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How to enjoy the autumn changes with your children

The long, balmy days of summer are behind us and autumn is now well underway. Although it's always a shame to have to draw the curtains earlier at night and turn the heating on, it's important not to overlook the beauty of this very special season.

While spring is about nature bursting back into life again, autumn is a time when trees, plants and animals are getting ready for what could be a hard winter ahead - and it's therefore a period of rapid and fascinating change.

This time of year presents the perfect opportunity to entertain and educate your kids both outside and in, using materials straight from Mother Nature herself. There's still (hopefully) the possibility of some good weather and not-too-chilly temperatures ahead of us, so why not get your coats on and get your kids enthused about autumn? 

Here are our best autumn-themed ideas:

Tell nature's story

Seeing something in action is always the best way of explaining how it works, so take this opportunity to tell youngsters all about life cycles. The trees are dropping their leaves and turning them wonderful colours, so explain that this happens for a reason.

Seeds are all over the ground, so show little ones how these tiny acorns and sycamore spinners will make brand new trees one day.

Another good tip here is to start a weather diary - they'll have fun and it will also present a fascinating glimpse into this particular period of time if you keep it, too.

Create beautiful art

Take inspiration from the natural world by collecting pretty leaves and either varnishing them to be stuck on patterned paper or rubbing them with crayons. For a more temporary piece of decoration, glue them on a big sheet of paper for a collage.

Older kids will also enjoy picking up things like acorns, seed heads and bare branches to make into candelabras using florists' foam or wreaths. 

See how many animals you can spot

Animals will be busy at this time of year, so pretend you're Kate Humble or Chris Packham and watch them as they go about their business. Hedgehogs might appear in the late afternoon to fatten up ahead of hibernation, while squirrels might be around if you have trees for them to hide in during the worst of the winter.

Caterpillars may even be crawling along your paths in the last of the warm sunshine too - all you have to do is pick a comfortable spot on your climbing frame and get those eagle eyes ready. 

Get lots of exercise

Just because it's turning chilly doesn't mean you can't play out. Get children's hats and scarves ready and go for long walks at the weekends, or head to the park in the short period of daylight after school.

Race around, kick through piles of leaves and see how many autumnal items you can collect before you go home - you could even make a scavenger hunt sheet for things like oak leaves and conkers. Oh, and speaking of those...

Prepare your conkers for battle

Many schools won't let their children play conkers in the playgrounds any more for fear of injury, but you can still hold battles at home, whether it's between siblings or kids versus parents.

The best preparation tactic we've come across involves putting the conkers into a quarter of a pint of vinegar for two minutes, then placing them in an oven heated to 250 degrees C for a minute-and-a-half.

This should ensure they're really hard and ready to be drilled ahead of threading onto a string. The only better way is leaving them in a warm place to harden for at least a year, but that's not much good for this autumn's fights!

You've no doubt got lots of other ideas for fun this season, so do share any favourites you have with us and our other readers. We'd also love to hear about fun days out you enjoy using our suggestions.

It'll be winter all too soon, so make the most of autumn with your little ones.

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