35 Activities for the 5 Senses of Fall (No Bins Required)
Looking to get the most out of fall for your family? Explore the 5 senses of fall with your child to end up having the most fun possible this season with some simple fall sensory activities for toddlers and preschoolers!
Fall is a magical time of year that I always find refreshing, don’t you? New season, cooler refreshing days, new things to enjoy with the family!
The downside of fall though is that with so much seasonal stuff to see and do it’s easy to get caught up in how busy it can become and find yourself overwhelmed.
- Back to school
- Extra-curriculars start up
- Season change yard work – so many leaves!
- Seasonal house chores
- Fall family events and holidays
The list goes on and on! Because of all these reasons being mindful and enjoying the fall moments you have together is so important and some simple, fun fall sensory activities for toddlers is a great way to do it!
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Why Focus on the 5 Senses of Fall?
Slowing down and enjoying the little things like the 5 senses of fall will help you appreciate those little moments that may get lost in the shuffle of a busy fall season. For us, the more we focus on the little things, the more I realize we actually do a lot everyday even when I feel like we haven’t done much.
To be honest, it’s my kids that taught me to slow down and focus on the little things.
If you’re like me, you may have a tendency to be antsy to move on to the next thing or feel the need to check another thing off the list. But a toddler will stop and study just about everything along their path – and there is real beauty in that.
So if you’re feeling like you’re stuck in a rut or like you haven’t been planning enough super-mom type photo-worthy sensory bin activities and are looking for some now? Well I’m here to tell you those meticulously planned picture perfect bins aren’t the only way to go.
The real world is nothing but sensory activities!
Don’t get me wrong, sensory bins are good, but for us only if it’s one that I can do without planning in advance so you can enjoy the moment when it happens naturally. Lots of ideas on this list also make great Thanksgiving sensory activities you can do at a time when you naturally slow down and appreciate family!
That’s what a lot of these 5 senses of fall activities on this list are about – simple, easy moments to take note of enjoying with your kiddo.
Focus on the 5 Senses & Realize You Already Do LOTS
Don’t believe me that you’re already doing more fall sensory activities than you think? Here’s an example!
You take your kids for a walk on a nice September day. It took forever (or felt like it!) and “all you got done” was a little walk. Well, while you walked I bet your kiddo stopped (or wanted to) a million times because most kids do! That means you did a million things during the walk!
Focusing on how your kiddo used their 5 senses will help you realize just how much sensory engagement is actually going on during a simple activity. Consider these questions:
- What did your child stop to see?
- How many times did you have to say “Don’t touch that!” (hey, sometimes toddler sensory learning is great, sometimes it’s gross!)
- When did your kiddo stop short because they heard a bird, or a person, or a siren, or a car, or a…
- How many times did they ask for a snack?! (or is it just my kids that constantly want goldfish crackers!)
- Were there any interesting smells on your way? Maybe you passed by a restaurant or someone cooking..maybe you literally stopped to smell the flowers!?
I bet you had at least 2 answers for each of these 5 senses questions! That means you didn’t just do the one larger activity, you did at least 10 or so little things during it.
BONUS: Here are 9 easy ways to make a walk fun for little kids!
35 Fall Sensory Activities for Toddlers + Preschoolers
A quick note about the lists. I’ve organized everything into their MAIN sense experience, but obviously so many of these are actually multi-sensory experiences that could be on several of the lists! So these 40 fall sensory activities for toddlers are actually even more than 40 when you consider the other 5 senses of fall they will also explore.
5 Senses of Fall: See The Season
Go for a walk and enjoy the beauty of fall!
The trees turn into the most beautiful burning blaze of colours – go for a hike, walk along your street, or even watch a video if you don’t live where the leaves become so colourful.
Collect some leaves and use them for play and crafts for extra fall fun!
Remember that walk I talked about? Go on a spooky walk specifically to be a detective that needs to find all the fall and Halloween decorations in your neighbourhood!
Bonus points for older preschoolers if you want to count how many of certain things you find – how many pumpkins? How many ghosts? How many….?!
Go to the store and take a look at the Halloween costumes available. This is a feast for the eyes – so many different colours, sparkles, shine and fabrics. If there isn’t a store with a big selection near you, include your child in your online costume shopping and browse the children’s costume pictures together.
No matter how you do it, talk about what you see and what your child likes about the different costumes!
Immerse yourself in the season quite literally! Being surrounded by the corn is even more fun for your very short little kid – it really is like a wall of corn everywhere! Just make sure you don’t take on too big a maze that the fun may end earlier than the maze itself – keep those for the years to come when kids are older!
Local farms here have a fall festival type attraction where you can get a pumpkin, do a corn maze, and often go on a wagon ride. Hopefully there’s somewhere near you to do one too. We’ve done a horse drawn wagon and a tractor pulled one and both were thrilling for the kids to watch.
Depending where you live you may be able to enjoy the scenes of animals migrating. Around here we see a lot of Canada Geese heading south in their distinctive V shape. I really want to go to an area a couple hours from here that has a huge monarch migration stop before crossing one of the Great Lakes every September.
Watch a Fall TV Show
Most kids shows have a fall theme episode if you look for it. Don’t scroll through a million things – just search online and find out exactly which season and episode. Here are some of our favourites:
- Paw Patrol: Season 1 Episode 1
- Bubble Guppies: Season 1 Episode 20 (Haunted House Party) + Season 3 Episode 18 (Gobble, Gobble Guppies)
- Blippi – Pumpkin Playground + Fall Colours
- Daniel Tiger: Season 3 Episode 5 “The Neighbourhood Fall Festival”
- Super Why: Season 1 Episode 35 “The Ghost Who Was Afraid of Halloween”
5 Senses of Fall: Hear the Season
Whether walking or squishing them in your hands to make a potion (keep reading!), listen to the leaves crunching as they dry on the ground! Can your child make music with the leaves?
The next windy day go somewhere with trees and listen. What can your child hear?
- leaves blowing
- branches creaking
- flag flapping
- leaves on the ground
Play some creepy Halloween music during playtime. Use spooky sounds while reading a Halloween story. Play spooky sounds like creaking doors howls and guess what it was.
Monster Mash Dance Party
Freeze Dance Party
The Kiboomers freeze dance songs are our favourites – they’ve got one for everyday, animals, Halloween, Christmas – you name it! It’s a perfect way to quickly turn around a difficult moment with a quick shout out to your smart speaker and you’re on your way to a dance party instead of a tantrum 🙂 Here’s the link to the Kiboomers Halloween Freeze Dance Song.
You could also, of course, just listen to the spooky sounds or Monster Mash above and pause it yourself!
Audio or Video Book
A quick look on YouTube and you can find lots of children’s fall books being read aloud.
We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger is a great book for planting the seed for more fall sensory activities for preschoolers. All of the actions and sounds are good sensory fun on their own and then you’ll find yourself hunting for leaves in no time!
Afterwards you can use those leaves (and other things you find along the way) for lots of these other fall 5 senses ideas!
Another one of my kids’ favourite fall books you can listen to for inspiring more activities is The Biggest Apple Ever by Steven Kroll . You can find it and several other great apple books in my post about apple activities for toddlers!
5 Senses of Fall: Touch the Season
Take a bowl of water outside and let your toddler or preschooler put in whatever ingredients they want! Pick some flowers, pull some grass, crush some leaves – lots of different textures to touch when making a witch’s brew.
Take it up a notch with an actual cauldron for your potions:
Twist and pull! A great touch fall sensory activity for toddlers, it really helps show them just how apples grow on trees. The hard apples, the soft leaves, and sometimes the ground when they fall pulling so hard and the apple suddenly lets go 🙂
Jumping in the Leaves
After raking a pile of leaves, have your kiddo jump right in! Being in the middle of the pile is different than walking on leaves or holding them – they totally surround you!
This classic little kids craft gets fingers messy and then you can use your stamps to play this fun apple game that highlights the sense of touch!
A classic photo opportunity – the first time your little one touches the inside of a pumpkin in all of its wet, icky, sticky glory! It’s usually either love or hate at first touch for most little ones.
The wet sloppy insides contrasting with the hard smooth pumpkin seeds then the smooth sides once it’s cleaned out. So much fun and learning all rolled into one!
Kleenex Ghost Games
Little kids will have lots of fun scrunching and squishing tissues to make some spooky Halloween decorations. Use the ghosts to play lots of hands-on ghost Halloween games for toddlers and preschoolers – perfect for solo at home or for a little kids Halloween party!
This is a fall sensory activity for toddlers that’s good to do a few times in the fall to see how it changes. Early fall leaves are still not crumbly so it’s more of a leaf squish and rip. Later when they are coloured it’s easier to crumble/rip the leaves but after being dried on the ground for longer, then they will truly crumble into little leaf sprinkles. They’re great for the potion making we already talked about!
Fall Mystery Bag
This activity is a go-to favourite at our house. We do it for pretty much anything when I need something that will turn around the mood because it’s so easy to do spur of the moment. Often I just grab a few toys, throw them in a bag (these are cute Halloween bags) and then voila – a fun game. They reach in and without looking have to guess what they are touching.
For a fall mystery bag you may need to plan a little to have fall things to put in the bag. It’s not time consuming though because your child will happily do it for you!
When you go for a walk challenge your kiddo to collect as many fall items as they can – seeds, leaves, flowers, a stick, acorns or nuts. Throw in an apple from the fridge, a mini pumpkin, and a Kleenex ghost if you have them and just like that a fabulous 5 senses of fall mystery bag game.
Fall is the beginning of cozy snuggle up under a throw and sip hot drinks season. A blanket like this Eddie Bauer throw is perfect because it’s super cozy and has two different textures to feel (and patterns to see too!).
Set up a survey of blankets and rank them according to your child’s favourite. The best part about this activity is watching their little thought process, seeing them compare and go back and check certain blankets before picking a favourite.
If doing a bunch at once would be too much for your kiddo do the blanket competition bracket style where they only consider two at a time and the next one always goes against the favourite of the last two.
Sink or Float Experiment Fall Edition
This is a fun experiment toddlers and preschoolers will do over and over again. One of the best ways to keep it fun is to refresh it with seasonal items making it the perfect 5 senses of fall activity! Use the same items from your fall mystery bag activity! Get the full details for this easy toddler touch experiment!
Sensory Fall Book
It’s always nice to refresh and expand your child’s book collection. Add in some of the 5 senses of fall by making it a touch book with different textures (which make different sounds!). Here are two great books:
5 Senses of Fall: Taste the Season
Apple Crisp or Apple Pie
The crisp is my favourite but the pie is tradition. Pick your favourite and either bake together (the crumble of the crisp is a perfect touch sensory activity too!), bake on your own for some “me time” or heck, just buy a $5 pie at the grocery store.
This is a great Thanksgiving sensory activity for kids to do when you’ve been so busy you haven’t had time to organize something specifically “for the kids”.
Crisp, juicy and delicious. Take advantage of apples being in season and try a few different kinds with your toddler. In fact, apple picking is one of my 10 Best Apple Activities for Preschoolers.
There are so many Halloween treats you can buy and even more different kinds than you normally buy that your child may end up with after trick or treating. While your child can’t have too many, tasting new foods can be a great easy fall sensory activity.
A classic fall treat that has not only a unique flavour but also texture so there’s more than just one of the 5 senses of fall going on here! Truthfully, this is where I do the $5 grocery store version (probably because I don’t enjoy it myself so I don’t bake it…)
Halloween Treat Mystery Game
Halloween treats are delicious but sadly not so nutritious. I’m a believer in everything in moderation though so as long as I eat a variety of chocolate bars that’s ok right? No??!!!
Oh well…for your kids have even more fun play a Halloween treat version of this Toddler Mystery Food Game. So fun, so easy and makes them think about what they’re eating not just gobble it down as fast as they can and ask for more. It helps you help them to learn the moderation lesson I like to ignore at Halloween.
Need I say more? Any time it’s a meal that is a special occasion it’s going to be an opportunity for your kiddo to try new foods or foods they haven’t had in awhile! Thanksgiving sensory activities like this are truly some of the easiest for fitting them in to traditions and things you’re already doing anyway!
5 Senses of Fall: Smell the Season
That smell of the wood burning is unlike anything else so although the sight and sounds of the flames are also amazing fall sensory experiences for kids, I’m putting it under smell. Then of course, there’s the sounds of the fire too – the wood crackling, the sizzle when you throw the water on to extinguish it. The heat they will feel. Oh and roast a marshmallow and you’ve got a totally unique taste! Hmm…this one could be any category!
Apple pie, pumpkin pie, apple crisp, cinnamon rolls – anything with those yummy smelling fall spices in it! Here’s my own recipe for apple crisp! If you’re not up for baking with your toddler today then use it as some nice mental health self-care time doing something you enjoy for yourself. Your child still gets the benefit of that delicious smell experience so no mom guilt here (not that there should be anyway obviously)!!
Fall Spices Guessing Game
Have your child smell each of some popular fall spices: pumpkin spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves. Then do a blindfold test and see if they can guess which one you hold to their nose! Perfect for a quick filler activity that needs zero prep if you have some spices on hand anyway!
No spices? Skip the guessing part and just fill your house with the wonderful spicy smells the easy way – make yourself a fall falavor cup of tea or coffee! Win for you, win for them to enjoy the smell!
Fall Essential Oils
Put some essential oils in your diffuser that elicit the smells of fall! You could even use these for a guessing game just like the spices! Check out these affordable sets of fall oils that will have your house smelling fabulous!
What is the smell of fall in your mind? Everyone has one – a favourite experience a certain smell brings you back to. For me it’s a combination of dirt, leaves and ocean air – I grew up in a rural area on the East coast.
Smells take us back in time and make us think of specific experiences – why not create that positive nostalgic experience for your little one?! When you go on a fall walk smell everything too! Well, maybe not everything – some things are gross haha, but you know what I mean!
How to Plan Fall Sensory Activities for Toddlers & Preschoolers
Like everything suggested on Happy Moments Mom, I’m all about doing an activity because your kids brought up the idea, not because you planned it for them! (You can read about my big idea for simpler parenting here)
Sometimes a little pre-planning is needed for a bigger event though, or can help plant the seed of an idea in your child’s mind. Things like fun family outings to a corn maze or pumpkin patch are stand-alone activities to plan to do because they’re hours of fun and quality time together!
During these big fall activities, lots of other little 5 senses of fall activities can happen. That’s how you can use this list to plan.
Organize a couple events like the pumpkin patch and do a bunch of the other little fall sensory activities while you’re there! So like going for a walk instead of thinking of it as you did that one thing, count all the different fall sensory activities that happened in the middle too!
Focus this season on engaging the 5 senses of fall and you will find yourself busy doing so many meaningful and often spur of the moment activities with your kiddos! These are the best kind of happy moments 🙂
Fall Sensory Activities: Benefits for Mom
All of these fall sensory activities for toddlers and preschoolers are hands on fun experiences your child will love, but will also help you too! Taking a few moments for mindfulness, especially with a toddler around, can be great for your own mental health. That’s the beauty of these fall senses activities -they’re good for everyone!
In fact, a good way to deal with mom stress in the moment is to stop and scan your 5 senses.
Being mindful of things around you by naming something you see, smell, touch and hear (taste can be hard in the moment lol) can give you the moment you need to calm down and react to your situation more positively.
Here are more 5 minute stress busters moms can do with kids around that like the senses scan help everyone feel better
So now that you know it’s great for your kids, great for you and easy because a lot of them fit into things you’re already doing, go feel good about all these awesome fall sensory activities for toddlers that you’re providing!
Enjoy a happy moment,
More Easy Ideas To Read: