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The daylight hours may be getting shorter, and the temperatures cooler, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had outdoors with children this half term and Halloween. Use leaves and sticks to create art or witches’ potions, learn how to make a den in the woods, and see what wildlife they can find.
Discover more inspiration for the best nature activities to do in autumn, and nature activities for children. When the weather is looking a bit grim for outdoors play, watch wildlife around the world via livestreams, or check out our guides to wildlife-themed games, and wildlife and nature books for children and teenagers.
Create woodland art
Scoop up autumn leaves and arrange them into eye-catching pictures and patterns, such as using the vivid oranges, yellows and reds to make a giant pumpkin face, and the browns to make a bat. Place sticks end to end in a hexagon to make a spider’s web, and get the kids to play hopscotch among the strands.
Unearth the woodland floor
Gently scrape away a small area of leaf litter and use the resulting canvas of bare earth to create pictures and portraits (best done in dry conditions). This can be as simple as exposing a circle to make a spooky face, or you could try a more exquisite creation, such as a spider, butterfly, bat or witch’s hat.
Go pumpkin picking
Carving pumpkins is a fun and traditional part of celebrating Halloween, and going to a pumpkin farm is a great way to combine getting ready for the Halloween season with getting the kids outdoors for some fresh air and exercise.
If you’re wondering what to do with the remaining pumpkin seeds and flesh, our sister magazines BBC Countryfile and BBC Good Food have got lots of delicious recipe ideas on their websites, including how to make pumpkin purée, pumpkin and bacon soup, pumpkin and sage spaghetti, baking pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins or pumpkin strudel, and how to roast pumpkin seeds.
Seek out spooky faces
There are faces everywhere in nature – on tree trunks, pebbles on the beach, rock faces, rotting logs. The knobbles, crevices and holes on tree trunks can be particularly expressive. Look at them upside-down if need be!
Brew a witch’s potion
Collect twigs, leaves, moss, mud – anything you like – and mix it all up in a bucket with water from a stream or puddle. Find a long stick to stir it with.
Arrange a spooky scavenger hunt
Give the kids a long list of natural treasures to find. This could include a long stick for a witch’s broom, ten red leaves for a wizard’s spell, a mossy clump of witch’s hair, conkers for monster eyes, twigs for skeleton fingers – let them come up with the ideas.
Assemble stick skeletons
Collect twigs and sticks in different sizes and make them into a skeleton. You could make anything you like – a dog, a cat, even a T-Rex.
Leave spooky messages in nature
Use sticks, stones, conkers or leaves to spell out ghostly greetings on the path for other passers-by. ‘Trick or Treat’, ‘Happy Halloween’ or simply ‘BOO!’
Creep up on wildlife
Get the kids to tiptoe as quietly as they can – without snapping a twig or rustling a leaf – to a tree hole, bush or shrub. See who can be the quietest, and what insects and other wildlife they can spot.
Turn over leaves and look under logs and stones. Who will be the first to find a spider or millipede?
Create miniature fairy dens
Make magical little dwellings with sticks, mud and stones. Arrange colourful leaves on the roofs and moss or twigs in the gardens. Adorn them with berries, conkers, anything you can find!
Build a shelter
Challenge the children to prepare for the upcoming cold winter and build a den! Look for long sticks and branches on the ground to lean against a low branch in a tree, then use leaves and to fill in the gaps.
Make a bark rubbing
Bark rubbing is an excellent way to get children outside and creative, as well as connecting them with nature and to start introducing tree identification techniques to them.
Main image: Young wizard and witch walking into the light in the forest. © Susan K/Getty