The rain has set in and the evenings are getting darker. But look on the bright side - October means glorious romps in the falling leaves, cosy nights, hearty stews and a whole host of wonderful wildlife to explore…
So don’t be glum, follow our top ten tips to the best ways for families to enjoy an amazing autumn.
From juicy plums to shiny apples, autumn is prime time to harvest some fruit for the winter. Dress up warmly in old, comfy clothes and wellies and visit one of the many fruit-picking farms across the country - www.pickyourownfarms.org.uk Don’t forget a container to pop your freshly picked produce in. And if you’re after blackberries remember the folklore that the devil spoils these fruit after October 10 – so just a few days left to stock up for that crumble!
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Fly a kite
Autumn’s fresh breezes are perfect for a spot of kite flying. Find your nearest open parkland, field or safe beach (make sure tides aren’t coming in) and teach the little ones how to dip and dive.
Plan a night watch
Set up a mini watch-camp in the garden with deckchairs and blankets – and plenty of hot chocolate and marshmallows - and let the little ones stay up to watch the sun go down, the birds flutter back to their nests and the shadows stretch across the grass.
Make a den for hibernating hedgehogs
Setting up home for hedgehogs is a doddle – simply take a sturdy wooden box and turn it upside down, then cover it with stones, earth and wood (and make sure there’s an entrance, perhaps by jigsawing a little doorway!). You can buy specially designed hedgehog boxes or even make your own, but just make sure it’s tough and sturdy to keep predators like foxes out. Pick a spot against a wall or fence and under or near plant cover where they will not be disturbed. And don’t be tempted to make it cosy with leaves –hedgehogs like to decorate their dens themselves.
For more, download this BBC ‘how to’ guide
Help the kids get creative and learn about the different trees, too, with a spot of old-fashioned leaf painting. Let them gather their favourite leaves the next time you take an autumnal walk – dry and crispy is no good, leathery is best. Choose different shapes and sizes, taking along a leaf guide to help them spot which trees they come from (try this one: nature detectives autumn leaves ) When you get home, take large pieces of blank paper and two or three flat trays of nice, thick paint (watercolours won’t work). Dip a dry sponge into the paint then transfer it on to one side of each leaf – and get printing on to the paper. Don’t use too much paint otherwise you won’t get the nice ‘veined’ effect. Ta-da! Instant art.
Go conker collecting
Take conker gathering to another level by making a special expedition to one of the country’s loveliest woods. See the Woodland Trust’s visitwoods.org.uk for the nearest woody area. Remember the idea conker for playing conkers is uncracked, firm and symmetrical. The best will sink in a bucket of water. Then pierce a hole through the middle with a nail or small screwdriver, thread a 25cm piece of string through the hole and tie a knot at one end. Take turns swinging your conker at your opponent’s, while it dangles from its string. You win if you can smash theirs to smithereens! For more tips see How to play conkers
Bats can be seen all over the place – from cities to woods, parks, fields and even your own back garden. Take a trek out with an organised bat walk for your best chance of spying the furry flying things. See www.bats.org.uk for events including the bat walk at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, on October 15 at 11am (perfect for 7-11-year-olds) or the bat trek at dusk at Guildford’s Hatchlands Park on 27 October – including soup! Alternatively consult the Big Bat Map for the hotspots nearest to you: www.bigbatmap.org About half an hour before sunrise or sunset are the perfect times to catch them.
An autumn classic, this one – and the ideal way to get the little ones away from the telly. Pop apples in a large bucket and get the kids to remove them using their mouths only – hands kept firmly behind their backs.
Get the kids out and about noticing autumn’s natural wonders with a scavenger hunt. The Woodland Trust have a great one to download at www.naturedetectives.org.uk but it’s easy to create your own, too. Simply draw out a scroll with instructions such as “find an acorn in its cup”, “find an oak leaf” or “find a helicopter seed”, with each find being worth so many gold pieces (chocolate coins usually do the trick!) and let them loose in the local park or wood.
When the rain draws in, why not whip up a sweet treat after all that fruit-picking? Kids love to cook and a simple apple crumble can be easy and fun to make as a family. And even more fun to eat later, of course.