Learning about seasons with autumn colours

Published on Tuesday, 19 May 2020
Last updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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What better way to learn about seasons than by experiencing them and, as autumn is well underway with its leaves of gold and burnt orange, now is a great time to start.

For a young child, the gradual shift from one season to another can be a difficult concept to grasp. With experiential learning and outdoor activities, children can learn about seasons, understand the passage of time and observe changes in nature.

The exploration of seasons includes lots of observation, outdoor exploration, and flat-out fun. To teach the seasons, use pictures and books to describe each seasonal change such as piles of dry leaves for autumn, snow for winter, the beach for summer and flowers for spring.

Move the focus to autumn by pointing out the incredible changes happening around them in nature. Encourage them to notice the temperature change – which means warmer clothes – deciduous trees turning brilliant hues of yellow and shades of orange and showcase seasonal fruit and vegetables. 

Here are some fun activities to teach kids about the wonder of the seasons.

  • Experience the season

Explore nature and allow children firsthand experience to learn what autumn is all about. Look for opportunities in the playground – or visit a local park. If your playground is small, try wheeling in a barrow of different coloured leaves for children to feel, smell and scrunch underfoot so they can enjoy, feel and examine them.

  • Take a sensory walk

Ask the children to stop, watch, listen, smell and touch. As you explore, expand their vocabulary by asking questions. Is the temperature cold or freezing? Hot or boiling? Does the air taste fresh or damp? Do you feel rain, hail, or mist? If you have a deciduous tree and the leaves have started falling, watch it. Ask the children to guess how many leaves will fall from that tree in one minute. Use a timer and keep count. You could even send this activity home for children to do with their families.

  • Go gather leaves

Organise a scavenger hunt and ask children to collect a small pile of different leaves. Sort them by how they feel, colour or shape. Count how many shades of red, yellow, green and brown in the collection. Use the leaves for measuring. You can also organise the children to place the leaves side by side on an A4 sized piece of paper – from one end to the other – and then ask them to count them. For more fun and creative leaf activities try Project Learning Tree

  • Keep a science journal

Organise an outdoor paint area for children to draw what they see – ask them to capture leaf colours, autumn clothing and the sky. Do it again in a month and see if there are any changes in their work. If you have a deciduous tree get them to observe if it has changed – some photos will help here – and record it in the journal with the children’s observations. Try pressing in some leaves or any flowers that are blooming. You could place a photo every fortnight on a display board to show the tree changing. Also encourage families to try this at home by photographing a tree that’s changing.

  • Taste the season

Educating children about seasonal food has far-reaching benefits because not only does it help children learn more about where food comes from, it may encourage them to try new healthy foods.

Present a rainbow with the extra appeal of fresh brightly coloured fruit and vegetables. Autumn foods include fruits such as avocado, grapes, kiwifruit, mandarins and passionfruit. While top picks for vegetables are capsicum, carrots, cucumbers, kumara, cauliflower and cabbage.

Using a range of different mediums can help to engage children and reinforce key messages about food seasonality. Engage the concept of seasonality by using songs, visuals, stories and a wide range of practical activities like displaying a calendar of foods in season. This is a great visual tool and can highlight the foods that are best each month.

  • Autumn crafts

Involve nature in daily play and creating, as art and craft supplies don’t all have to come from a store. Some of the best crafting materials are just outside the door. Natural art and craft materials such as flowers, leaves, twigs, bark, seedpods and stones can be found in almost any playground. Additional items will already be in the cupboard.

There are numerous benefits to using natural materials they’re free, children go outside to collect them, they may increase language and observational skills with hands-on discovery, it’s fun and it inspires creativity. Plus collecting craft items outside can become game, much like a scavenger hunt.

Children can go nature hunting with their family and bring in a small collection for crafting. Continue the learning experience by talking about the kinds of materials they have collected. What was the most common? What was hard to find? What was their favourite, and why?

The natural objects could include rocks, stones, leaves, bark, feathers, seed pods, and twigs and here are some craft ideas to try with your treasures:

  • Sort the collection into groups, such as type, where they were found, colour, size and shape.
  • Match items that feel similar (e.g. rough, smooth) or look similar (shape, colour).
  • Add to playdough or clay to provide opportunities for your child to combine materials (for example, use seed pods for eyes, sticks for arms and legs).
  • Create art with leaves, try leaf rubbings to observe shapes and patterns (for example, place a leaf under a blank paper and rub with a crayon or pastel).
  • Create a collage by arranging natural objects or gluing them to card.
  • Make some 'natural' cupcakes by putting out some paper cupcake cases and provide clay or play dough for the cake. The toppings and candles can be sticks, leaves and stones.

References and additional resources

Fall vs spring lesson plan

Education.com: 10 Ways to Teach Your Child About the Seasons

Parenta: Teaching children about eating seasonal food

Suzy and Friends: Factsheet on autumn leaves

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