Let’s Play: Nature Based Play & Art in Autumn

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Searching for Fall

Scavenger hunts appear to be popular right now. They are being used for local fundraisers. They are mentioned on many television programs this fall. Local college groups are joining in. So we went on a nature scavenger hunt of sorts.

Head outside with the kids to hunt down the visual signs of fall with a mental list of outdoor things specific to the season. Brilliant red leaves. Acorn tops. Pine needles. Helicopter seed pods. Colorful fall flowers. After all your collecting, stop in the woods and make a nature collage on the ground. This took a bit of convincing at our house because this will not be permanent. There was a bit of concern about leaving our project behind…

Line those leaves up. Work out color patterns. Alternate found materials. The real fun with this comes from working BIG. Most kid collages are made on table tops with smaller paper sizes. When you have the ground as a canvas many new things can happen. We took a few photos and then headed inside with a small collection of the remaining materials.

After you are inside, grab the white glue and make a nature collage to hang on the fridge. This can be done with all ages. A bright piece of cardstock and a small cup of glue are welcome in the hands of any toddler. Older kids will love creating images from out of the ordinary materials. There are no rules. Glue and see what happens. Another option is to tape a few leaves to the windows for fall color indoors or clear a small end table to make a display of the objects you find.

Everyone can keep adding things as the season progresses. We keep spotting new leaves, nuts and flowers each week. I almost forgot, be prepared to answer the questions—why and how do the leaves change color? Kids always ask.


  • a box or bag
  • colorful leaves
  • rocks
  • seed pods
  • logs or sticks
  • grasses
  • fall flowers
  • tree stumps
  • bark
  • white glue
  • cardstock or other heavy paper
  • paint brush



Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

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