As I look out of the window the wind is blowing, creating a vortex of beautiful reds and oranges and summer feels like a distant memory. Yes, Autumn is here with its shorter days and unpredictable weather but also with its fabulous colours and its feeling of 'hygge'!
There are plenty of great gardening activities for children to do in Autumn and here are my top five.
Play with leaves, seeds and berries
It is a well known fact that children learn better through playing and Autumn gives us a great opportunity to get to know many perennial plants and trees up close by looking at their leaves, seeds and berries.
Whether it is building a leaf mount, making an autumnal nature crown/picture or going on a scavenger hunt, let your mini gardener's creativity flow freely. Given the unpredictability of the Autumn weather, some of these play activities can be done indoor on a rainy day as long as the material is collected on a dry day and ready to be used when needed.
Collecting leaves and material for these activities does not necessarily require a long walk in the woods (although it might be a welcome change of scenery). For us adults there is a lot of tidying up in the garden ahead of winter so enlisting the help of your mini gardener is a great way to share the load and for them to collect lots of cool and exciting material for their 'play time'.
Planting bulbs is an easy and quick gardening activity for children that offers plenty of learning opportunities. Bulbs are usually quite large too so they are easy to handle for those whose finer motor skills are not yet fully developed.
Early flowering bulbs are a lifeline for those minibeasts that either do not fully hibernate or wake up in late winter/early spring and their flowers fill gardens and balconies with lots of colour at a time when things can look quite dreary.
Bulbs can be planted in borders as well as pots but make sure they have plenty of drainage (sandy/gritty soil in pots is preferable) and if naughty squirrels operate in your area it is also worth covering the pots with mesh so the little thieves can't get to them.
Now all you need to do is let your mini gardener choose their favourite bulbs among hundreds of fabulous varieties and colours....easy enough!!!
Help your garden wildlife get ready for winter
Autumn is the time of the year when many of the wild animals and insects that inhabit or visit our gardens get ready for winter. Some will not survive the colder months, many will hibernate and some will continue to look for food and shelter.
Offering food and shelter for those animals that are still active is a great way to help them survive the winter months and preparing areas for hibernation is helpful for those that are not active. There are countless examples of minibeast and bee hotels and they are great to make for younger and older gardeners alike. Creating shelter for minibeasts offers adults an opportunity to share with children the importance of them in our gardens' habitats, discuss their lifecycle and learn more about what their 'hotel' preferences are.
Plant a tree
Autumn is a great time to plant a tree or shrub as well as re-potting those that are already in your garden (if in pots obviously). Summer is often too hot for this type of job and the ground can be too cold and hard in winter for it.
Planting trees and shrubs is a great activity for children (with the support of adults) as they will be able to observe the roots of a tree as well as learning how to care for it. Trees and shrubs attract wildlife to a garden, offer shade in hot summer days and by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere they play a very important role in our environment.
When choosing a tree check that your outdoor space is big enough for the fully matured plant and when planting it make sure that it is well supported and fed. It will become an important part of your garden!
If you don't have enough space to plant a tree or shrub, you can contact your local park or managed woodland to see if they have any plans to introduce new trees and if your mini gardeners could take part in the planting activity.
Learn about photosynthesis
With the Autumn leaves changing from green to yellow, orange and red, this time of the year is perfect for introducing children to the amazing process called photosynthesis and the well know green pigment called chlorophyll that enables it to happen.
It is fun for children to understand that the autumnal leaf colours are actually there all year round. When it starts to get cold many plants stop making chlorophyll and as it disappears the leaves showcase all the beautiful warm colours that we all love so much. And this opens up a whole raft of questions and interesting facts about plants, their leaves and why/how some plants do not change colour in Autumn and do not lose their leaves either.
Plants are amazing organisms and understanding their biology is a key step for any child interested in gardening as it makes them more aware of what a plant needs in order to survive and thrive.
I hope the above can give you a little bit of inspiration to go outside and have fun in the garden. What's your favourite Autumn gardening activity for kids?