Autumn Sensory Play for Toddlers and Pre-schoolers

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Autumn leaves and pumpkins please… bring on the colder days and longer nights! Whilst Autumn is full of exciting times – most notably for most: Halloween and the build up to Christmas – the colder weather and danger of drizzle means more often than not we spend more time cooped up indoors than we would like. For parents, this can be quite daunting: how on earth do we entertain our children without letting them run off steam in the garden or waste two hours at the local park?! If this resonates with you: don’t panic. I’ve got you covered. Here’s a super easy and fun autumn sensory play idea for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers alike!

The premise of this autumnal sensory play is simple: get outdoors, collect some treasures, bring them indoors, and play! The great thing about this is that you can easily make swaps depending on what your interests are, what you find, and what materials you have available at home.

I recently asked other parents on Instagram what holds them back from messy play and sensory play – some of the most common answers were lack of materials and resources, planning, and having the time to prepare. This sensory play idea for toddlers is SO easy that I promise you all you need is a 5 minute walk to collect treasures,  3 minutes to set the play up, and if you read on: I’ve done all the planning for you!


autumn sensory play tree autumn sensory play tree


Materials you will need for your autumn sensory play

The great thing about this sensory play set up is you can easily use whatever you have already available: you don’t need to buy new materials, unless of course you want to! Wherever possible, I’ve tried to include lots of different ideas for what else you could use that you might already have lying around the house.


sensory rice filled leaves conkers, stones and pinecones


How to set up a simple autumn sensory play for toddlers

Let’s make this super easy for you – here’s some step by step instructions for replicating this autumn sensory play for your toddler!

  1. Draw a tree on your piece of cardboard. Remember: your toddler doesn’t care about your artistic abilities, it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece!
  2. Place your loo roll ‘leaves’ on your tree
  3. Use a spoon to fill up your loo roll ‘leaves’ up with your sensory rice or other sensory base of your choosing.
  4. Dot your wooden leaves, paper leaves, leaf stickers and dried leaves on the tree.
  5. Across the bottom of the cardboard, scatter your treasures – conkers, pinecones, acorns, stones etc.

Next: step back and admire your messy play set up. You did it! Doesn’t it look great?!


autumn sensory play


Time to play!

Now all that’s left to do is sit back and watch your child explore the autumn messy sensory play! If your child isn’t used to sensory play, or is maybe a little unsure of what they should be doing, my top tip is always to model the behaviour.

Use a one word verbal instruction, like “watch”, and then play how you would like them to. Children learn so much from simply copying what we are doing, and once they see how much fun you’re having, they’ll be excited to join in.

Top tip: when modelling behaviours, try not to talk at the same time. We teach children to look at us when we are speaking to them, so when we talk AND model, the child does not know whether they should be listening or watching. Keep it simple for them with a one word instruction for them to watch, and then model the behaviour slowly and confidently.


Sensory play for babies

Want to get a younger baby involved in autumn sensory play? Stick to larger objects that aren’t choking hazards – favour large conkers over small acorns, for example. Why not set up a sensory tray for their feet, and sprinkle sensory rice over their toes – the sensation is unique and more often than not a baby will find this very calming.


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