Autumn gets a bad rap sometimes. The weather gets colder, the days get shorter, and the kids are back at school. There’s no big celebration as there is in Winter (I’m not mentioning the word!) and there’s none the promise that Spring’s longer, warmer days bring. But when the sun shines on a cold, crisp September afternoon, with the smell of smoke in the air and the crunch of leaves underfoot, there’s no season quite as beautiful as autumn.
And it lends itself very nicely to seasonal activities with the kids too – here are just a few we put together for this time of year:
When September rolls around and the weather cools, it’s soup-time in our house, and I usually make it with whatever I have in the fridge. All three kids get involved – the smallest takes his time with a blunt butter knife and a carrot, while the older two peel and chop anything else we’re throwing in. We roast the vegetables in the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper, then tip them into a saucepan with stock. Once it’s ready for puréeing, my smallest steps up again to take over. And because they’re involved in making the soup, they usually (usually…) eat it too. For something really seasonal, try this pumpkin soup recipe, and you can toast the seeds too – with a bit of oil and salt, they make a great Autumn snack.
Get back to nature
Remember the nature walks we used to do as kids? This is the perfect time of year to stick on jackets and wellies and get out to kick some leaves. Point out the red and gold leaves above and below, and get the kids to pick up as many different colours as they can find. You could go a step further and turn it into a scavenger hunt – give each child a list (verbal or written, depending on age) and ask them to collect leaves in various colours, twigs, feathers, conkers, acorns, and pine cones.
Now that you have bags of coloured leaves and twigs, put them to good use with an autumn art session. Try gluing bits of twigs to paper in the shape of a tree trunk, then glue the leaves you’ve collected to make the leaves of the tree. It’s really simple to do, and makes some very pretty artwork to hang up around the house.
You could also try painting a large leaf, then flatten it down on blank paper so that it leaves an imprint that looks like a tree.
Still on a tree theme, try painting a bare tree – just the trunk and branches - then glue small coloured buttons (those spares that come attached to clothes work well) all around the branches as “leaves” on the tree. The result can be really beautiful and if your kids like gluing, it will keep them occupied for hours.
If you’re bringing the kids out for a walk (and this is a good time to do it, before Winter sets in) bring paper and different coloured crayons and get them to do leaf and bark rubbings. They can try to match crayon colours to leaf colours for authenticity, or go fully fledged rainbow. It’s a good opportunity to get children to talk about texture – ask them how they’d describe the bark for example, and how it differs from one tree to another. Use different trees and leaves to layer colours and patterns, and bring the rubbings home to display (if you have any space left…)
An excuse to stay in
Much as I like getting them out kicking leaves, I love that Autumn gives us an excuse to stay in too. With darker evenings, it’s a perfect opportunity to suggest popcorn, hot chocolate and a movie once homework is done. For extra brownie points, I let mine stir Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons into the hot chocolate, and when they’re busy watching the film, I get to sneak the leftover buttons myself.
Make blackberry jam
If you told me a year ago to try making jam, I would have laughed, but as is often the case, the kids led the way. They decided one afternoon that they wanted to collect blackberries and make jam. Having done the first part many times as a child myself, I was more than happy to grab a bag and join them. (I’m sure it should have been something more rustic than a bag, but that’s all we had.)
The jam-making part I was less sure about, but the kids insisted. So I Googled it, and discovered that if we boiled our blackberries with an equivalent weight of sugar and some lemon juice, we’d have jam. So we did, and it worked. The kids ate slices of soda bread with their own homemade jam, while I wondered if I’d crossed a finishing line and finally become a fully-fledged jam-making grown-up.