Lesson Ideas and Activities
Some fantastic autumn playground activities for Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2
This half term we are celebrating everything Autumn. The limitless opportunities it offers for getting our children outside to enjoy and learn about the world around them, and to encounter all the sensory experiences that this wondrous season has to offer.
Here we look at some great ways of making the most of your school grounds this Autumn season.
There are so many cross-curricular Autumn activities for children to enjoy which cover the seven areas of learning at Early Years Foundation Stage and at Key Stages 1 and 2.
You can incorporate these ideas into your lesson plan, and some of the ideas will help to encourage children to use and think about their school playground equipment in alternative ways.
Autumn With: Expressive Arts and Design
The Autumn season provides a plethora of creative inspiration for little artists out there. The array of Autumn colours and textures that we have in this country is something really special and offers wonderful opportunities both for studying natural resources, and for children to create their own unique art and designs with them.
Just looking at, touching and trying to describe the changing colours and textures of leaves will have children hooked. There is a wonderful world of inspiration out there, just waiting for children to step outside of the classroom and discover.
Hunt for Autumn treasures
Children can spend time hunting in the school grounds for fallen leaves, bark from trees, twigs etc. Playgrounds that are well equipped with natural resources and that encourage Nature and Planting, for example with planters full of plants or trees, will come into their own in the Autumn time.
You can even set children a homework task to go out and fill a bag full of “Autumn treasures” to bring into school for art and design lessons.
Let's get involved with some rubbings art
Rubbings are a perfect activity for children to enjoy at this time of year as there are so many different textures to uncover. Children can lay out leaves, pieces of bark, or whatever else they may have found, on a flat surface. Place a piece of paper over the top and then rub a coloured crayon or piece of chalk across the paper.
The imprint of the leaf or bark will appear on the piece of paper. Try it with different art resources and materials, paint, pencils, charcoal, tracing paper, sugar paper, for different colours and textures. Why not go out for a walk around the school grounds and let the children have a go at making their rubbings on the spot as they encounter different surfaces.
Can you create your own Autumn inspired fabric?
Children can design and create their own fabric by painting leaves with colourful paints or soaking them in ink, and pressing the leaves onto a cotton sheet. They could do this to make their own t-shirts, to make sail shades for the playground or to make curtains for their Play Den.
String their finished product up to Den Posts to enjoy Autumn inspired play times and allow them the sense of achievement they will gain from creating their own beautiful play area.
Create an Autumn collage or sketch what you see...
Drawing, sketching and creating Autumn collages in an outdoor environment makes such a refreshing change to sitting in a classroom.
If children are allowed to go outside for the art and design lessons, to really immerse themselves within the season, surrounded by its sights and smells, they will draw so much inspiration from their surroundings and this will be reflected in the work they produce.
If the weather is temperamental and there is a risk of their work being damaged by rain, then an Outdoor Classroom is essential. Outdoor classrooms forms a great base for getting creative outside without being hindered by the weather at any time of year. They are a perfect blank canvas for children to decorate with their Autumn creations too!
If you have Mark Making Panels in your school grounds, ask children to go outside and “sketch what they see” in the Autumn. This can be as part of a structured lesson to improve their fine motor skills and artistic ability, or as part of their playtime whilst other children are running around the playground and the landscape looks different. Children should be encouraged to observe their surroundings, be spontaneous and let them mark out the Autumn as they see it.
Take a look at our range of quality, Outdoor Classrooms here.
Autumn With: Mathematics and Numeracy
Autumn tally charts, pie charts and graphs
Five, six, pick up sticks! Or conkers, acorns, anything else the trees have thrown down to the ground for little hands to collect. There is an abundance of natural objects out there at the moment for children to collect and start counting!
Before heading outside, ask children to think about what sort of things they might find out there in the Autumn time. They should list their thoughts and create a tally chart to record their findings. Once they have been out observing, they can make graphs and pie charts to display in class, to show everything they have learned about the Autumn in their area.
How many conkers/acorns do you need to make a...
Line your Autumn treasures up in the school playground and see how far your line can stretch.
- Start with the biggest and end with the smallest.
- How many conkers do you need to make a metre line?
- How many acorns do you need to make a circle around your climbing frame?
- What would happen to the size of the circle if a squirrel came along and took away some of the acorns?
- How many would you be left with?
- Can you share all of the acorns and conkers out evenly between your classmates?
It's time for a conker race!
Have a conker race! Line them up at the top or a slide two or three at a time and let them roll down. Time them.
- Which conker is the fastest?
- Which is the slowest?
- Why do you think this is and can you think of different ways to make the conkers go faster?
- Keep a record to find the average speed of a conker rolling down a slide.
An Autumn lesson on weight and mass
Gather fallen leaves and fill a container with them. Ask children to weigh the container every day and keep a log of the weight of the leaves. It is interesting for them to notice how the container gradually becomes lighter, but do they know why?
Use your Water Table for a lesson on weight and mass. Children can try to float apples, leaves, conkers, acorns or even pumpkins on the water! Notice what floats and what sinks. Why? What happens to the water when you place different items in it?
Have a pumpkin maths lesson
Pumpkins are great fun for maths lessons. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and can be compared for circumference and weight.
- Do their circumference and weight correlate?
- Does this have any bearing on the number of seeds a pumpkin contains when you cut it in half?
- Keep a chart to show the results and draw conclusions.
- Ask children to pick up pumpkins one at a time (if they think they are strong enough!) and to guess how much they weigh. Put them on scales and see if their predictions are correct.
- What else can they find that weighs as much as a pumpkin?
When you have finished you can have some fun making a harvest display, or even making some pumpkin recipes in the Mud Kitchen.
Autumn With: Understanding the World Around Us
What happens to the wildlife and nature during Autumn?
At this time of year, there is an abundance of visual aids out in the school grounds to teach children about the world around us. If you have a Wildlife Area, children can gain hands on experience and develop their understanding of life cycles of plants, insects or small animals, and learn what happens to them at this time of year.
- Did you know that pumpkins are a fruit?
- What creatures are hibernating now?
- Could a hedgehog be curling up asleep somewhere near you?
- What are the squirrels doing and why do they look so busy?
- Are there any birds around and where are they flying to?
- What can we do to care for animals in nature and to help protect them as the weather becomes colder?
Make some bird feeders
Children will enjoy making feeders for the birds to help them find food during the Autumn and on into winter. Poke a hole in the bottom of a yogurt pot, feed a piece of string through the hole so that it runs 8 inches beyond the top of the pot, and tie a knot in the bottom so it cannot escape.
Fill the yogurt pot with seeds and nuts mixed into melted lard, making sure that the piece of string sits out over the mixture, and leave it in a cold place to set hard.
When it has set, snip the knot off the bottom of the yogurt put and remove the feeder from the pot. Use the long end of string to tie the feeders up to trees or hang them in your wildlife area. Watch the birds enjoying their feast!
Autumn With: Religious Education, Personal, Social and Emotional Development and Mutual Understanding
Autumn is full of cultural and religious festivals...
Autumn is a busy for cultural and religious festivals, so there is plenty to talk about with children and lots of fun to be had developing an understanding of different cultures within our society.
In particular this Autumn, we see Jewish people across the country celebrating their new year, Rosh Hashanah, Sikhs celebrating the Festival of Lights, Diwali, and Christians celebrating Harvest Festival.
On a sunny Autumn day, gather children to your Storytelling Circle and talk with them about how different religions celebrate at this time of year.
Children can develop self-confidence with their classmates talking about how they celebrate at home. Then go to your Outdoor Classroom and have some fun working together to make some decorations:
- Rosh Hashanah - at this time of year Jewish people have a feast to celebrate and they eat sweet foods such as apples, a delicious Autumn fruit, baked in honey, symbolising hope for a sweet new year ahead. They enjoy a round bread called Challah which symbolises the ongoing seasons and the cycle of years passing. Children can enjoy making table decorations that would be used at a feast, using sweet autumn fruits such as apples and berries, and twigs gathered from outside. Arrange them around a candle, a piece of oasis or in a nest shape, and spray them with metallic silver or gold paints or sprinkle with glitter. When the decorations are finished children can sit together and have a feast of their own enjoying some sweet Autumn fruits.
- Diwali - children will love having a go at making their own paper lanterns for the Festival of Light. Take a piece of A4 sized colourful paper (children can paint them first) and cut a 2cm strip off the short side to use as a handle. old the paper in half widthways and sellotape or staple the open edge together
- Harvest Festival - this is time when Christians give thanks to God for gifts of food and good crops, and takes place in the Autumn when traditionally all the crops were harvested and brought in from the fields. Symbolic corn dolls were made out of the last sheath of harvest and were placed on festival tables, given as gifts, and hung up in homes. Children bring gifts of food to church for distribution to those in need within the community. Children can make their own corn dolls using wheat or raffia. Take a small bunch and loop it over to make the head, tied in place with an extra piece of raffia. Use plaiting or ribbons to make them more ornate depending on the children’s abilities.
Prepare for Spring with easy to grow fruit and vegetables and even make a scarecrow...
If you have Planters or a Wildlife Area in your playground, you can plan ahead in the Spring time ready for your own harvest in the Autumn. Use easy to grow fruits and vegetables such as beans, squash and apples.
Let the children be responsible for planting and looking after their produce throughout the year, learning how fruit and veg grows and sharing roles.
In the Autumn they can enjoy the fruits of their ongoing teamwork together by harvesting and tasting what they have produced.
Why not have a go at making a huge scarecrow together as a team, to put in your Planter where the veg is growing. Your class will need to dress him as the weather dictates and give him a name!
As a simple daily activity, take advantage of group playground equipment such as a Mud Kitchen by incorporating it into lessons for Personal, Social and Emotional development.
There are so many natural resources to fill them with in the Autumn with leaves, acorns, conkers and twigs all over the ground, and usually loads of mud of mud too!
Children will be really immersed in what they are doing and this is a great opportunity for them to talk together or with adults, and to learn through role play.
Take a closer look at our excellent Mud kitchen here
Autumn With: Physical Education and Physical Development
Go on a scavenger hunt
One of the best things about Autumn is that you can just put a coat on and go out for a walk. There is so much to see and it’s the perfect way to get some good physical exercise.
Take your children out on a scavenger hunt. They love the details of Autumn and they will have so much fun running around looking for Autumn treasures that they won’t realise how much exercise they are getting. They can even help out in the school grounds gathering up and clearing fallen leaves!
What Autumn animal will you pretend to be?
Use your Trim Trail or Climbing Frame to let children have fun pretending to be busy Autumn animals!
Have you seen how much squirrels run about at this time of year? Children should run, jump and climb across the Trim Trail like balancing squirrels, carrying acorns or nuts from one side to the other.
They can bury them in a den or in Dig Pit once they have reached the other side, just like squirrels storing food for the winter! Children will be building on all of their gross motor skills as they go and getting some good cardio-vascular exercise too. Turn it into a team game and see which team can gather, carry and store the most acorns!
Build a birds nest or hedgehog burrow using different methods of transport for materials
Use your Den Making equipment to let children get physical building a bird’s nest or a hedgehog’s burrow ready for Autumn hibernation.
They will need to run around the school grounds looking for suitable materials such as twigs and leaves.
Use different vehicles to transport the materials. Wheelbarrow to push, bags to left, sacks to drag, all work on muscular development. And it’s a great place to play once they have built it!
Autumn inspired dance and play activities
Let children enjoy the space a Multi Use Games Area offers them for outdoor creative dance lessons, improving some of their fundamental movement skills.
They can pretend to be fireworks, dancing through the sky and exploding into colour, or leaves falling from the trees and swooshing across the ground. Include props such as dancing ribbons to add to the drama!
Take a look at our Multi Use Games Areas here
Autumn With: Communication, Language and Literacy
Let's go on an Autumn treasure hunt!
One of the most fun ways for children to learn how to communicate with their peers is to have a treasure hunt together.
Let them set up their own hunt around the school grounds. They should decide between them who is hunting and who is leading the trails and learn to negotiate different roles.
They should also decide how to communicate the trail, whether through creating written clues or leaving symbols. This will depend on their level of ability and their writing skills will improve as they formulate clues.
With conkers, acorns, fallen leaves and broken twigs there is no end of Autumn treasures for them to hide, lay out as a trail and hunt for! Encourage them with new vocabulary relating to the Autumn and they will also learn from each other as they communicate.
Write an Autumn story or poem...
With all this talk of Autumn, it’s the perfect time for children to try writing their own story or poem about the Autumn and what it means to them. Here is our acrostic poem for inspiration!
Pumpkins and mushrooms and hot apple pies,
Everyone gathering conkers outside.
Nuts for the squirrels fall down from the
Trees, their leaves turning golden then gone in the breeze.
Autumn is here, it’s the season of mists. Children out playing with sticks in their fists.
Glowing red bonfires, smoke curling high, fireworks exploding and lighting the sky.
Outside is best when it’s time to play, so good for our children
Now head out today!
For more information on how to equip your school playground for all of the seasons, fill out our Contact Form and we will be in touch for a free consultation. You can also take a further look at our school playground equipment range here.