For many people the arrival of autumn is synonymous with the stress of September, nostalgia for the holidays and the shortening days..

But let’s change our glasses, and look together at the beautiful moments that this season offers us, and above all, the wonderful development opportunities it provides for our young children.

For many of them, autumn means going back to nursery school. It’s a time for learning, discovering, socialising and growing up! When you think about it, there are many reasons to celebrate the start of the new school year in September, just as there are to celebrate the arrival of the holidays in July!

What’s more, the autumn season offers a tremendous potential for a wide variety of sensory experiences: picking up fallen leaves, watching the trees change colour, smelling the dampness in nature, tasting the produce of the moment, with apples and pumpkins at the top of the list..

For our children, as for us, a new season means a new stage, new sensations and new experiences!

Back to school, a time of socialisation for young children

Back to nursery or back to school – it’s an emblematic time for young children and a memorable one for their parents. Especially if it’s the first time!

The start of the new school year means a break with the family cocoon of the summer. The rhythm changes too: you have to get up earlier, and go to bed earlier too (and just as well, the days are getting shorter!).

Above all, this is the season when children are learning – and learning is essential – the first rules of life in society: they will gradually come to realise that they need a framework in which to evolve with others, while at the same time asserting their autonomy and personality.

“Others”: this is a challenge for the child, who needs to move away from “ego-centredness”, as Jean Epstein puts it! By meeting new people, children learn to appreciate difference and diversity. They are already learning to adapt, to coexist with children and adults outside the family, with their differences and the variety of their personalities. They develop more or less affinities, exchange ideas, remember first names, recognise faces..

Preserving family time

Family life isn’t just for holidays. Caught up in the hectic pace of back-to-school, we can tend to reduce time spent together to the bare minimum, and that’s too bad.

At the end of the day or at the weekend, family time can be cultivated all year round. Whether it’s playing with your child, getting them involved in your activities (cooking, for example) or organising moments that are truly shared, like a walk or a trip to the swimming pool… The most important thing is to set aside time around your home, free from outside constraints.

But there’s one rule first: don’t forget yourself! It’s because you’ll be ‘well’ that you’ll appear more available to your child. Don’t wait until 31 December to make good resolutions and establish good habits: organise yourself to set aside time for relaxation and oxygenation: sport, reading, walking, relaxation… whatever you want (or can!) as long as this activity allows you to breathe and take time for something other than the “tasks” of everyday life, whether professional or domestic.

Take this opportunity to put your smartphone or tablet screens to one side for a while. Look around you and enjoy your growing child… fast!

New sensations: make the most of the season

Autumn is no time for hibernation. On the contrary, all your senses remain alert.

The change is obvious: we smell it, we see it, we breathe it, we taste it, we hear it, we touch it. It’s a great opportunity to teach your child about the cycles of nature.

How can you do this? By drawing their attention to the changes that take place, without over-stimulating them and respecting their rhythm. We encourage their imagination and support them with simple phrases:

“It’s still dark this morning, it’s autumn”

“It’s time to go to bed: it’s getting dark earlier”

“You remember, the leaves were all green this summer. What colour are they now?

“Have you seen the dead leaves on the ground? They’ve fallen off the tree.

“It’s raining! It’s normal, it’s autumn, and it’s very important: nature needs it, it’s thirsty after such a hot summer”.

Talking to your child will not only help them to expand their vocabulary, it will also explain to them how winter is coming, and how nature is resting before coming back to life again.

Go for a walk and let your child enjoy the damp ground and the changing smells. Together, collect large dead leaves and pine cones. Look at the mushrooms that have sprung up.

At the table, enjoy the new fruit and vegetables that have appeared on the shelves: pumpkins, chestnuts, walnuts and hazelnuts, apples, pears, grapes, rhubarb… An explosion of flavours!

New experiences: some activity ideas

Looking for ideas for your autumn afternoons or weekends? Here are just a few!

A walk in the forest (or any other “green zone”).

If you don’t have a forest nearby, parks and gardens are perfect for this too.

As you walk, join your child in exploring: look, smell and listen!

Collect leaves, twigs, pine cones, chestnuts and chestnuts.

This is the season for water and wind. Wrapped up warm and wearing appropriate footwear, let your child smell the water, run through the puddles left by the rain (boots and oilskins are a must!), notice the air blowing in their face, making the trees tremble and even making noise! Then, for the wind, for example, you can reproduce these elements in the warmth of your own home, using straws or a fan.

And take a closer look: there are often even new little creatures taking advantage of the humidity.

The sensory tray.

A classic for developing observation, concentration and fine motor skills.

Use a variety of containers: glass jars, wooden boxes, basins, unbreakable glasses, etc. Pour in some water. Place small floating objects (not too small or hurtful), including seasonal “finds” such as a large chestnut or pine cone. Give your child a large spoon and let him learn while having fun: if necessary, show him at the beginning what he can do, name things and watch him observe, touch, sub-pulse, decant, smell… By manipulating, he will integrate shapes, textures and colours.

A little extra: count the objects that float or the spoons of water that are poured out.

Artistic and cultural awareness

There are lots of things you can do with autumnal elements: collect leaves in a herbarium, tape them to paper or cardboard to draw lines around them, paint pine cones, or create a seasonal mobile (a thread, leaves and drawings and you’re done!).

These are not just “pastimes”, but educational games that encourage visual discrimination and hand-eye coordination.

Another benefit is that these activities help to create a sensory environment, a landmark in the year that will leave a lasting, pleasant and useful imprint on the child. You can also use colours (especially orange tones), music, seasonal rhymes and books with pretty drawings and autumn stories.

For more activities, we recommend this article from the blog Les Pros de la Petite Enfance:

So: make the most of autumn!