Autumn Nature Play Ideas

Written by Chris Drewery, Project Support Intern at Play Scotland

With the weather beginning to cool as nature winds down and prepares for winter, you might be inclined to spend more time indoors. However, outdoor play and interactions with nature are important year-round. As you wrap up warm for playtime outside, here are some ideas we suggest for autumn fun!


Two people holding small bug hotels

Build a bug hotel

Bug hotels are the perfect way to teach children about insects and minibeasts! The various contents help different bugs to make their ideal habitats; ladybirds love pinecones, and log piles attract centipedes and woodlice. You can build it as big or small as you’d like, so it’s adaptable for all green spaces!

What you need
  • Logs/sticks
  • Leaves
  • Pinecones
  • Rocks/slate
  • Bark
  • Wooden boxes/boards
  • Bricks/large rocks
What to do
  • Choose a green space that is level and solid.
  • First, create the basic structure of the hotel by using bricks and old wooden boards or palettes, leaving enough space for bugs to enter.
  • Fill in the gaps with leaves, twigs, rocks, bark, and any other natural material you can get your hands on!
  • Once your hotel is complete, place some slate tiles or wooden boards over the top to create a roof.

A bird feeder made from orange peel filled with seeds

Make bird feeders

Bird feeders are a great way to connect with nature all year, but birds will especially need them during the colder months as there are fewer insects. Using an orange also makes this craft eco-friendly as the peel will eventually decompose.

What you need
  • Orange
  • Knife
  • Spoon
  • String
  • Bird seeds
What to do
  • Adults can supervise as the child cuts the orange in half, scoops the pulp out of the orange peel and creates holes in either side of the orange with the knife.
  • Feed a length of string through the holes and tie the ends together.
  • Fill the peel with bird seed and hang your feeder in your garden, on your window, or in a local green space.

A banner with orange fallen leaves

Create leaf rubbings

This is a fun, cheap, and easy way to connect with nature through art! You could easily tie it in to learning about different species of trees that are in your local area and how to identify them by the shape of their leaves.

What you need
  • Leaves
  • Paper
  • Crayons
What to do
  • Collect as many leaves as you want, and as many types as you want.
  • Place them on a flat surface one at a time with the bottom veiny side facing up.
  • Place a sheet of paper over the top.
  • Gently colour over the top of the leaf with your crayons, and you should see the leaf take shape as you colour.
  • Keep going until you’ve coloured the whole leaf, then repeat with the other leaves.
  • You can keep the shapes separate, or position your leaves to overlap each other in different colours!

Two prepared conkers with a ball of string

Play conkers

Did you know that there’s a World Conker Championship? This is a fun, competitive game that perfectly encapsulates autumn. You can make collecting conkers an easy and fun way to keep children entertained during walks. There are ways to make your conkers harder, but check with friends to make sure that it’s fair.

What you need
  • Conkers
  • Drill/hole-borer
  • String
What to do
  • You need to prepare your conkers before you play: an adult drills a hole through the conkers, and then a child can feed some string through and tie it.
  • The two competitors stand 1 meter apart from each other, both holding their conker.
  • Toss a coin, and the winner gets to decide who goes first.
  • The striker gets three turns to smash the other’s conker before the other player gets to try.
  • The first person to smash the other’s conker wins!


We love getting outside and playing in nature! How many of these play ideas have you tried before? Let us know your favourite autumn activities on Twitter, @PlayScotland. For guidance and ideas for fun on Guy Fawkes’ Night, check out our resource for Play on Bonfire Night!