this. One childminding team shared with me recently that during an outside session, a child found a tiny leaf which magically encapsulated all of the colours of decay. This tiny leaf sparked discussions about how leaves decompose and the cycle of life and death.

With children there are a number of things you can do during the autumn. In the past I have made up rhymes and songs to sing with the children using a familiar tune, and taught the children some actions. For example, (to the tune “Rock-A-Bye-Baby”):

“Red rosy apples on the treetop, When the wind blows the apples will rock, When autumn comes the leaves will fall, And down will come apples, leaves and all.”

Often the environment itself will be an invitation to play for many children, however, you may also want to extend their interest in all things autumn with a few of the ideas below. Most of the ideas are free and many are outside or bringing the outside in.

  • Go on a welly walk and find some muddy puddles to splash in
  • Play outside in the mud kitchen
    Visit a local woodland and make a den
  • Try apple bobbing
  • Teach the children some harvest songs like “Cauliflower’s fluffy”
  • Collect conkers or acorns and use them as counters
  • Sort leaves into different colours and shapes
  • Go on a colour hunt – offer the children colour paint swatches in autumn colours and encourage them to find something the same colour as their card
  • Collect as many different coloured leaves as you can – you could stick some double-sided tape to card for children to use as a collection base
  • Use a wax crayon to do some bark or leaf rubbings (most successful back in the setting after the walk, resting on a table)
  • Make an autumn leaf dream-catcher
  • Thread leaves onto a thin stick
  • Make some autumn-scented playdough with the children, using spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice
  • Print using natural materials, leaves, twigs and stones
  • Make a natural paint brush by tying a feather or leaves onto a stick and then paint your own autumn picture. You could even crush some blackberries in a pot as your paint
  • Press pushpins into a pumpkin and encourage the children to arrange elastic bands around them to make different shapes
  • Why not brighten up the day and carve a smiley face into a pumpkin (children will need help with this)
  • Make a stick-man or stick-lady
  • Make an apple crumble or apple pie or another traditional autumn dish
  • Pick some wild blackberries (reminding the children never to eat anything unless a grown-up has said it is safe to eat)
  • Find a sycamore tree and throw the seeds into the air then watch them spin around
  • Create a leaf crown by attaching leaves to a card base or weaving leaves together


Going on an autumn walk is also the perfect time to share with the children about plants that can hurt us, like the prickles on brambles or a stinging nettle or thistle. While collecting conkers and acorns or picking blackberries, we can also talk about the importance of not eating seeds and berries unless an adult has told them that it’s safe to do so, and we can show children how we can wash fruit before we eat it. These lessons are much better learned outside where they naturally arise through what we experience with our senses.


Share a simple poem with the children and encourage them to find different ways of moving to the words…

Autumn leaves are falling down
Autumn leaves are falling down
Leaving us a golden gown.

So celebrate the changing seasons with the children and whatever you do this autumn, go and play outside!

About the author

Tamsin GTamsin Grimmer photo2rimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.

Tamsin has written two books – Observing and Developing Schematic Behaviour in Young Children and School Readiness and the Characteristics of Effective Learning.

You can contact Tamsin via Twitter @tamsingrimmer, her Facebook pagewebsite or email info@tamsingrimmer.co.uk


Share a simple poem with the children and encourage them to find different ways of moving to the words…
Autumn leaves are falling down
Autumn leaves are falling down
Leaving us a golden gown.


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