(NOTE: This is a guest post by Tracey Elliot. Thank you Tracey for sharing your ideas!)
Tracey Elliott, owner of Pickwell Manor in Devon, England, knows the importance of being outside and enjoying the fresh air. With this in mind, Tracey compiled a Top Ten Tips on how you can keep the grandkids busy this autumn.
“It’s all about encouraging our TV and video game loving grandchildren to go outside. In case they don’t know what to do, we need to help them. Here are a few fun ideas to get them started.”
Make an autumn hedgehog. Think about how hedgehogs curl up for the winter and hibernate. Make its body out of mud or clay. Then use leaves, pine needles or spiky nutshells to create the hedgehog spines – you can collect these from your yard. Or, stick googly eyes onto pine cones. In our garden at Pickwell, we have a hedgehog box to help our real hedgehogs find somewhere snugly and safe to sleep for the winter.
Design a treasure hunt around the garden. At Pickwell, we have a permanent treasure hunt around the garden using ‘orienteering punches’ and a map. It is easy to make a quick treasure hunt by drawing a picture of something in your yard and then hiding the next clue in that place. Continue to create six or seven clues and at the final place hide some sweets or a little prize.
Make a fairy garden. Grab a heavy paper plate. Put mud on it to create the contours of land. Use moss to cover the mud so it looks like the grass. Add tin foil to make a river or pond and use small bits of twigs to make tress. Your grandchildren can use Lego figures or any other small toys they have to play with on their fairy garden.
Make autumn leaf bunting. We have made this for our garden at Pickwell. It looks lovely draped between the trees around our fire pit. It adds a special magical touch. Start by putting your string up between trees in your yard. Use a glue gun (plugged in with an extension cord making sure you supervise the grandchildren!) to glue the leaves to the string. This really does look wonderful with all of the gorgeous colors of the autumn leaves. You can also add some chestnut shells and other autumn things your grandchildren may find in your yard. The leaf bunting would be a great decoration at a bonfire party.
Have a bonfire. Talking of bonfires, children love to help build fires. At Pickwell, we have a fire pit area for families to enjoy, but you may want to find a sheltered area in your garden to make your own (just make sure that you are well away from sheds, fences and low-hanging trees). Why not teach them how to make their own fire and light it without using matches? You can get fire starter kits with tinder and strikers on the Internet. There is nothing better than snuggling up round a fire. You could even sing a quick round of ‘Campfire’s Burning’. If you need a reminder of how this old Scout song goes check out the YouTube version.
Make long sausages of dough and twist them around one end of a long stick. Hold your ‘damper’ over the fire until cooked.
Encourage the grandchildren to cook over the glowing embers rather than the flames. Embers will brown the ‘damper’ whereas flames will burn it. And, the ‘damper’ won’t taste so smoky. You will know when it is cooked because it will easily slip off the stick.
Go conkers! Collect up conkers (horse chestnuts) and enjoy a good old-fashioned English game of conkers. Use a skewer to make a hole through the conker (this may need adult supervision). Thread string or a shoelace through the hole and then knot it to keep your conker on the string. Then, play conkers. The aim of the game is to, in pairs, take turns hitting your opponent’s conker with yours. The first one to smash their opponent’s conker is the winner.
Chutney-making. Autumn always makes me think of harvest (especially looking out over surrounding fields watching the farmer ploughing). It is a great time to be harvesting and storing food for the winter. Why not make chutney with the grandchildren. I love making windfall-chutney with the apples from our orchard. My children and I go out and collect them in a basket. (Or, you could take your grandchildren to the local farmers market if you don’t have an apple tree. This would be a great way to introduce them to the different seasonal foods.) Make this windfall-apple chutney recipe. I used to make this with my mum when I was a little girl.
3 lbs. fallen cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 chopped onion
2x 400g (14 ounces) tins chopped tomatoes
4 oz. sultanas (light brown, seedless raisins)
1.5 lbs. light brown sugar (use half the amount of sugar if you are using eating apples instead of cooking apples)
2 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. teaspoons salt
1 pint malt vinegar
This is a simple recipe as you just put everything in a big pan and cook it for 2 ½ hours (stirring every now and then) until it is thick and a bit sticky (chutney-like!). You can eat it straight away, which is always a winner with grandchildren.
Once cooked, ladle it into sterilized jars and seal. My mum says you can keep the chutney for about a year like this in sealed jars but it never lasts that long in our house! Your grandchildren may want to decorate the jars with their own autumn-inspired labels and give the jars as a present to mums and dads or uncles and aunts.
Grab a few handfuls of mud and push it onto the trunk of a tree. Form it into a round shape. Make a nose and mouth shape on it.
Then use different things you find around the yard to make eyes and hair (e.g. acorns for eyes and leaves or pine needles for hair).
If your mud is too sandy and won’t form a mud ‘splodge.’ you could always buy air-drying clay and use this instead.
It is a wonderful way to get everyone interacting and playing together. (We have board games and puzzles in each of our apartments here at Pickwell to encourage families to make the most of being together on holiday and it is always lovely hearing what fun they have had.)
Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a free children’s Christmas book. The giveaway ends at midnight on Oct. 23