Today we had fun collecting Autumn treasures. Here are our tips for having fun walking in the Autumn leaves:
1. Allow plenty of time.
The ten minute walk home took us an hour and a half. It’s no fun for anyone if you have to keep thwarting the children’s curiosity and desire to play, and if you are feeling stressed about being somewhere. of course, ten minutes outside is better than no time outside, and a walk anywhere can be an impromptu mini nature walk, but try to make time for at least one unhurried, open-ended, child-led walk, where you can all take time to notice the sights, sounds and smells of Autumn.
2. Be prepared to say, “I don’t know”.
For example, to questions such as “why do leaves change colour?” “Why don’t they all go the same colour?” and “Why don’t birds hibernate?”… have plenty of books on standby such as this one we have (perfectly named!I) and encourage the children to guess the answers to their questions, then think of ways they can find out for sure. They are much more likely to remember it, and it will teach them resources for when you are not there to answer their questions. It will also encourage them to think for themselves.
3. Prepare to be surprised and let your children take the lead. L brought me two leaves today and asked me how many differences I could see between them. He then told me the differences he had noticed. He and N both then “difference-spotted” all kinds of leaves along the way.
4. Don’t have a fixed goal in mind. You may want to collect conkers. There may be no conkers. And your children might want to collect sticks. Today, I wanted sticks to decorate as tress from the different seasons. I picked up a handful while L and N got on with their leaf hunt, then joined them. You will definitely find a craft or game in which you can use the things you have collected or seen. This compilation of activities from The Imagination Tree is full of great ideas!
5. Allow unlimited collecting. If an object is important to them, it is important. They will undoubtedly want to bring home thousands of the most common, boring, brown leaf. These are their treasures, treat them with awe and wonder. By all means draw their attention to other objects, and collect some yourself to ensure some variety when you get home, but there will be something to learn or experience in whatever they collect, and if today we are learning about the brown sludgy dead leaves instead of the beautiful red ones, so be it. The red ones’ day will come.
6. Make sure at least part of your walk is somewhere you can allow the children freedom. If the whole walk is along a main road, you will be stressed, or curtail their freedom. You know your children and how much they can be trusted (L and N are very sensible, but I still exercise caution near traffic, and it is still much nicer to be able to let them run free).
7. Wear wellies. Don’t wear their new school boots that cost an arm and a leg and haven’t been sprayed with protector yet. And don’t wear their new, pristine winter coats. We got our winter coats of e-bay. They are Trespass ones, the kind that can be worn as a fleece, a waterproof, or both together. the layers are useful, and they are nicely worn-in, meaning I don’t worry about marking them (and they would have looked exactly like this within a couple of outings anyway).
8. Plastic bags. Take carrier bags along for bringing your collections home. It’s a good idea to give the children one each. I keep plastic bags in my handbag for impromptu collections. Zip-loc freezer bags are also excellent for investigating those spiky, thorny Autumn treasures (the children can have a good look and handle the objects without being put off by scratches and stings).
9. Don’t underestimate them. Children are naturally curious. Personally, I think they absorb a difficult word as easily as one we think is easier, since it is all new to them. Plus they like being taken seriously and feel grown up for knowing the proper terms. N (3) knows the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees. L (5) knows that chlorophyll makes leaves look green. This isn’t because I have coached them or spent hours doing worksheets, I have only told them a couple of times. They just like knowing the proper words.
10. Have fun! teach respect for nature, certainly, but also have a leaf fight.
11. (OK, I cheated, I know I said ten) – do this again, and again, and again. Sometimes the best playtimes are not the most creative or original, but the old favourites. After all, there is a reason why they are favourites – because they are flippin’ brilliant! And because they are never the same. My children could go on a dozen nature walks with me, daddy, nana, school, nursery, a friend’s mum – and you will never hear them say “we’ve already done this”. They will find what they want to learn, and we just follow it, and we have fun. I can’t wait to do it again!