COLUMN: Turn over a new leaf this half-term

Leaves ... a great way to get arty this autumn.

Leaves ... a great way to get arty this autumn. - Credit: Dawn Isaac

It’s half-term this week. For those of us who still haven’t finished sewing on name tags or found that pesky gym bag, this might come as a bit of a shock. But don’t worry, I’m here to help.

Not literally you understand (please don’t send me your children to entertain) but I thought I could at least share some of my favourite autumn activities from 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside.

First up has to be autumn leaf art. For those of us who wince at the cost of art supplies (seriously – Pritt Stick must be made from dried unicorn tears to cost that much), this is a season to embrace. All over the ground you will find multi-coloured, multi-shaped, weather resistant material that can be used and re-used over and over again. Yes, okay, I’m talking leaves, but as that purring M&S lady might put it: “These aren’t just leaves, these are rich autumnal leaves.”

If you don’t feel you’ve quite got the colour palette in your own back garden, then you could take the kids down one of the many parks in the area where you’ll find a huge variety. Identify a good spot to create your artwork and then just start collecting leaves.

The best part is the sheer scale of your creation. It can be MASSIVE – especially if you have a bunch of children working together. They can even become part of the picture themselves.

Or if you want to capture the leaves to take home, I would recommend making autumn crowns. Just cut strips of card long enough to go around each child’s head before attaching a length of double sided sticky tape. If you peel this off bit by bit as you walk along, the children can stick on their favourite leaves. Finally staple it all together to form an impressive headpiece.

You could even skip the double-sided tape (which often hits the ‘Pritt Stick’ price bracket) and instead weave together three or four bendy twigs – willow is ideal. Just fashion this into a circle large enough to form a crown and keep weaving in twigs to strengthen it. Finally, you can slip the stalks of leaves, or other autumn finds, between the twigs to decorate the crown.

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The fact it’s getting darker earlier, can also be a benefit of autumn. If you hang an old white sheet over the washing line, light it with a powerful torch you’ll find loads of moths come to visit and you can have a go at spotting as many different types as you can.

Or you could indulge in a game of torch tag. The child chosen as ‘It’ has a flag, or something similar to guard and, most importantly, a torch to hold. The others players spread around the area and then have to move as quietly as possible towards the flag using bushes and trees to cover their movements. If ‘It’ hears anyone they can turn on the torch to ‘tag’ the person. The first to capture the flag – or else last one left in the game – is declared the winner.

And let’s not forget it’s Hallowe’en next week so you could let the children host a spooky outdoor feast. The smallest pumpkins hollowed out make great soup bowls (warming food being essential to outdoor snacking in October) and you can even add cobweb details on top of the soup with a little bit of cream. If you have a chiminea or fire basket you could help the kids toast some ghostly marshmallows too.

And of course, if none of this is enough to entice the kids outdoors, you could just yell “Hey, kids, there’s a hot air balloon over the garden and it’s dropping sweets” then lock the door after them and refuse to open up until they’ve played for at least an hour. That should work.