When the air grows crisp and the leaves begin changing colour, it’s a perfect time to get the children in your service into the great outdoors for some active play and interaction with the natural environment.
On fine days, piles of red and orange leaves on paths and springy grass make for great fun, but what about those dreary days when everyone is stuck inside? Rainy weather can be the perfect excuse to get your craft on, so why not try one or more of these ideas to entertain toddlers and preschoolers, stretching their imagination and working on fine motor skills at the same time.
- Grow some autumn trees:
Great for preschoolers aged two to five, this lovely little craft uses found sticks or small branches collected on those dry days when you can explore outside the classroom and turns them into dazzling decorations to brighten any play space.
Lay out your twigs on the table, along with small squares of autumn-coloured tissue paper, a shallow dish of watered-down glue and some paintbrushes. Younger children will likely need assistance with the glue and finer brushes.
The activity will develop the fine motor skills of gripping, painting and wrapping, as well as encouraging imagination and decision making as kids pick which colours to use and where to place their leaves.
- Make a crayon leaf rubbing:
With a few interesting leaves, some sheets of paper and a couple of colourful crayons, children can create some beautiful prints to hang on the wall of their classroom or take home for mum and dad to enjoy. This craft is simple enough for toddlers to get involved with, and as they reveal the veins, outlines and other structures of their leaves on the paper, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk science too.
Explain how leaves grow on trees, how water moves through the veins of the leaves to keep them fresh and green, and why some leaves change colour and fall from the trees in the cooler weather. Pencils, chalk and pastel crayons are also great choices for this activity, and why not try different types of paper, whether that’s printer paper, butcher’s paper, even newspaper for something a little bit different.
- Put together some painted leaf monsters:
Once you’re done with the crayon rubbings, those same leaves, whether dried or fresh, can be used to create mini monsters to play with. Finger painting can be fun for all ages and allows younger children who don’t yet have the dexterity to handle a paintbrush to still get involved, and get messy!
For children who prefer not to get their hands dirty, dipping the leaves in puddles of paint can be just as satisfying, though they may need a little longer to dry before moving on to the next stage. Once all the painted leaves are dry, lay out a selection of googly eyes in different sizes and let the kids stick them onto their leaves to create their own unique monster pal.
Take this craft a step further by attaching paddle pop sticks to the bottom of each leaf to make master puppets and encourage small groups to put on shows.
- Zip up an autumn sensory bag:
Don’t think we’ve forgotten the tiny tots in nursery rooms in our quest for autumn activities. Sensory bags are a safe and fun way for babies to explore their own senses of sight, hearing and touch. For some extra fun, load a plastic ziplock bag with some crunchy autumn leaves, confetti or glitter and some squishy, squidgy paint.
Zip it closed and secure the top with sticky tape for safety. This is great for babies of all ages, as those who are limited to lying on their backs or tummies can kick the bags and hear the leaves crunch and crackle, while older babies with more developed motor skills can also squidge the paint around with their hands to enjoy the play of texture and colour.
Keep an eye out for tiny teethers, though, as they will love putting the bags in their mouths and could potentially puncture thin plastic. Sealing the sensory bag inside a second, larger bag may be a good option for them.
- Craft some colourful leaf crowns:
Brown paper bags make a fantastic base for autumn craft, and with a little imagination and a few simple supplies kids can make any number of cute creations. We’ll focus here on making autumn leaf crowns, but you can just as easily make wristbands, headbands or masks out of them as well.
One paper bag will make three crowns, and the kids will need a little help from educators to get started. Cut each bag horizontally into three equal strips, opening the bottom end up with the scissors as well. Stick some double-sided tape on the top third of the bag, then let the children decorate their crowns themselves with fallen leaves, flowers, grasses and other natural finds to create a unique, colourful crown they can wear with pride for the rest of the day.
This activity is suitable for toddlers and preschoolers alike, as all it requires is a little imagination and creativity.