Over the weekend, we had a fantastic outing to Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/waddesdon-manor/). The grounds were bright with autumnal colours; we were surrounded by splashes of red, gold and amber. Inspired by the beautiful scenery, we collected some pretty leaves, conkers, pine cones and twigs covered in lichen.
It was lovely to bring a little bit of autumn into our house so Jemima could explore these interesting things in more detail.
1. Sensory autumn box
A sensory box is a safe and simple way for toddlers to explore new ideas and objects. This was extremely straightforward to set up. All you need is a plastic box, or a cardboard box would do. I filled the base of the box with bird seed, but you could also use rice, popcorn kernels or sand. I put in some of the leaves, pine cones, twigs and conkers that we had collected at Waddesdon.
Alongside these, I added some little toy containers, a funnel, a bucket and a little plastic spade.
You could also add a few cinnamon sticks to stimulate your child’s sense of smell. Pop the box on the floor on top of an old sheet/splash mat and your toddler can have lots of fun exploring! Jemima began by sorting all the pine cones into the bucket.
But her favourite thing to do was to play with the bird seed and transfer it into the different containers.
I actually added three more little bowls of various sizes for her to use.
Jemima loved this activity and was happily absorbed for over an hour.
2. Leaf hedgehogs
Next, we decided to use some of the leaves we had collected to create some foraging creatures of our own: hedgehogs! This is a quick activity to set up. Draw a hedgehog shape onto some brown card or sugar paper. Cut out the hedgehog. To make several identical ones, use the first as your template.
Your toddler (guided by you) can then stick some leaves onto the body of the hedgehog, pointy sides at the top to emulate prickles.
To finish, simply draw the eyes, nose and mouth onto the face of the hedgehog using a black marker pen.
Jemima enjoyed sticking the leaves down, but I think that an older toddler would probably get more out of this activity, as they would be able to do more of it themselves.
3. Conker Caterpillar
We were lucky enough to find some nice conkers at Waddesdon, which were perfect for our next craft activity. To create conker caterpillars, simply make a hole through the middle of the conker. You can use a skewer, scissors or even a drill. I used a skewer. Then, grab some pipe cleaners. You will need to twist the end of the pipe cleaner to stop the conkers from falling off and also to avoid the sharp end from hurting your toddler. Then your toddler can have lots of fun practising his or her fine motor skills, threading the conkers onto the pipe cleaner.
I put a little bit of sellotape around the top of the pipe cleaner to protect Jemima’s fingers from the metal tip and also to make it easier for her to thread the conkers. When enough are on the pipe cleaner, you can remove the sellotape and twist the other end to secure the conkers. Then simply stick two goggly eyes onto the first conker to make your very own conker caterpillar!
Jemima found the finished product fascinating and enjoyed playing with it. She managed to pull the goggly eyes off very quickly though, so this is something to watch out for.
Next time you and your children are out and about enjoying the autumnal surroundings, don’t forget to collect some treasures of your own. We hope you enjoy recreating these activities. Happy foraging!