12 ways to get the kids outside this Halloween and half term

Autumn half-term and the spooky season are upon us, and with trick-or-treating and Halloween parties off the table this year, we've put together some simple ideas to entertain the kids in the great outdoors.

Young wizard and witch walking into the light in the forest. © Susan K/Getty

Please follow the latest government advice regarding coronavirus, and bear in mind that there are different restrictions in place between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and in more localised areas as well.

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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

Autumn leaves in the shape of a heart. © Tanja Giessler/Getty
Autumn leaves in the shape of a heart. © Tanja Giessler/Getty

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.

If you’re feeling crafty, take some leaves home to make autumn leaf tealight jars (pictured below), or to preserve in glycerine.

Autumn tea light. © Getty
Autumn tea light. © Getty

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

Two little boys picking pumpkins at a farm. © Sally Anscombe/Getty
Two little boys picking pumpkins at a farm. © Sally Anscombe/Getty

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

Young wizard and witches making potion in the woods. © Susan K/Getty
Young wizard and witches making potion in the woods. © Susan K/Getty

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

Kids peeking around tree in forest. © Ann Cutting/Getty
Kids peeking around tree in forest. © Ann Cutting/Getty

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?

Small girl with a spider. © Ben Osbourne/Getty
Small girl with a spider. © Ben Osbourne/Getty

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

Finding sticks for den building. © Getty
Finding sticks for den building. © Getty

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. © Lynn Dicks
Bark rubbing. © Lynn Dicks

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.

Learn how to identify a tree by its bark and how to identify trees in winter.


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Main image: Young wizard and witch walking into the light in the forest. © Susan K/Getty