5 fun Autumn activities

As the seasons turn I always like to have a think about the activities we have been doing over the last few months, and think of some new ways to entertain my girls in the coming season.

We are starting to clear the garden now, and while the bikes and scooters, and possibly even the sand tray will stay around throughout the winter, the water toys have gone into hibernation along with the sun loungers and picnic blankets.

Autumn is probably the most exciting season in terms of the senses. The colours, noises, sounds and even smells are just incredible and it is a season in which I do not find it hard to entertain my children. For this reason the these five activities are simple activities that require no planning, no shopping and no preparation, just wrap up warm and away you go! (I will be adding more activities in time so follow us on facebook to stay tuned.)

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  1. Make a leaf rainbow.

Okay so it wont be an accurate rainbow so to speak but the idea here is to collect as many different coloured leaves as you can. What you do with the leaves is up to you. Your children might take pleasure out of simply throwing them in the air and running about, or stamping on them to listen to the noises they make. Or you can use them to decorate your house with a beautiful leaf garland. [see here]

 

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  1. Teddy hide and seek.

Ask your children to collect lots of leaves into a big pile. This is an activity in itself and can keep them entertained for ages! Give little ones a bucket and send them round the garden, young children generally love collecting things so this will be a welcome task. Then simply hide some toys in the pile, depending on how old the children are you can vary the size of the toys you hide, making it more difficult the smaller the toy. Just remember to count how many toys you hide or there may be tears when they realise they have lost one!

 

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  1. Autumn seeds

Who didn’t collect conkers when they were younger? While conker fights seem to have gone out of fashion these days (partly for health and safety reasons) children still adore collecting nice shiny conkers. Sycamore seeds are also really popular. See here to find out what you can do with them…

 

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Encourage children to stop and listen to the world around them.

4. Sensory walk

Pop down to your local park and find things that will stimulate the senses. For example, stamp in some dry crispy leaves and listen to them crunching, look and see all the different colours on the trees, listen out for animals foraging in the under growth and see if you can smell any bonfires. Encourage children to sit quietly and take in their surroundings whilst doing this activity, it can be great after a really busy or stressful day. Alternatively, let the children dive into a pile of leaves and experience the senses in an active and engaging way.

 

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  1. Tree and leaf rubbings

Grab some paper and pencils and head outside, or collect some leaves and bring them inside, either way this is a fun and educational activity for children of all ages. Simply press the paper up against the tree bark, or leaves, and rub over it with crayons. This can be really fun if, as seen in the picture above, you can find funny shapes in the trees.

There are so many fun activities to do in autumn, and I will update this list as we progress through the season. If you have any activities you enjoy doing please comment below!

The girly gardener…

Ok so it’s confession time… I am a complete girly gardener! I love my garden, and I am definitely not afraid to get stuck in and get my hands dirty, however, when it comes to things like the little guy in this picture, I tend to let out the odd expletive or squeal so loudly the neighbours must wonder what on earth is going on.

I have been known, when mowing the lawn, so run around the garden with sticks, shouting and yelling, trying to chase all the frogs off the grass, without getting so close that they might jump near me. As you can see from the video below, we are lucky enough to have lots of frogs in our garden.

So, this morning when I was feeding the chickens and I saw a huge toad jumping round in their run, I tried not to panic too much. I asked my husband to come to my aid… no chance. He is even worse than me when it comes to touching animals, don’t even get me started on how he is with the chickens!

So I took a deep breath, grabbed a Tupperware (I quickly upgraded this to a washing up bowl) and a stick and off I went, to save the toad.

I quickly realised that I am, in no way, as brave as I had hoped and what followed can only be described as pathetic. Whilst trying to fend off the chickens who were busy pecking my feet and my bowl, I could do no more than offer the bowl, at arms length, to the toad, hoping he would just jump in casually. He did not.

This continued for a while, until I developed a new strategy. I would usher the toad, using my bowl, out of the door where he would hop away into the sunset (or sunrise.) Apparently he did not agree with the plan and I was shocked to see what happened next.

The toad, having no idea of my plans to show him the door, decided the looming washing up bowl was too much for him and that he had to make a run for it. He was, at this point, cornered against a wall and some chicken wire. To my horror, I watched him stick his head through the wire and get stuck. In my mind I was picturing having to phone someone to come and cut him loose (I don’t think the fire brigade would consider this an emergency?!) Who could I call??

As I watched, I saw the toad suck in his enormous belly and bit by bit he wriggled on, until all that was left were his legs. It was at this point he stopped, and I panicked again, if the hens found him like this he would be in for a tough time. So I started poking him with my stick (I knew that would come in handy at some point) and to my absolute amazement, he wriggled through to freedom! He had done it!! It was amazing to watch and left me feeling almost embarrassed at my feeble attempts to be brave when he hadn’t ever needed my help in the first place.

I guess it’s the thought that counts though right?!!

PS. It is only now that I realise my friend the toad was probably in fact a “she” giving to the the fact that the females are much bigger than the males, apologies for this.

Chicken gets caught sleeping on the job!

This poor chuck was just having a rest when it was rudely awoken by its owner. It’s always a bit of a shock when you get caught sleeping on the job, especially when you are as deep asleep as this little lady was…

 

Dad makes epic gardening error!

This man made a bit of mistake when choosing what to stand on to fix his garden shed… make sure you watch to the end!

Make your own butterfly Garden

It’s that time of year when parts of the garden start fluttering, and butterflys can be seen dancing in the wind and lazing in the sun.  Whether you have a huge plot or a small terrace with just enough room for a few pots, with the right plants you can build your own butterfly haven.

What is a Butterfly Garden?

It is simply a sunny spot, filled with plants that specifically attract butterflies and are generally nectar-producing flowers. Butterflies are present in almost every region of the world, so with the right plants virtually any spot can become a haven for them.  Children will love spotting them fluttering about, and it can make a good game identifying the different types you see. If you are lucky enough to find one bathing in the sun, you can creep up, using one of our magnifying glasses and take a proper look. Be careful not to touch them though, butterfly wings are very delicate.

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So here are a few pointers:

It it good to have a variety of different plants that flower at different times of the year, ensuring a ready supply of nectar for your visitors.  In Spring good nectar providing plants are Cuckoo Flower (Ladies Smock), Forget-me-not, Wallflower, Sweet Rocket, Primrose and Daisies.  In Summer and Autumn, Budleia, French Marigold, Lavender, Ice Plant, Red Valerian, Michaelmas Daisy, Scabious, Knapweed and Ivy are all good. The seeds provided in our Butterfly Garden Grow Set offer a range of perfect flowers that are sure to attract butterflies into your garden.

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Grow set with everything you need to start your own butterfly garden.

Butterflies thrive in the sun and the plants that attract them are typically plants that require lots of sunlight. When choosing your location, look for an area where there will be plenty of sun throughout the day.

Try and pick a spot that offers good protection from the wind – Butterflies are delicate and like sunny areas with very little wind. By creating a sheltered garden you will attract more butterflies. You can do this by planting tall plants and shrubbery to act as a barrier around smaller nectar producing ones.  Choose plants that butterflies like to lay their eggs on too, they love cabbage plants but be careful as they will take over.  Perhaps if you are growing cabbages leave a few unnetted so the butterflies can lay eggs on those rather than your whole crop.

Most pesticides kill or repel butterflies so organic growing methods are a great choice for a butterfly garden. Choose an area where pest control isn’t necessary or where you can limit your use of chemicals.

Most importantly enjoy and protect the butterflies that visit! Encourage children to observe them in their natural habitat and talk about the vital part they have to play in our ecosystem. Butterflies are a beautiful part of the garden and one to be truly cherished.

A sweet pea story

Even the most experienced gardener, which I am in no way claiming to be, has winners, losers and lessons learnt every year. Growing anything is a balancing act, one that can easily go wrong, or alternatively, can flourish and sweet peas are a good example of a plant that can provide an abundance of beautiful, sweet smelling blooms, or, if not attended to correctly, can provide a few gangly green strings with eaten leaves and perhaps a flower or two. I am going to take you on my sweet pea journey this year, to show you how they survive with the onslaught of chickens, four year old twins and the unpredictable British weather. (See the end of the article for tips on how to grow your own sweet peas)

Let’s get started…
Last year I bought some sweet pea plants and planted them in the garden. All summer the house was filled with their sweet smell and vibrant colours, so this year I decided it was time to plant my own. I planted a whole packet of seeds in late January and here is the result:

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Ok, so it looks like the weeds have taken over slightly and they are a bit dry due to not being watered for a few weeks, but they survived and that is what counts!

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After quick weeding session I gave them some much needed water and found some sticks from the garden to put in for support. They look much happier now but still need to grow a bit more before being planted out. So they stay in the greenhouse until all signs of frost have passed and they can be planted straight into the flower beds outside.

After a month or so they are doing really well and this is what they look like now:

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It goes to show you should never underestimate a weedy little seedling! I will keep you updated as to how they progress but it is definitely looking promising.

If you want to grow your own sweet peas next year, or are growing some already, here are some basic care tips:

  • Sweet peas love a rich, moist soil so dig a couple of buckets of compost into the planting area beforehand to enrich the soil and help retain the moisture during dry weather. Letting the plants dry out will make them go to seed quicker.
  • Plant in a sunny and accessible position so you can pick the flowers easily.
  • Nip the top off the shoots to encourage side shoots, to make the plants bushier and more robust.
  • When they start flowering, always pick the flowers off to encourage the plant to produce more, never allow seed pods to grow.
  • Sweet peas need good support so grow them up a frame or bamboo support, as pictured above.

Most importantly, enjoy your sweet peas and the amazing flowers they produce!

Read here for an allotment plan make a sweet pea tepee for children to play in as well as other fun activities.

Lessons from a ladybird

The joy of finding a lady bird is a very simple one, and was one enjoyed by my daughter this morning. A year ago she might not have so willingly held it, as she has always been a little unsure of bugs.  This morning, however, she asked for it to go on her hand and after a little conversation about how careful she must be with it, I obliged.

She gently giggled at the tickling sensation, and gazed adoringly at the lady bird, before long, skipping off to find it some flowers to play on (still lovingly held in her hands.)

Here started the natural inquisitions of a five year old, and the subsequent lessons learnt. We chatted about whether it was a boy or a girl, after coming to the conclusion that we will never know as you can’t tell the difference (in her simple words) she decided hers was a girl. Males are hereby known as ‘gentlemanbirds.’

On she went, letting her ladybird crawl round the flowers she had picked for it, openly declaring that they were friends and would be together forever. I quietly continued with my work preparing some earth for her fairy garden,  (article to follow.)

After a while she decided to put the ladybird down, so we found it a nice leaf for it to sit on. She ummed and ahhed and I eventually left her reunited with her friend, only to soon discover her frantically searching and calling for it.

After another discussion with me about what ladybirds eat (what aphids are, whether they are good for the garden, if it will eat leaves and flowers etc) she had put the ladybird down and gone off to find it something to eat. On her return, she found that the her friend had abandoned her and run away. She was devastated and despite my attempt to comfort her, she felt utterly betrayed. ‘But I thought we were friends, that we would always be friends, but it wasn’t my friend, it left me!’ she sobbed into my arms. I let her mourn the loss of her little friend and she soon perked up, only to discover that the ladybird was simply hiding a few leaves down – reunited once more!

I seized my opportunity to talk to her about whether the ladybird was in fact hers, or whether it wanted to be wild and free. Luckily we have a fantastic book about this exact issue (see below) so I referred to that and after a little chat she seemed to accept that her little friend was in fact a wild animal and would be much happier remaining that way.

mole and baby bird
This book explains very clearly the impact of capturing a wild animal.

Another string of questions ensued about how ladybirds have babies, I admitted my ignorance on the issue but we agreed that somehow baby ladybirds are born and she decided that hers was, in fact, a baby.

Not long after, the ladybird was to leave for a final time but this time, the loss was manageable. She lovingly laid a trail of leaves near where she had last seen it, in case it got hungry, happily declaring that it was probably going to live in our garden for ever and maybe even have more babies.

The whole experience cannot have lasted much longer that 10 minutes but I get the feeling a lot was learnt in that short time, I also feel the lessons learnt will last for some time!

 

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