9 Autumn Outdoor Play Ideas for Children

Autumn Outdoor Play Ideas – 9 physical play activities for kids!

Kel Activities With Kids, Family 18 Comments

Summer’s almost over (I’m not actually sure it even really began!) and the kids will be back at school in a matter of days. A return to being stuck inside for much of the day, sat on their bums with, maybe, a quick kick-around in the playground at break times being the sum total of their outdoor play. According to research carried out by Liverpool John Moores University on behalf of ESP Play, one in three children aged between two and ten years old are overweight. Whilst this should be a shocking statistic, I’m not particularly surprised; my two would spend all day on their tablets, console and computer if I let them.

But, mean mummy that I am, I don’t! Thanks to our love of technology, it feels like playing outside is a dying art. Even on those days where the weather is miserable, I try to get them outside one way or another, even for a short time, as I’m well aware of the benefits of outside play in the fresh air. Aside from the physical exercise aspect, being outdoors helps my children in many other ways – especially Small, who is autistic.


Nine autumn outdoor play ideas for children - physical, sensory and creative play


There is so much sensory input that can be gained from playing outside. Natural light is good for us, especially if we’ve been staring at screens for a while; the feel of the breeze, the rain or the sun on your skin; the sounds of nature, or of your local environment, such as the birds, the wind in the trees or the cars on the nearby road. And then there’s the tactile stuff: the mud and dirt, the huge puddles to jump in, grass to roll in, snow to snow-angel in and sand to bury in. Then there is vestibular and proprioceptive input. These are two senses many people have never even heard of, but are so important. Proprioception is the sense of knowing where our body and limbs are in relation to each other and the environment around us without needing to look. The vestibular system is how we regulate our balance and spatial awareness. Outdoor play is amazing for the development of these senses, as it gives us the opportunity to run, jump, crawl, spin, bounce, roll…

So, we know the benefits of playing outdoors, but how can we help our kids make the most of the opportunities they have when they’re not in school? Here are nine of my favourite autumn outdoor play ideas to get back out in the fresh air and make the most of the season!


Girl in raincoat holding autumn leaves


Leaf kicking – an absolute classic autumn activity, and one of the best! You’ll need somewhere with plenty of fallen leaves deep enough to jump in. Kick them, pick them up and see who can throw them the highest or furthest. Talk about the different colours, and why they change from green to red, orange, brown and yellow at this time of year, then fall off the trees. Crunch them and listen to the sound they make. But the main focus of this activity is to just have a brilliant time – but if you’re not out of breath, you’re not doing it right!

  • Great for: physical development, language development, understanding of the world.


Girl in waterproof clothes jumping in large puddle


Puddle jumping – if you’re in the UK, autumn is often pretty wet (come to think of it, so is spring, summer and winter!). And wet means lots of puddles! Little ones love jumping in puddles, and I bet some bigger kids might admit to wanting a go too! Just make sure they’re either well kitted out with wellies and waterproofs, or that you don’t mind them getting soaked through. Then go out and find puddles! If you like, you could make some in your garden using a tarpaulin, especially if you have some uneven ground to lay it over.

  • Great for: physical development, sensory input.


pile of conkers and one conker case


Nature Treasure Hunt – autumn is a brilliant time for really exploring our natural world. Put on your wellies and head out to a park to have a go at a nature treasure hunt. Look out for conkers, acorns, pine cones, squirrels, different coloured leaves and collect them (maybe not the squirrel!). Get a FREE printable Treasure Hunt checklist by signing up to my School Runs Shopping List at the bottom of the post!

  • Great for: understanding the world, language development, physical development.


autumn maple leaves on a wooden table


Bark and leaf rubbings – while you’re in the park, have a go at some leaf and tree rubbings. Take along some paper and crayons, and maybe something flat to lean on. Choose different shaped leaves and different trees, and rub the crayon over the paper gently, revealing the different textures, shapes, and patterns.

  • Great for: fine motor development, creative development, sensory input, language development.


Girl in waterproofs and wellies jumping in the sea


Beach Walk – if you’re lucky enough to live near or be able to visit a beach in the autumn, I envy you! The seaside is one of our favourite places and Small, in particular, loves nothing more than splashing and jumping in the waves. Take a long, exhilarating walk along the sand, splash in the water, explore the rockpools and listen to the sound of the surf breaking on the shoreline.

  • Great for: physical development, sensory input, understanding the world.


girl crouching on beach drawing in the sand


Sand drawing – another great beach activity is drawing in the sand. Use spades or sticks to create words and patterns, then try going large! See if you can make a huge picture that could be seen from high above.

  • Great for: physical development, fine motor development, creative development.


Boy and girl jumping on trampoline in the rain


Bubbly trampoline – if it’s a really wet day, but the kids are climbing the walls, this is a brilliant, fun activity to try. Squirt some washing up liquid or shower gel onto the surface of the trampoline. Then… bounce! If it’s raining really hard, there will be plenty of bubbles and it’s a guaranteed giggle for the kids. Washes the trampoline too – bonus!

  • Great for: physical development, sensory input, emotional development.


Girl crouching, painting with water


Water painting – this keeps my kids occupied for ages! Grab a couple of buckets or tubs, fill with water, give ’em some paint brushes and away they go! The fences, the patio, the wooden climbing frames… No mess, all the fun!

  • Great for: physical development, fine motor development, creative development.


Boy and girl walking in file through woodland


Go on a bear hunt! – using the fabulous book by Michael Rosen as a guide, take the kids on a bear hunt! You could go to the park or the woods, or even just in your back garden if you use your imagination. Squelch through mud, swish through the long grass and – the best part – run as fast as you can from the scary bear!

  • Great for: physical development, language development, literacy, understanding the world.


So, you can see, it’s not difficult to get outdoor play time during the autumn and there’s loads of fun to be had! The best bit is, your children are learning through play, so they don’t even realise they’re doing it! Give some of my autumn outdoor play ideas a try.

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