Once the weather starts to cool and the autumn leaves fall to the ground, it opens up many opportunities to learn through the natural materials that have fallen. I love this time of the year as I can’t help but smile looking at the huge variety of colors. It reminds me of my childhood and the feeling of joy as I would pick up a big bunch of leaves and throw them at my siblings. Who would then reciprocate of course 🙂
As I started to build those memories with my own kids I thought this might be a useful post to explore the opportunities that lay on the ground. These activities are fun and most so simple that all you have to do is just go outside. The aim of this post is to show you how you can maximize the learning while using natural materials found during the Autumn/Fall season.
1. Explore the textures
|Fine motor skills, visual perception and language development
||Tactile & Visual Senses
How to Play:
This game is simple yet very beneficial. It can also be done with babies, toddler or young kids.
As you go for a walk simply explore the various natural objects that you find across your path. They can include fallen leaves, acorns, pine cones, spiky gum balls, Osage orange tree drops, catkins and many more.
Stop, let your little one pick it up and explore with their hands. Talking about the objects features will not only help with language development but also their visual perception skills. Visual perception is your brains ability to interpret what you are seeing. This is an essential skill that will help your child’s reading and writing skills.
Not only that, but the tactile exploration helps your little one’s hands discriminate between different sensations. This is needed for hand development. And what do we use our hands for? So many things! feeding, dressing, manipulating objects such as toys, scissors, pencils etc.
Features to talk about:
- How does it look like?
- What are the colors?
- What shape is it?
- What size is it?
- How does it feel?
- Bumpy, fuzzy, smooth, spiky, wet, dry, soft, hard etc
- Is it heavy or light?
- What can you do with it?
- Can you rip it?
- Can you crush it?
- What happens when you drop it?
2. Sorting Fun
|Visual perception and fine motor skills
||Visual and tactile senses
Once you have talked about all the features you can try and sort them.
- You can sort the leaves by color, shape, size or
- You can sort them by objects. For example: leaves in one pile, acorns in a second pile and spiky gum balls in the third.
This sorting activity will help with the development of your child’s visual perception skills. They will be learning to discriminate objects based on their differences and similarities. Visual perception skills are essential for your child’s school success. As they read and write they need to be able to figure out differences and similarities between letters and numbers.
3. Traffic Light Game
| Visual perception, attention and impulse control skills
While you are out and about collecting leaves you can play a Traffic Light Game.
How to play
Have your child collect red, orange and a green leaf. Then pretend these leaves are the colors of the traffic lights.
Red means STOP
Green means GO
Orange/Yellow means SLOW DOWN
You and your child take turns in being in charge of the traffic lights and direct to either, stop, go or slow down. For younger toddlers you can just include STOP and GO leaves.
This game is not only great for color recognition but also attention skills and impulse control. It takes a lot of effort for your little one to stop their body when they are having fun.
Occupational Therapy Tips:
For an older toddler or preschooler who is having impulse control challenges this would be a beneficial activity. You can work on this skill by extending the time that the ‘RED’ light is on and they have to stay still. Make sure that you build up this skill (time) so they can succeed in this game.
Another great idea is when the light is orange/yellow encourage your child to really try to move in slooooowwww motion. This will work on strengthening all muscles in their body as they contract their muscles as they move. Having strong muscles builds a foundation for when your body needs to hold you up so you can use your hands and legs freely.
4. Create with nature
| Fine motor skills, eye hand coordination, bilateral coordination, body awareness
|| Tactile, visual and proprioceptive skills during play dough fun
Once you have collected your natural materials bring them inside for some crafting fun. Depending on your child’s age you can range the complexity of the task.
- Grab a pine cone and have your little one paint it. If you are brave and want an extra sparkle you can have your child sprinkle some glitter on it.
- You can create a ‘leaf man’. It’s a great way to learn about body parts. There is also a fun book ‘Leaf man’ that can be read while creating their own leaf man.
- Incorporate play dough
- Stamp to see what imprints your natural materials make
- Acorns are great for a hide-and-seek game. First, you hide the acorns. Then, you find them.
There you have it!! Simple yet very beneficial activities that can be done while going for a walk with your little one.
Let me know how if you came up with any other fun ideas.
Have fun playing!
- Toilet paper (1 roll)
- Dish soap
- Large plastic container
- Food coloring (optional)
What to do:
- Place water and dish soap (just enough to make some bubbles) into your container
- Give your child a toilet paper roll. Let them tear pieces and place it into the water
- Keep going until they create a soft and slimy texture
- Explore with hands and feet
- For extra variety you can add food coloring to make it more colorful
For ideas on how to play with this concoction check out the Weekend Sensory Play Time post.
What to do:
- Boil, then mash the potatoes
- Divide the potatoes into 4 small containers
- Add a different color to each container
- Mix it up
When mashing the potatoes, don’t worry about doing a perfectly smooth mash. A few lumps are good for the extra sensation.
For ideas on how to play with these mashed potatoes check out the Weekend Sensory Play Time post.
- 1 cup of Baby Oil or Vegetable Oil
- 8 cups of flour
What to do:
- Simply mix the two ingredients together. THAT’S IT!
- Store it in a container with a lid
For ideas on how to play with cloud dough check out the Weekend Sensory Play Time post.