Autumn is such an exciting season to explore with children, don’t you think? There’s so much going in in Nature! The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feel of it all gets me giddy every year! A lovely autumn activity for children that’s sure to get them excited too is a Sensory Nature Cutting Tray.
A Sensory Nature Cutting Tray is a fabulous activity for doing after a Nature walk. It allows children to get really hands on with their Nature finds and to take the time to truly explore their shapes, smells, colours and textures and develop important fine motor and scissor skills too. Autumn sure is a pleasure on the senses!
Walk And Gather Supplies For Your Sensory Nature Cutting Tray
I love to get kids outside collecting things from Nature. A simple wide topped basket or bag is ideal and allows them to pop things in easily as they go. It’s nice to encourage them to collect a range of different objects but some children might want to collect lots of the same thing, and that’s fine too.
This nature cutting tray activity is all about letting the children explore their own interests and really slow down to engage the senses be that in exploring one leaf or a whole bag of different finds.
Nature Cutting Tray Ideas:
- Leaves of different shapes and sizes.
- Different coloured leaves.
- Leaves of different textures, smooth, hairy, thick, thin, rounded and pointy.
- Leaves of different ages. Brown dried crunchy leaves and soft flexible green ones. These look, feel, sound and smell very different!
- Seed pods
- Buckeyes / Conkers
- Sticks, dry and brittle and soft and supple.
(Safety Notice: Please make sure that all of the Nature finds are safe and not poisonous or irritants etc. Make sure children keep their hands away from their mouths and eyes and wash their hands thoroughly when finished. Supervise children at all times.)
A Nature Cutting Tray Offers Lots Of Learning Opportunities:
Using A Nature Cutting Tray To Develop Sorting Skills
A Nature cutting tray is a great opportunity to get kids developing their sorting skills. If you give them a sectioned plate or a selection of bowls it can be really interesting to see how they decide to organise their natural objects.
There is no right or wrong way for a child to organise their finds. We can prompt their thinking with open ended questions like, “Hmmm, how shall we sort these?”
Let the children do the sorting! You might be surprised by what ideas they come up with. Perhaps they’ll put all the leaves together or separate them into different types. They could also sort them by size, colour or number. Perhaps they’ll put the hard objects together or the juicy objects in a group.
Standing back and letting the children organise and sort gives them an opportunity to try out their ideas and develop their thinking.
We can find out more about their thinking with careful questioning. Don’t assume you know how the child is organising things. I once heard something along the lines of this from a well meaning nursery worker:
Adult – “That’s great sorting, you’ve put all the big leaves together!”
Child – “No, the ladybird walked on those leaves. I’m keeping those to make a ladybird house”
If we guess it wrong it can leave a child thinking that they have actually got it wrong! Instead of guessing we can ask open questions that allow the child to find their own voice and describe what they are doing. A favourite phrase I love to use in all sorts of situations goes something like this:
” Wow, that looks like great sorting, I can’t wait to hear all about it!”
Using A Sensory Nature Tray To Engage The Senses
I like to offer scissors and a magnifying glass with the Autumn Sensory Tray. Children can slow down and engage their senses as they really look, feel, smell their finds. They might notice some sounds too. How does a conker sound dropped on a table? Does it sound different dropped on the carpet? Do the dried leaves make a noise?
With careful supervision you could even offer safe fruits and berries to taste too.
Using A Sensory Nature Tray To Develop Cutting Skills
A Nature Cutting Tray offers children the opportunity to try cutting lots of different materials. Different thicknesses and textures will offer new challenges.
I like to offer a variety of scissor cutting edges. This scissor set looks great!
It’s a great time to talk to children about the limits of scissors and how to keep our fingers safe.
Which items do the children think they can cut? Could you cut a buckeye/conker safely? How else could you break a buckeye open? Maybe a hammer, stone, or by stamping?
Do the children cut randomly or do they follow lines and patterns they already see in nature such as the veins on the leaves?
What happens when they cut soft things like berries? What do they see? Can they smell anything?
Do things make a sound when they are cut? Do they all sound the same?
Language Development With A Nature Cutting Tray
I love hearing young children explore their vocabulary range when faced with something like a Nature Cutting Tray. It takes them out of normal day to day language they readily use and challenges them to find words to describe uncommon events and observations. Children will often make up exciting words of their own to describe what they are experiencing.
Nature finds give us the opportunity to introduce children to some rich vocabulary. When discussing leaves we might use: crunch, scrunch, tumble, decaying, rotting, dropping, veins, underside, bumpy, ridges, lines, patterns etc. It’s amazing how many word choices there are to connect with just one thing! I’m sure you can think of lots more too.
Follow Up Craft Idea
Rather than throwing away all the cut pieces when the children have finished it can be fun to offer some paper and glue for making collages. Or why not try painting with the berry juice too?
A Nature Cutting Tray certainly has lots of potential for fun and learning! I hope this article has given you a few starting points to enjoy with your little ones and I’m sure you’ll be able to think of lots of other directions to take the learning and play too.
You Might Also Like:
- Leaf Luminaries
- Charcoal Leaf Drawings
- Leaf Window Clings
- All Natural Leaf Threading
- Painting With Nature
More Sensory Activities To Try: