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Things to do this autumn

The summer might be over and the days might be getting shorter and colder, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had over the October holidays and beyond. Autumn is a magical time as we start to get cosy and we enjoy the beautiful colours everywhere. And there’s no shortage of activities to keep the kids busy, even if they can’t have friends round to play or visit other friends or family indoors.

We all know how tough things have been, and you might have exhausted your supply of ideas to keep the kids occupied back before the schools reopened. But don’t worry, we have plenty of ideas to help you all enjoy this time of year.

Check out our tips for wee ones, older children and teenagers here.

Ideas for young kids

Tip #1: The floor is lava

If it’s pouring with rain outside, you can’t beat a good game of ‘floor is lava’ indoors, Put some cushions on the floor and see if you can move around the room over the cushions and other furniture, without stepping on the floor – if you do, you’ve fallen in the lava! Every so often, take away a cushion to make it harder. Our page on keeping active during coronavirus has more ideas for burning off energy on rainy days.

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Tip #2: Get closer to nature

Getting up close and hands on with nature is great for kids’ development and wellbeing – and of course it’s fun too! How about collecting conkers, acorns and fircones, or seeing how many different coloured leaves they can see? Can they find a red leaf, a green leaf, a yellow leaf and a brown leaf? Special bonus point for spotting a squirrel!

The National Trust also has lots of ideas for ways to get closer to nature, from snail races to creating wild art.

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Tip #3: Kick through leaves and jump in puddles

What could be more autumnal than kicking through the fallen leaves and jumping around in puddles? Get those wellies on and head out to a park or green space near you for some seasonal fun. Raining outside? Make like Peppa Pig and jump in those puddles – yes, you, as well as the kids!

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Tip #4: Make a leaf print picture

While you’re out kicking through the leaves, how about collecting a few pretty ones to make a leaf print picture? Once you’re home, dry the leaves out. Then place them on some kitchen towel and get the kids to paint over them in different colours. Next, they need to carefully press them down onto a sheet of paper to create an autumn masterpiece! WikiHow has full instructions here.

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Tip #5: Treasure hunt

A treasure hunt is a great way to keep the kids occupied and having fun. If you haven’t got the time to come up with your own clues, the Treasure Hunt Ideas website will do it for you – result! And if the weather isn’t all that, you can always do your treasure hunt indoors.

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Tip #6: Pet rock

When you’re out and about, how about collecting some stones to turn into wee creatures when you’re back home? The kids can paint them, or add googly eyes and wool for hair – their imaginations are the only limit! If you live near a beach, this can make a brisk walk in the wind much more entertaining for little ones.

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Tip #7: Messy play

Yes, we know parents hate messy play, but it’s a natural part of play for kids and great for helping them work through their emotions. If the weather’s nice, take the opportunity to move messy play outside. How about spreading out an old sheet or a big piece of paper and letting them go wild with paint? Try painting with sticks, hands, feet, knees – whatever! Then straight into the bath to clean up. If it’s raining, they could always have fun splashing in puddles and making mud pies.

If you don’t have a garden, how about grabbing some chalk and heading for the park? We all enjoy seeing rainbows, suns and smiley faces cropping up on the paths!

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Ideas for older children

Tip #1: Create your own escape room

Set everyone’s minds whirring by getting the kids to create an escape room in your home – and then seeing if the adults can escape it! They’ll need to pick a theme – zombies? fairy tales? Harry Potter? – and create a storyboard and puzzles. This may sound a bit complicated, but complicated is good if you want to keep older kids occupied for any length of time. The Escape Kit website shows you how to get started.

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Tip #2: Autumn baking

As the nights close in, there’s nothing nicer than closing the curtains at tea time and tucking into a tasty treat. And it’s even better if the kids have baked it! Apples are a great, healthy seasonal ingredient to bake with – check out these recipes for some inspiration.

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Tip #3: Learn to knit

The season of cosy jumpers is upon us – and while knitting a whole sweater might be a bit extreme, the kids may enjoy making themselves a nice woolly scarf for the winter months. WikiHow has instructions to get them going, and has a simple scarf pattern as well. Just remember, if they knit it for you, you’ll have to wear it...

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Tip #4: Stargazing

Scotland is a great place for stargazing, so why not pick a dark, clear night and have a go? Bring blankets and jumpers and a flask of hot chocolate then lie back and see what you can spot in the skies. How about creating a space-themed playlist to listen to as you wait for the stars to come out? The National Trust has some good tips if you fancy giving this a go. With the nights getting shorter, you won’t have to keep them up too late either!

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Tip #5: Make a magazine

Trying to drag the kids away from their screens? Making their own magazine is a fun (and secretly educational) activity that can keep them occupied for hours. First up, what kind of magazine will they make? A football fanzine? Music mag? Fashion? Animals? Manga? Then they can decide what to put in it – they can write stories, draw pictures and take photos as well as cutting things out from other magazines. Then it’s time for you to put your feet up while you read it!

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Tip #6: Lights, camera, action

Got a phone? Then the kids can make a movie! Whether a live action epic featuring family and friends or an animation, the process of deciding what to film, planning their shoot and putting everything together will keep them busy. Ever wondered what makes Wallace and Gromit come to life? The answer is stop motion animation – and you can do it for free on your phone! All the kids need is a phone, some free software and something to film – this could be LEGO, toys, their own drawings, your origami models or any other objects they can lay their hands on. Their imagination will do the rest! This YouTube video explains how to get started.

Once they’re done, they can create a poster to promote their masterpiece and even hold a premiere – are you red carpet ready?

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Tip #7: Go on a treasure trail

Want to liven up a walk in your local area, or explore somewhere new? The Global Treasures app has hundreds of trails, quizzes and treasure hunts in towns, cities, country parks and tourist attractions around Scotland – you can even win rewards like Young Scot points. The whole family will learn a lot solving clues and answering quiz questions – but no need to tell the kids that!

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Ideas for teens

Teenagers may be feeling particularly fed up at the moment, and chafing at the restrictions. Check out the tips for older kids to see if any of those interest them, or try these suggestions of things to do to pass the time.

Tip #1: Have a home pamper day

If your teen enjoys beauty treatments, why not suggest a luxurious day of pampering at home? There’s no need to splash out on expensive products either – these recipes for face masks from Marie Claire magazine can all be made from ingredients from your kitchen cupboards. Slap on your masks and sit back and relax while listening to your chill out playlist. If you need a healthy snack to nibble on, you’ll find plenty of recipes here.

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Tip #2: Have a clear out

If it’s wet and miserable outside, how about persuading them to have a clear out? Not the most exciting activity admittedly, but the thought of making some money in the run up to Christmas may encourage them to give this a go. Ask them to sort through their old toys and clothes and divide them into piles – keep, sell, donate to charity, recycle. For more on reusing and recycling, check out the tips on the Zero Waste Scotland website.

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Tip #3: Clear the mind with yoga

Yoga is not only a great way of stretching out and getting fit, it’s good for the mind too, helping grumpy teens exercise and relax. You don’t need any fancy equipment – just a space on the floor and some comfy clothes. There are loads of free classes available on YouTube and lots of different styles of yoga to try. Yoga instructor Adriene has a good video for teens you could suggest they try. You’ll find more ideas for keeping active indoors here.

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Tip #4: Bake a showstopper

Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, Halloween, Bonfire Night or just being together as a family, if your teen is into baking, why not challenge them to create a ‘showstopping’ cake? We’re not talking a few crispy cakes here, we’re talking a proper Great British Bake Off masterpiece! Researching ideas, planning their bake, assembling the ingredients and actually creating it should keep them occupied for a while. And best of all, you get to eat it when they’re done!

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Tip #5: Volunteer

If your teen claims to have ‘nothing to do’, how about suggesting they spend some time volunteering? From delivering groceries to people who are isolating, to walking dogs, to acting as a young ambassador, there are lots of different ways they can make a real difference. Volunteering is also a great way to make new friends and learn new skills. There are lots of opportunities on the Volunteer Scotland website, so why not ask them to check it out and see if anything interests them?

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