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July 6, 2016

Autumn is a great time to get outdoors and explore nature (although unpredictable weather means gumboots may be needed).

Local parks, bushwalks, gardens and beaches are all perfect spots to gather materials for nature play, as well as just being fun to explore.

Foraging for natural craft materials will foster your child’s curiosity, as well as an appreciation for the great outdoors. Encourage them to look carefully on the ground for all manner of treasures: petals, interesting sticks, leaves, seed pods and anything else that might catch their eye.

Toddlers are easily enthralled by items most grown-ups would never notice as they walk by, so let your little ones take the lead as they explore their surroundings and discover bits and bobs to collect and play with.

What we used:

  • Magnifying glass
  • Empty egg cartons for collecting items – our treasures included fallen leaves, twigs, flowers, petals, pinecones, bark, seeds etc. 
  • Coloured card
  • Thick card (we cut up an old box)
  • Playdough
  • Double-sided tape
  • Small plastic toys (we had dinosaurs for creating little scenes with playdough) 
  • Glue
  • Stick-on eyes (from a craft shop)

Eye spy

A toy magnifying glass or a proper one used with adult help is a fun way for little ones to discover even more about the natural world around them. Help them see the detailed colours of a petal, or the skeleton of a fallen leaf. They can even watch the busy ants scurrying to and fro hidden in the undergrowth.

Colour matching

It’s fun for children to sort their collected items into colours. We used a piece of card with five or six different colours and double-sided tape so our little ones could stick their leaves and flowers straight on, to make a collage. Or fill the holes in an egg carton with coloured card or paint, and let them arrange their materials straight into the box.

toddler colour matching with nature

Leaf men

Slightly older toddlers will love making leaf men from different leaves they have gathered. We used a variety of leaves for the head and body, pine needles for hair, and twigs for limbs. Buy some stick-on googly eyes from your local craft shop to complete the picture.

toddler craft leaf man

Playdough play

Playdough is perfect for tactile play. It strengthens muscles and helps develop hand-eye coordination. Using natural elements is a great way to enhance creativity, as well as teaching children about action and reaction. They can see how pressing a leaf or pinecone into the dough will create an impression, and how different additions can change the texture and colour of the dough. It’s also a great way for littlies to work out their stress through their hands.


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