As autumn gets into full swing, many of us like to go outside to appreciate just how beautifully nature works her magic on our trees and landscape. It’s a wondrous sight to behold, but nature also provides us with many leisure activities beyond walking, which are suitable for the whole family.
If you’re looking for something to do with the children on a dull Sunday afternoon or at half term, then crafting is the perfect solution – and incorporating elements from the woodland makes it not only fun and cost-effective, but helps your children to learn a little bit more about their surroundings and the changing seasons. What’s more, it’s easy to find fun ideas that suit all ages and artistic abilities.
We’ve put together this quick guide to help you get started.
The wonderful thing about taking a walk in the autumn months is that you never know what you might find – and what might inspire your craft activities. As such, it’s always a good idea to keep a stock supply of craft essentials so that you can get making as soon as you return home. There’s nothing worse than having to wait until Monday to buy that one vital element.
In your craft essentials box, we recommend you keep pretty ribbon, string, PVA glue, scissors, sticky tape, glitter, buttons, construction paper, card, pens, pencils and crayons. You might also want to get some googly eyes, beads, pipe cleaners and lolly sticks – you never know what they might want to create.
Don’t forget those all-important protective bits, too: something wipe-clean to put on the table, a cutting mat and either old clothes or a painting overall, to stop splashes going everywhere.
Know the Countryside Code
Before we set about telling you to ‘look out for this’ and ‘collect that’, it’s important that you are aware of the Countryside Code. Created by Natural England, this guide aims to ‘conserve and enhance the natural environment’ through respecting other people, protecting the natural environment and enjoying the outdoors.
To comply with the code’s request not to damage or remove natural features, you should only gather leaves, branches and flowers that have fallen naturally to the ground - don’t pluck any from stalks and branches. It’s important to know what you can and can’t take, as many of these things provide shelter for wildlife; be careful not to destroy someone’s home!
Look out for interesting things
To make your crafting possibilities even greater, keep an eye out for some more interesting bits – you don’t have to stick with acorns, leaves and pinecones. Task the children with finding pretty feathers, strange-shaped twigs, brightly-coloured leaves, curls of tree bark, thick fallen branches that can be cut into discs (by an adult, naturally) or clumps of moss. Each of these can be used to create some amazing projects.
Make sure what you pick up is clean
A colleague regales a story about taking a group of children to the beach to collect craft items. One girl found a crab shell and put it in her bag for safe keeping. When she opened her bag the next day…let’s just say it was crawling with nasty insects. The moral of the story, therefore – and especially if you’re in a woodland through which dogs are walked – is to make sure what you pick up is absolutely clean. This is nature; items do get covered in mud or shelter insects, so to prevent any creepy-crawly shocks, check everything over before taking it home.
Preserve your leaves
Leaves dry out and curl, becoming stiff and fragile in a matter of hours, while petals and flowers can rot, so it’s a good idea to preserve them.
One way is to press them. You can find presses in craft shops and online, but heavy books where the weight is evenly distributed work just as effectively as the real thing. Place the leaves and flowers between layers of paper and somewhere near the middle of the book, keeping the package as flat as possible. After a week, the leaves should be dried out; flowers may take longer.
Another way to preserve leaves is to use wax paper. Sandwich them between a couple of layers of kitchen roll and iron on each side for a few minutes to dry them out, then substitute that for wax paper. Place the wax package between thick paper and iron again – the wax will seal the leaves and shouldn’t stick to the paper. Wear gloves so as not to burn your fingers. Once the wax has cooled, you can either cut around the leaves or try to peel the wax paper off all together
Ideas for all ages
As mentioned above, it doesn’t matter about your age or artistic talents, there’s an activity out there that will both suit everyone’s abilities and appeal to their sense of fun. Little ones might like to do some leaf rubbing or stick them to paper to make ‘leaf people’ or pretty collages. They could create all sorts of things from pinecones, such as animals or nice decorations – strung with some red ribbon and sprayed with glitter, they make lovely Christmas decorations.
Even the humble fallen log can be used to great effect – safely cut the dry log into discs and decorate however you like to make coasters or bore a small hole in the top to make hanging decorations. A quick search online (Pinterest is especially good) will yield loads of ideas that can be created at home or made when you’re still out in the woods.
What better way is there to make the outdoors more exciting for the little ones?