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Autumnal Tuff Tray Activity

In the second of our 100 Days Til Christmas articles, we explore a perfect activity for when the seasons change!

Autumn is one of the best times of year for young children to get exploring. New natural resources become available, such as pinecones and conkers, and colourful, crunchy leaves become a fantastic item to investigate.

This activity can be done with children of all ages. It has the multiple benefits of being easy to create and linking to many areas of the EYFS Development Matters. Just a few items are needed to make this activity which can also be altered depending on what resources might be available.

little girl in red poncho and beret with a bouquet of yellow maple leaves with toy dog laughs on the street in autumn
Photo sourced from iStock

Follow our simple step-by-step guide to have a go at this activity today:

What you will need:

· A tuff tray

· Buckets

· Natural resources-especially leaves

· Small world items-such as cars, trains, people

· Magnifying glasses (optional)

Preparing the activity:

1. Ensure children are appropriately dressed for going outside.

2. Provide them with buckets to collect their items.

Photographer: Alessandro Rossi | Source: Unsplash

Doing the activity:

Invite the children to hunt for natural resources in the garden. Look for a variety of leaves in particular but also sticks, stones, pinecones, conkers and flowers. Explain to the children that the items they find need to go into their buckets for later use.

Once enough varied items have been collected bring the children back inside. When ready, support the children in pouring their items into a tuff tray with small world items, magnifying glasses can be added if desired. Then simply explore!

Encourage the children to squash and crunch the leaves with their variety of small world items. They can use cars to drive over the leaves, making them crunch. They might use sticks and pinecones to build a house for toy people, or they could carry flowers across the tray using trains.

Discuss with the children how the leaves have changed colour and texture as we move into the Autumn months. Talk about how plants change throughout the year, explaining the life cycle of trees and flowers. Be sure to use suitable vocabulary to describe items such as orange, brown, dry, crunchy, smooth, rough, sharp, soft, solid, etc.

Yellow pickup car toy with autumn leaf driving over water pond outside. Copy space
Photo sourced from iStock

Include discussions about the seasons, noting other aspects that change such as temperature, weather and annual events like Halloween or Christmas. Encourage younger children to repeat single words or join words together to create simple sentences. Mathematics can also be included by counting the items, for example, “we have 20 orange leaves and 12 green ones”.

Allow each child to have their turn, supporting turn-taking and sharing.

Tracking the activity:

8-20 months

Communication and Language: Listening and attention- Has a strong exploratory impulse.

Communication and Language: Speaking- Uses single words.

Physical Development: Moving and Handling- Picks up small objects between thumb and fingers.

16-26 months

Communication and Language: Understanding- Selects familiar objects by name and will go and find objects when asked, or identify objects from a group.

Communication and Language: Speaking- Uses different types of everyday words (nouns, verbs and adjectives, e.g. banana, go, sleep, hot).

22-36 months

Communication and Language: Speaking- Learns new words very rapidly and is able to use them in communicating.

Physical Development: Moving and Handling- Squats with steadiness to rest or play with object on the ground, and rises to feet without using hands.

Understanding the world: The world- Notices detailed features of objects in their environment.

30-50 months

Communication and Language: Listening and attention- Is able to follow directions (if not intently focused on own choice of activity).

Communication and Language: Understanding- Responds to simple instructions, e.g. to get or put away an object.

Understanding the world: The world- Can talk about some of the things they have observed such as plants, animals, natural and found objects.

40-60 months

Communication and Language: Understanding- Listens and responds to ideas expressed by others in conversation or discussion.

Mathematics: Numbers- Counts objects to 10 and beginning to count beyond 10.