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Autumn ideas

Sep 2, 2023 | autumn, seasonal

Autumn crafts, recipes, nature walks, celebrations and garden projects

Although part of me wants to mourn the passing of the summer, autumn brings with it its own excitement. A bounty of produce – both grown and foraged – to create warming, comforting recipes. A raft of opportunities for celebrations and family rituals. And lots of inspiration for creative projects and crafting as we hunker down for shortening days and cooler temperatures.

If you’re looking for a printable guide with all the activities listed here, plus booklists, circle time songs and verses, and planning sheets, you can download our autumn guide here

Related:  Full Autumn Guide with booklist and circle time

In the kitchen

It’s the time of year to create nourishing, comforting dishes. Here are some family favourites to create with your children to make the most of seasonal autumn produce. All the recipe headings are links to other sites with recipes we like.

 

1. Apple crumble

Substitute with whichever fruits you have available. Apple and blackberry is always a winning combination. We love to add raisins or sultanas to our fruit instead of sweetening with sugar, and incorporate oats, seeds and nuts into the crumble mixture.

2. Apple pie

Need a change from crumble? Pie is your friend! Mix it up with different versions: a tarte tatin if you’re feeling like a trip to France, or simply arrange slices of apple on premade puff pastry, dust with cinnamon (and sugar if you wish), and pop in the oven for a simple and speedy tart.

3. Pumpkin soup

We love this recipe for spiced pumpkin and coconut soup. So warming and delicious. 

4. Peanut soup

With similar vibes to the pumpkin soup, this recipe with West African origins feels nutritious and comforting all at once

5. Sweetcorn corn bread

A lovely savoury baking recipe, great served with chilli or stew. We also eat a lot of corn on the cob, and sweetcorn fritters when it’s sweetcorn season.

6. Pumpkin seed snacks

Try roasting any seeds you scoop from your pumpkin with various flavourings (or use store bought pumpkin seeds), for a healthy snack

7. Pumpkin Muffins

Baking with vegetables always makes things so moist and delicious. We love pumpkin muffins and often jazz them up with raisins or nuts too.

In the garden

Although it seems that things are winding down in the garden at this time of year, there is still plenty for kids to help with. 

 

1. Sow some seeds for next year for a headstart on beautiful blooms and a garden harvest:

– Sweet peas can be sown in October

– Broad beans can be sown in November

– Autumn onion sets can be sown in October

– Salad leaves can be sown in September in a sheltered spot or in the greehouse/windowsill

 

2. Plant bulbs for a colourful spring display.

We love a mixture of tulips, crocuses and daffodils. And they can be grown in pots in the smallest of gardens.

 

3. Care for wildlife

– Make hedgehog friendly area by leaving wilder areas in your garden, leaf piles and compost heaps. You could also have a go at making a hedgehog home

– Make an insect hotel by packing a small wooden container with sticks, bamboo canes, cones, leaves and other natural materials at the beginning of autumn. Some people suggest relocating the insect hotel to somewhere cool and dry over the winter to protect any inhabitants you have.

 

4. Wash pots

Washing anything apart from dishes seems to appeal to my girls! Washing plant pots at the end of the season helps prevent disease from spreading to plants next year. Having a supply of warm water makes the task a lot more inviting.

 

5. Have a bonfire

But check for hedgehogs first, and remember to have marshmallows at the ready for toasting over the embers at the end.

 

6. Collect seeds

Look for any seeds from favourite flowers or vegetables in your garden or when you visit friends or family. Calendula seeds are easy for children to harvest. Store in paper envelopes and have fun making labels for them

 

7. Compost and mulch

Start to prepare your garden beds and pots for next year. Shovelling and wheelbarrowing is a great physical work and provides proprioceptive input for kids who need to move a lot. Having the right size tools makes the task more enjoyable for children.

 

8. Plant willow or weave it

If you have willow growing in your garden, the autumn is a good time to weave it into interesting shapes. If you don’t have any yet, you could see if you could take some cuttings from a friend. It grows very readily, just from sticking the cutting in the ground. Willow dens, arches or tunnels are fun to create.

Celebrations

We’ll be sharing more about autumnal celebrations on social media in the coming weeks, but here is a list of some of the upcoming festivals you might want to incorporate into your family traditions.

Equinox

Equinox falls on September 23rd this year, and marks one of two days of the year when neither hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, giving us an equal amount of daylight and nighttime. It’s a lovely marker of autumn, and we like celebrating with a special nature walk or trip to the beach. Or a simple picnic outside in the garden can be just as special. 

 

Harvest moon

The Harvest Moon is the name given to the full moon nearest to the equinox, which falls on the 29th September this year. The moon appears especially large in the sky, and it’s a magical experience watching it rise from the horizon. A campfire and a late night moon gazing marks the occasion in our house. The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is observed in many countries and cultures around the world. This year we’ll be finding out about customs in some of the Asian regions we’re studying as part of our Tales and Trails: Asia curriculum.

Find out more: Humanities plus other curriculum choices 2023-2024

 

Michaelmas

Michaelmas is a Christian festival that some Waldorf families like to incorporate, which also falls on September 29th. It’s normally a festival of light over dark, or goodness over evil, and Waldorf celebrations often use the story of St George and the Dragon. As a secular (and peace-loving) family, it’s not a festival that we observe in the original vein. We do however enjoy telling a different dragon story (adapted) to mark the end of blackberry season, accompanied by making dragon bread.

 

Halloween

Halloween – the ever popular celebration on 31st October. In our family, Halloween has become more of a harvest festival, giving thanks for pumpkins, apples and everything else we’ve grown. We enjoy pumpkin carving, as many pumpkin recipes as we can muster, apple bobbing and finish off with sparklers.

 

Bonfire night

Bonfire night, on November 5th, is much anticipated by families around the UK. Although we haven’t yet delved into the history of Guy Fawke’s thwarted plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, we love cooking over the campfire, and setting off fireworks and sparklers.

 

Other autumn festivals

Of course there are many other festivals from other countries and cultures. We’ll be finding out more about Diwali – the festival of lights – this year, when we explore the Hindu regions as part of Tales and Trails: Asia. 

 

Lantern walk

A lovely Waldorf-inspired tradition that symbolises the power of our internal light. We enjoy making lanterns and set off aroud the fields after dark, followed by a warming mug of hot chocolate. This is typically celebrated on Martinmas, November 11th.

Crafting

Autumn is a wonderful time of year for collecting nature treasures, which can be used in a myriad of ways. Here are some of our favourite things to make.

Transient art

Go out collecting as many different treasures as possible. When you are back, set them out in little bowls or baskets. A mat or frame can be a nice prompt to create an ephemeral picture or pattern, treating the treasures as loose parts. You could also look at mandalas or the work of artist Andy Goldsworthy for more inspiration.

 

Leaves

  • Leaf rubbing – place some leaves – vein side up – under a piece of paper. When my girls were smaller, I added small pieces of tape to the stick both the leaves to the table, and the paper to the table to stop them shifting around. Use the side of wax crayons (Stockmar block crayons work especially well) to rub over the paper and reveal the leaves. We like to add a watercolour wash over the top too.
  • Leaf pressing – press all the beautiful leaves you find in a flower press or simply under some heavy books (place a layer of paper in between first). Dipping the pressed leaves in melted beeswax makes them look extra magical. If you are involving young children, use leaves with long stems still attached to avoid burning little fingers.
  • Leaf printing – paint the underside of leaves with tempera, preferably using a roller. Press onto paper (or press the paper onto the leaf). Experiment with different colours and overlapping the prints looks great too. You can do the same thing with apples cut in half horizontally, revealing the star.

 

Autumn wreath or autumn crowns

Weave willow into a circle and attach leaves, cones, rosehips, lichen and anything else you find from nature walks.  When you are happy with the arrangement, wrap yarn or embroidery thread round the wreath to help keep everything in place. Hang on your front door or use as a table centrepiece. You can also use the same process to make autumn crowns, ensuring the original willow circle is the right circumference for your child’s head.

 

Wet felted acorns and pumpkins

Roll a small piece of roving (merino works well) into a ball. Dip into a bowl of warm, soapy water, then roll and rub between your hands. The agitated fibres will start to felt together. Adding small wisps of roving at a time, repeat the process until the ball is the size of an acorn. Once completely dried, use hot glue to attach the felted acorn into an acorn cap.

We are also going to try making mini pumpkins this year, using a similar method. 

 

Decorating windows

– make a window star in autumnal colours. I always use the instructions found on the Beautiful Childhood blog, but there are many others available if you google. You could also try making autumnal leaves and other shapes if you’re feeling adventureous. So far, I’ve made our stars myself, rather than a children’s activity.

– I’m going to try  to finally make an autumn themed window star this year. I’ve downloaded this pattern in preparation.

 

Autumn inspired modelling

– Cook up a batch of autumn spice playdough. I mix the following ingredients together in a pan, heat gently while mixing until it thickens and starts to form a ball. Turn out onto a board and kneed until smooth.

  • 8 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp table salt
  • 60ml warm water
  • red, orange or yellow food colouring
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon or mixed spice

Set out with nature treasures or woodland animal toys for soothing autumnal afternoon of play

– Make little people or creatures using your nature finds, stuck together with small pieces of playdough or modelling beeswax

– Make pine cone figures by attaching acorns, sycamore seeds, wisps of wool and sticks with hot glue.

 

Painting

– Take your watercolour set outside, or prop open a book featuring an autumn scene to inspire an autumn painting. 

– Magic painting: Without your children seeing, use a white wax crayon to draw a large spiderweb or autumn leaves on watercolour paper. Invite your children to paint with autumn colours and let the secret images reveal themselves. Liquid watercolour works well for these types of paintings, but ordinary watercolour will work too.

 

Conker spiderwebs/ god’s eyes

Insert between four and eight toothpicks or wooden kebab skewers into a conker (this is an adult task in our house). Using autumn coloured yarn wrap tightly round each skewer in turn, for as many times as interest holds. God’s eyes typicall have the circles of yarn all pressed up together. For a spiderweb you will want space out each circle of yarn.

 

Autumn corner

– update your nature corner or create one from scratch using all your foraged treasures, plus any of the crafts you’ve created together. Letting children add autumn coloured silks or material, arranging their treasures and adding some favourite woodland toys is always an enjoyable process here.

 

Nature walks

No special preparation is required for a nature walk. Just put on your wellies and coats and go out to enjoy the lovely autumn display. If your children need a bit more encouragement to go on an adventure you could try giving them a “mission” from the following suggestions.

 

 

  1. Collect treasures for play or your nature table, e.g. cones, acorns, seed heads
  2. Jump in leaves or make leaf confetti
  3. Foraging for the last of blackberries or elderberries. If you’re lucky you might find some sweet chestnuts or hazelnuts
  4. Fungi hunting
  5. Visit an apple orchard
  6. Look for spider webs
  7. Walk in your socks to see which seeds attach 
  8. Look for migrating birds
  9. Go on a conker search
  10. Jump in puddles
  11. Visit a pumpkin patch
We hope you’ve been inspired by these suggestions and are ready to enjoy a range of autumnal activities with your family. If you want a printable version of this guide, plus an autumn booklist, and an autumn circle time, you can download our autumn guide here.

 

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Kindle your child’s spark for learning today

Kindle your child’s spark for learning today