5 Free Ways to have Fun with Your Family this Autumn, and Beyond

A dog sits on a tree stump panting with its tongue hanging out after a run. All around her are trees, bluebells, fallen leaves, grasses and other plants.

As Autumn makes itself known all around us the prospect of trying to come up with free, fun things to entertain your family can create a lot of stress. Thankfully, numerous cost-free or budget-friendly opportunities exist to lower stress, foster family bonding, and guarantee an enjoyable experience for all, all while receiving a nourishing dose of Vitamin N (Nature).

Free Family Fun with Forests

In this post, I’m sharing a few ideas to help you and your family enjoy forests and the natural world all around you, no matter the age of your children, or how big of a kid you are!

Children dressed in blue throwing autumn leaves into the air in the forest

1. I Spy with all my Senses

Use your senses to play the popular children’s game ‘I Spy’ and really tune into the forest around you. The joy of this version is that you can use almost all your senses and adapt it to your family’s needs and preferences.

To play, each person says the first letter of something they see, hear, smell or feel and everyone else guesses what it is. For example:

  • I spy with my little eye something beginning with W…. Woodlouse!
  • I hear with my highly tuned ear something beginning with T…. Twigs (snapping)!
  • I smell with my sensitive snitch something beginning with L…. Leaf!
  • I feel with my friendly fingers something beginning with M…. Moss!

Make it more challenging and give your memory a workout by allowing the choice to be anything you’ve come across in the forest since you arrived, not necessarily something in the immediate vicinity right now.

Child holding up an autumnal sycamore leaf

Add some creativity by writing the letter in things you find in the forest, for example creating letters with twigs, leaves, or stones.

And for those who get overstimulated, try using this game to focus on just one sense which can help tune out the other input and reduce that sensory overwhelm.

2. Treasure Hunt

This one takes a little preparation but it’s the kind that just builds excitement! In the run-up to your forest visit, discuss as a family what things are seen in forests and woodlands around you. You can use your own knowledge, find some books about your local area or use the internet. Then choose things you want to find to create your treasure hunt list, ideally on a piece of paper – this might be shiny red mushrooms, certain trees, a conker, a favourite flower, etc.

Image ID: Two mushrooms side by side viewed from above. One is large and red with white spots all over it, the other is small and brown. They are growing on a grassy floor with autumn leaves and twigs around them.

Now go to the forest and work together to find all the things on your treasure hunt list. This isn’t about speed though because many things in forests can be hidden so take your time feeling through mounds of leaves, peeking into holes in trees, and listening intently for the bird call or cricket chirp to direct you. You never know when you’ll find something that’s even more exciting than the treasure already on your list!

3. We’re going on a Bear Hunt!

If you’re in the UK you won’t come across an actual bear – frightful free family fun isn’t what we’re going for here! But wildlife spotting can be an exciting way to spend an afternoon together in your local greenspace.

Similar to the treasure hunt, do some research into what wildlife you can expect to find around you, where they’re likely to be hiding and when they come out to play. On your visit to a woodland, forest or other natural space, see how many of those animals, birds and critters you can find.

Remember that most wildlife is scared of humans so you’ll need to be very quiet and move very slowly if you want to catch a glimpse of some animals, especially deer.

4. Build a Natural Den

A den built in a forest from many long sticks leaning into each other to provide shelter.

Building a den is a great free family fun activity regardless of age and doing it out in the wild can give you the opportunity to lean into your inner Bear Grylls at the same time. So trade in your fluffy blanket forts for one made from sticks, fronds, moss and other natural objects you find in the forest.

Make sure you first choose the perfect location for it with a soft squishy, but not sinking, forest floor and a good strong tree to help keep it up. You might be lucky and find that nature has done a lot of the work for you by offering a wall made from the base of a fallen tree.

Being tactile and using your senses will help you get just the right things for your den so don’t just grab any old thing. Try feeling along sticks for useful sticky-out bits that would help it grip to another stick or provide a handy peg for your coat, and make sure you’re not bringing a pile of leaves to be a cosy cushion in that are wet!

5. Follow your Four-Legged Friend

If you have a dog (or a friend who’d be happy for you to take theirs for a walk) take them on a forest walk and let them choose the way. Dogs can smell up to 100,000 times better than a human nose, so they’re experiencing the forest in a whole different way but if you team up with them you can get a little peek into the magical world they’re walking, and smelling, in.

A dog sits on a tree stump panting with its tongue hanging out after a run. All around her are trees, bluebells, fallen leaves, grasses and other plants.

Remember to make sure your dog has a good recall or is on a lead to avoid lost or hurt animals (dog or wildlife), but let them lead the way. Go off the path, try to figure out what they might be smelling by seeing what footprints, broken twigs, poos and other signs are around, and get your hands in the dirt they’re digging to see what’s there – maybe it’ll be a delicious truffle!

This is also a wonderful way to increase the bond with your dog – working as a team to explore, trusting each other, and helping each other out.

That’s October Half Term Sorted!

Sonya Dibbin Forest Bathing GuideHopefully, you’ve found something here to inspire you and your family to get out into nature this week or make a plan for half term. There are so many fantastic free ways to spend a few hours, whole days, or longer (if you enjoy camping) with your family thanks to the green spaces all around us.

If you’d prefer to escape to the forest on your own for some peace and quiet, check out my free Guide to Forest Bathing Alone to get the most out of it and let your beautiful nervous system rest.

And if you want to receive more Nature Connection ideas directly to your inbox once a month, along with special offers and priority access to events, you can sign up for the acclaimed Nature Nerd News here.

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