This article is currently published on the CCPM website.

Autumn is a wonderful and magical time of the year, especially for children. The vibrant colours of the leaves, the crisp air, and the abundance of pumpkins make it an excellent season for outdoor activities with toddlers and preschoolers.

Here are ten fun and educational ideas that, as a child care provider, you can incorporate into your planning.

  1. Leaf Scavenger Hunt: Take your children on a nature walk and have them collect different types of leaves; you can teach them about the various shapes and colours of the leaves, and for more leaf fun, bring some back with you and let the children colour or put faces on the leaves, making great art pieces for parents to hang and enjoy.
  2. Nature Art: Aside from collecting leaves on your nature walk, look for acorns and pinecones, collect them, and use them to create nature-inspired art.
  3. Fall Picnic: This one is simple to do. Organize a fall-themed picnic in your backyard or park. Bring autumn snacks like apple slices or warm cider for the children to enjoy.
  4. Leaf Pile: This activity is fun for all ages. Rake the leaves into a big pile and let the children enjoy jumping and playing. Jumping in leaves is a classic activity everyone will enjoy with a laugh or two.
  5. Storytime in Nature: Find a cozy space outside and read a fall-themed children’s book. Encourage discussions about the changing seasons and the animals that are getting ready to prepare for the winter. Watch for squirrels that are gathering nuts for the winter.  The book Sky Tree: Seeing Science Through Art, by Thomas Locker, is lovely.
  6. Scarecrow Making: This can be a lot of fun. Work together to create a friendly scarecrow using old clothing. Have the children each bring a piece of clothing, stuff with leaves or hay, and use a pumpkin for the head. Or be creative and use other elements that you might have at home. This activity is fun for teaching children about recycling and about the purpose of a scarecrow.
  7. Harvest Sensory Play: Set up sensory bins with materials like dried corn, colourful leaves, acorns, and gourds. Sensory play allows children to explore all different textures, shapes, and sizes.
  8. Fall Scavenger Hunt: Make a scavenger hunt list or use pre-made printable graphics to show the children what you will be looking for. Take a walk in your backyard or local park and see how many items on the list you and the children can find together. Take pictures of everything and create a picture book of the adventure together.
  9. Handprint Leaf Picture: This will be one of those extraordinary works of art parents will keep forever. It can be messy, so it is best to do it outside, but the memories it creates will make up for that. Use a canvas or large piece of paper. Paint a trunk, then let the children go to town making leaves with their hands and finger prints. When the little artists are done, you will have a beautiful work of art.
  10. Pumpkin Decorating: Have a pumpkin decorating session where children can paint, draw on, or stick decorations to their pumpkins.

Remember always to prioritize safety and supervision during outdoor activities. These experiences let children appreciate the beauty of fall and offer opportunities for hands-on learning and development. Autumn is one of the best seasons for children to explore and engage with nature.