15 Easy Autumn Forest School Activities

conkers in child's hand

Are you looking for easy forest school activities for autumn! (Or fall, as our US readers would call it!). You’re in the right place.

We have a bunch of simple outdoor activities to share that take little time to set up, use resources you probably already have in your forest school area and that will inspire children to get creative and have fun outside!

1. Build a den

What’s not to love about den building? This is the perfect time of year for it. There are plenty of materials out and about for den building.

Plus it’s a good way to stay warm on colder days as it takes a lot of energy to lift and move large logs to create the structure!

2. Make leaf crowns

If crafts are your thing, leaf crowns are a popular way to showcase the autumn colours. We don’t do this often as it requires taking paper and sticky tape (double-sided works best and is the easiest for small hands as you can put it on the crown for them so they just have to find and stick the leaves) out into the forest.

Leaf crowns are a fun autumn craft

Be royalty for a day with a bespoke crown! With the lovely autumn leaves in golden colours, it’s a winner for many children.

3. Make a stick raft

One of our settings has water, and after the dry summer the kids are excited that it’s flowing at a height that makes stick rafts and water play an option.

The simplest things to drop in the water are sticks and leaves. But if you want to get fancy, see if the children are interested in looping sticks together to make a small raft. Will it float?

Watch a video of how to make a stick raft on the Scouts.org website.

4. Bake apples and chocolate on the fire

Core an apple. Fill the space with chocolate (half a Mars bar works well). Wrap in tin foil. Then put the whole thing in the embers of the fire or on a trivet over the fire until the chocolate has melted.

In my experience, the apple will not go soft because baking an apple properly takes a long time… and forest school sessions are short! And children’s patience levels for eating chocolate are shorter!

The apple will be still be warm and tasty, and it might have started to soften depending on how long you’ve left it in for and the temperature of the fire.

A delicious, easy fireside snack that makes a change from hot chocolate and marshmallows.

5. Paint with blackberries

I know people have mixed feelings about using food for non-food purposes when there is so much food poverty in the country, but if it’s appropriate for your setting, painting with blackberries is an easy activity.

Make the paint by mashing up the blackberries. Add a bit of water if you like. You can paint on tree trunks, big leaves, log cookies, sheets (hang them up between trees) or simply paper.

The children might like to find different things to paint with: leaves, feathers and moss all work well, but what else will they come up with?

6. Go foraging

If you are leading sessions with older children, it might be appropriate to go foraging. Look for edible plants in your setting. Blackberries are easy to find at this time of year but I often find round here they are tiny and full of little worms, so be very careful about this activity.

Nettles are another easy-to-find option and they make a decent tea!

Warning: Eating the wrong stuff can make you very ill. Only do this with children who can understand the difference between ‘good’ plants that are OK to eat and ‘not good’ plants that will make them sick.

7. Make a stick man

Arrange sticks on the ground to make a giant stick man figure and his family.

There are plenty of sticks around at this time of year which makes stick-based activities easy to do and we find children naturally gravitate to picking up sticks anyway!

If you regularly include story time as part of your forest school sessions, then Julia Donaldson’s Stick Man is the obvious choice.

8. Make a habitat pile to provide shelter for mini-beasts

This is another fall forest school activity that is easy to integrate into the curriculum if you need to. Any topic on mini-beasts or habitats can link into creating a place for those creatures to live.

Use some of those sticks to make a shelter for mini-beasts. Many smaller creatures and insects will be grateful for that stick pile, and you can check back in on it in another session to see what creatures have moved in.

9. Make some leaf art

A list of autumn forest school activities wouldn’t be complete without some leaf art. Use fallen leaves to arrange on the ground to make words or pictures. Sticks make a frame. Make an art gallery to show parents and teachers.

Alternatively, make leaf portraits. Can children make a picture of themselves?

10. Make a maze

Gather up sticks or fallen leaves and use them to mark out a trail or maze on the ground.

The adults can make the maze for the children to follow, or older children might like to have a go at making a trail or maze of their own, for a friend to try.

11. Make damper bread

I have mixed feelings about damper bread. It’s not tasty, but it is edible. Jam makes it better, in my opinion!

Children seem to love making the dough and as the afternoons get chillier, there’s even more reason to draw around the fire circle.

Here’s our favourite campfire bread on a stick recipe.

cooking damper bread on stick
Jon cooking campfire bread on a stick over the fire pit.

12. Drill conkers

Get the hand drills out and start making holes in conkers!

For me, the fun is in the drilling and using tools. But for many children, the fun part comes next: stringing up the conkers so they can be used for games!

Tip: Many schools discourage the old-fashioned conker bashing game now, and for health and safety reasons it would be best to do that with safety goggles – even if that isn’t that look we had when we were kids in the 80’s.

If you think drilling conkers might end up in conker bashing, then do your risk assessment and make sure the activities are carried out safely.

Drilling a hole in a conker
Using a hand drill to make holes in conkers

13. Conker finding and sorting

If tool use isn’t an option for whatever reason, younger children will enjoy hunting for conkers and then sorting them into piles or arranging them into patterns.

Make a long line, or put them into piles of 10. There are so many ways that conkers can be used to support curriculum-based learning if you are allied to a school.

14. Acorn hide and seek

In their book, Play the Forest School Way, Peter Houghton and Jane Worroll introduce the game of acorn hide and seek.

Basically, children hide a handful of acorns each. Then you do another activity just to break up their memory pattern. Then they have to go and find their acorns again.

This is a good game to play to tie into the curriculum about hibernation, squirrels, habitats, the food chain… the list goes on.

15. Bramble weaving

Bramble weaving takes a bit of effort but it’s something to think about with slightly older children. And it gets messy if you take it to the next level, adding mud to the woven structures!

Using sticks and mud to make a mini home for minibeasts
Brambles, sticks and mud make the walls of this habitat

Which one of these will you try first with your forest school group?

How to make easy campfire bread on a stick

cooked bread on a stick

Wondering how to make campfire bread on a stick? We have a super simple, 3-ingredient recipe that works every time.

cooked bread on a stick
The end result: tasty bread on a stick ready for jam!

What is damper bread?

Proper damper bread is an Australian unleavened bread traditionally made on the coals of the fire by Indigenous and Aboriginal people, and the early settlers.

Today, damper bread in the UK is a bit of a shorthand for bread cooked on a stick over a campfire, but the two things are quite different. Campfire bread is pushed onto or wrapped around a stick, whereas the traditional Australian damper bread is a soda bread-style loaf.

Our campfire bread is easy to make around an open fire because the bread dough doesn’t include yeast and there is no rising time. Plus anything cooked on a stick is fun!

Ingredients

For approx. 10-15 thick bread wraps or more on thinner sticks.

  • 600g (4 cups) self-raising flour
  • 500 ml (approx. 2 cups) water (or milk/dairy free milk) – you might not need all of this
  • Two pinches of salt
  • Jam, sugar, or other toppings

You’ll also need:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Greenwood sticks – strip the bark off the part that the dough touches (use a knife for this). The sticks need to be about as long as an adult’s arm to allow them to reach the fire easily.

How to make bread on a stick on the fire

Step 1

Put the dry ingredients, bread and salt, in the bowl and mix them up.

Step 2

Add the water, milk or dairy free milk.

Add it a little at a time, stirring as you go. Eventually it will get too difficult to mix using the spoon and you’ll have to get your hands in there!

Knead the dough until it looks and feels like dough. It will be stretchy and soft.

making campfire bread
Mix up the dough. Here, I’ve pre-measured the water in bottles to make it easy.

Step 3

Take a large-ish golf-ball sized piece of dough. Roll it between your palms into a sausage.

Now you have two choices.

You can either:

  • Flatten the sausage slightly and wrap it around the stick in a spiral; or
  • Push the stick into the sausage. If you choose this option, I would lay the stick along the sausage and push it down, then work the dough around the stick. Don’t try and poke the stick in the end of the sausage as the dough isn’t tough enough to make this easy.

Either way, make sure the stick is covered so it doesn’t burn.

cooking bread on a stick
Cook the bread over the embers

Step 4

Cook the dough.

Use the embers of the fire and turn the dough regularly, at least once every five minutes. The campfire bread is OK to leave if you have a way to prop the sticks up so they don’t fall into the embers. Just keep checking back regularly and turning the bread.

It will take about 15 minutes to cook all the way through, and it will puff up a bit too.

15 minutes is a long time to wait. In our experience, even junior school kids get bored of waiting. Find a way to prop the sticks up so they can go off and do something else, coming back regularly to turn their stick and check on their campfire bread.

Obviously, as a point of safety, someone needs to stay by the fire. This is definitely a forest school activity to do with more than one adult in attendance!

Step 5

Eat!

My preference is to peel the bread off the stick and eat it with jam, but you can offer a range of other toppings:

  • Chocolate spread (nut-free if you are in a setting that requires it)
  • Melted butter, and then dip in cinnamon sugar
  • Melted butter, then dip in grated cheese or sprinkle with garlic powder
  • Home-made garlic butter from foraged ramsons

Somehow, damper bread tastes better eaten hot and around the fire!

Recipe notes

The dough is sticky! It’s a messy process to mix the ingredients, so make sure you have somewhere to wash and dry your hands. Tea towels are a necessity.

If you’re working with a group, make all the dough balls first and then dish them out to the participants with the sticks so you can all have them ready for the fire at the same time.

Some recipes include butter. You can rub in a couple of tablespoons of butter at the dry ingredients stage if you want a richer dough, but for speed and ease in a forest school setting, we leave it out. Slap the butter on the bread when it’s cooked!

Fire notes

You’ll need to use the embers to cook on, not the flames, as that will just make the outside of your damper bread black without cooking the middle. Yuk.

If this damper bread recipe forms part of your session, make sure the fire is lit early enough for the flames to die down.

You can also cook crumpet-sizes pieces on a skillet on the fire, or wrap in tin foil and cook in the embers. I’ve cooked this recipe in a frying pan (no added oil) and it’s come out fine… dare I say better than the stick version!

Make it gluten-free

We have tried this campfire bread with gluten-free flour and it comes out just fine. Get the best quality gluten-free flour you can and use it while it’s fresh.

Make it dairy-free

I prefer the bread with water, as a classic bread dough would be made, but many recipes substitute milk. Frankly, as the recipe doesn’t taste of much, milk gives it a bit of extra depth.

Remember: Do a risk assessment for any activity that involves fire and take your own safety precautions to make this forest school activity suitable for your setting.

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how to make campfire bread on a stick

Autumn/Fall Outdoor Scavenger Hunt with free printable

autumn scavenger hunt printable

It’s autumn (or fall, depending on where you are) and it’s still warm enough to get outside for a scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunt ideas

Here are some ways you could use a scavenger hunt with your children, or children in your setting.

  • On a walk, where the scavenger hunt is the purpose of the activity
  • On a walk to somewhere else, where the scavenger hunt is simply something to do on the journey
  • As part of a structured activity
  • As part of child-led learning if they show an interest in exploring the seasons or outside
  • As a game, in an education or forest school setting (for those who want to join in) or even at a party!

I can imagine some great autumn outdoor birthday party ideas using a scavenger hunt as a way to kick off the fun!

I’ve created a beautiful autumn/fall scavenger hunt printable, primarily for use in our preschool environment, where I run forest school mornings. You can use it too with your primary school children, your family, or in your Forest School setting.

There are plenty of things to look for at this time of year. What will your little nature detectives find?

autumn scavenger hunt printable

What’s in the Printable Autumn/Fall Scavenger hunt list?

Download the printable and take copies out with you so you can tick off the signs of the season that you spot on your travel around the woodland, forest, or even your local urban area.

Here’s what’s on the list:

  • Acorn
  • Conker
  • Shiny evergreen leaf
  • Berries
  • Squirrel
  • Prickly conker case
  • Brown leaf
  • Red leaf
  • Winged seed (like a sycamore)
  • Pinecone
  • Mushroom (do not pick mushrooms)
  • Spider’s web
  • A pile of leaves
  • Puddle
  • Leaf bigger than your hand
  • Pine needles

This autumn scavenger hunt is suitable for toddlers upwards, although younger children may need help interpreting the pictures. As the PDF also has words as well as images, you can use it as a guide to learning the words and for spellings too.

Tips for autumn scavenger hunts

If it’s chilly, you can still get outside. Make sure feet and hands are warm enough — extra pair of socks inside wellies is a good idea if it’s on the cold side.

Remember: Don’t pull anything off trees or bushes, and don’t pick flowers and other plants. Only collect from the forest/woodland floor. You don’t actually need to collect anything. If children have a copy of the autumn scavenger hunt checklist, they can tick off what they find as they go.

However, if you’re out in the forest, and the children want to make a collection, then be child-led. The children can gather their items as they find them, and put them in a basket, or bring them back to the circle, or whatever they like.

Questions to ask on a scavenger hunt

As a parent, I’ve often wished activities lasted just a little bit longer! You can tailor the activity to the enthusiasm of the child, and if they seem keen, ask some questions to keep the topic going.

Have a conversation, and let the children tell you about their scavenged items from the list (or things they found and loved that weren’t on the sheet). If you need conversation prompts, here are some questions to ask:

  • What did you find that is smooth/rough/prickly?
  • What did you find that is damp/dry?
  • Was there anything on the list you didn’t touch/pick up? Why?
  • What is the most delicate object you found? Why do you say that?
  • How would you describe [item]?
  • What do you think would eat [item]?
  • Where did you find [item]?
  • Why do you think [item] ended up looking like that? What might have happened to it?

What to do with scavenger hunt items

In a class or a big group of students, you could end up with a pile of leaves, berries, conkers and so on. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you not to collect the living creatures.) Plus anything else that the kids have picked up on the way.

Once your activity has come to a natural close — you’ve reached your destination on a walk, or people have found everything they want to find — think about what you could do with the items collected. You could make patterns, group them by colours, sort them big to small, make piles or arrange them into a picture.

How are you going to use this free autumn scavenger hunt list? Let us know on our Facebook page!

Forest Magic (Book Review)

Forest Magic book cover

This article contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

Forest Magic is a beautifully illustrated guide to the forest for small people by Sarah Grindler (Nimbus Publishing, 2021). It’s a non-fiction journey that has a story feel to it. 

If your little ones love being outdoors (or you’d like them to love it as much as you) then this is a great book choice.

It’s picture book short, but rich with forest facts on every page. You’ll learn about different leaves and wildflowers, mushrooms and moss. Take it out with you and see what you can spot!

Forest Magic book cover

I particularly liked the section on what is safe to touch and what isn’t; it’s continually useful to reinforce these messages! 

For forest school leaders, this would be a good one to read if you bring children together for stories at any point. Then send them out looking for the wildlife and nature in the book. 

However, it is a Canadian book, and it does not fully translate to a U.K. woodland. For example, I wouldn’t be comfortable telling children that the fluffy caterpillars are OK to touch, as over here those ones tend to be the irritants. While a lot of the flora translates, my forest school groups will never see a skunk. So just bear that in mind — nature is different everywhere and that’s what makes it wonderful.

Buy Forest Magic on Amazon

Year of Outdoor Activities Printable (Free Download)

printable outdoor activities poster

Do you draw a blank when you think about what kinds of activities to make available for children as part of their outdoor learning?

Me too.

I read all the books, I spend hours on Pinterest, and I still wonder what sort of activities the kids might be interested in doing.

Forest school is child-led learning, but some of what we do is not in a ‘pure’ forest school setting. It’s in an education setting as part of the primary and pre-school environment (that’s K-6 I think, for our US readers!).

Either way, we like to think of things that are on offer for the children, and then be guided by them for what they would like to explore further.

So much of outdoor education has to be led seasonally. So that’s what our new printable is all about.

You can grab a free download of this lovely poster. It comes in A1 format so it’s perfectly scaled for printing out for the wall of your office (i.e. the garage in our house!). Or hanging on the wall in your pre-school setting.

printable outdoor activities poster

Simply pop your best email address in the box below and we’ll send you the PDF on email.

Summer Outdoor Scavenger Hunt with free printable

summer outdoor scavenger hunt printable
free summer scavenger hunt printable

It is time for a summer activitiy and we have the perfect summer outdoor scavenger hunt printable for you to use.

Get out of the house and into see how many of these items the children can find.

Ways to use a scavenger hunt at this time of year

There are many ways that you can use a scavenger hunt in the summer. Here are some ideas:

  • Use it as a way to get your kids outside. Print out the list, attach it to a clipboard, and watch their excitement as they tick things off
  • It is the perfect game for an outdoor summer birthday party
  • Bring it along to a local park as an activity
  • It is a perfect forest school enrichment activity for the children to do as part of their outdoor exploring.

This a beautiful PDF worksheet. It is colorful and has some great pictures to help show the children what to look for.

What’s on the PDF Summer scavenger hunt checklist

Download the printable list and take copies out with you so you can tick off the signs of summer. Take it with you when you wander around the woodland, forest, or even your local urban area.

Slap on a hat and some sunscreen and get outside! Can you spot these things?

  • Dandelion clock
  • Caterpillar
  • Butterfly
  • Yellow petals
  • Purple petals
  • Ant
  • Green leaf
  • Two different types of grass
  • Fruit growing
  • Ladybird
  • A twig shaped like a letter
  • Animal tracks
  • Worm
  • Dragonfly
  • Bee
summer scavenger hunt

Tips for Summer scavenger hunts

It can be very warm and sunny this time of year so remember to wear a good hat and apply sunblock on a regular basis. Rain is always a possibility so be prepared!

Remember: Only collect from the forest/woodland floor or with your eyes! And of course don’t collect living creatures and steer clear of mushrooms.