Autumn Art Ideas: 4 Process art for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Autumn art ideas for toddlers and preschoolers don’t have to be overcomplicated. If step-by-step crafts make you feel stressed, the other option is process art. In the early years, I mainly did process art with my children, with the occasional craft – such as the ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ mask which I shared recently. 

Process art? Isn’t it just a way for kids to make a huge mess?

Well, yes and no.

In the early years, process art is a way for young children to explore a range of different materials.

Process art takes the pressure off of you as a parent (because you don’t have to focus on making a specific end product)

Process art also helps children to feel more confident about their own creativity.

In another lifetime, I was the art coordinator of the primary school I taught in. In my first few months in the role, I discovered that many of the older children were literally terrified of creating anything.

And I’m not over-exaggerating: some would ask me if every single line they drew was ‘right’ whilst others would get tearful or frustrated if they did one thing ‘wrong’.

Looking at the displays down the hallway of the school made me realise what was happening: rows of uniform and perfect creations greeted me.

When there is too much focus on art looking ‘perfect’ or exactly the same, art loses its joy and children loose confidence in their own creativity.

Why does process art and Autumn art ideas go so well together?

Autumn and process art make a fantastic pair, especially for kids aged 3-7. Just like the leaves changing colours and falling to the ground, process art encourages little ones to explore, experiment, and have fun without worrying about getting everything ‘perfect.’

In the cosy and colourful season of autumn, kids can dive into art projects with a big sister’s playful guidance, letting their creativity flow and celebrating the joy of making art, even if it turns out a little differently than expected. It’s all about the journey.


Our Favourite Simple Autumn Art Idea

One of our favourite Autumn art ideas for toddlers and preschoolers is painting with nature. It’s super simple, low in cost and creates beautiful results. On a recent walk of our local suburb, we found lots of flowers that had fallen after a particularly crazy storm, so we decided to collect them and take them back for a paint session. Here’s what you can do to create your own nature-based masterpiece at home:


Autumn Art Ideas featuring a vibrant painted cardboard canvas and nature treasures (leaves and seed pods)

1. Go on a nature hunt!

First off, head out to either your backyard, local suburb or anywhere surrounded by nature, to collect some nature treasures. We only use what has fallen onto the ground, effectively giving nature debris a new lease of life! If it’s mid-winter in your part of the world, you could always try saving fresh-cut flowers next time you are gifted some.

2. Set up your invitation to create:

The tricky thing about writing a blog post on process art is that there actually isn’t a strict way to create it! However, I will set up a creative invitation with the materials and paints already laid out.

The key here is paint choice. Choose a variety of paints that compliment or mix well with one another otherwise you’ll end up with a massive brown sludgy mess. We always use non-toxic acrylic paints or some of our own homemade paints (cornflour, water and food colouring, for example) mainly because the kids REALLY get into the mess making and end up covered in paint!

3. Let the kids loose:

If it’s their very first time doing this, you may need to show what they need to do, otherwise just let them go for it! You’ll find that the more you have fun with this type of creative process, the quicker the kids will just get on with the painting!

4. Celebrate the result:

Whatever the final product looks like, celebrate it! Sometimes, they lose interest after a few swipes of a leaf and other times the canvas will literally be covered in gloops of paint, but most importantly, they’ve explored and got creative.

an overhead photograph of Autumn art ideas: paint palettes are located to the right of a canvas that has been brightly painted with Autumn coloured acrylic paints

More Autumn Art Ideas to try:

Vertical leaf painting

This was my daughters very first foray into nature painting at around the age of 18 months. We used finger-paints and crunchy leaves from the garden as paintbrushes.

I recommend using non-toxic or homemade ‘taste safe’ paints in the early years for any Autumn art ideas that you try. Very young children have a tendency to explore with their mouths and they won’t understand that traditional paints are unsafe to taste test.

Autumn art ideas featuring a cardboard canvas that has been pinned up vertically. A toddler has been invited to paint with leaves using simple finger paints in primary colours and green

Pinecone Roll Process Art 

If you’re looking at Autumn art ideas with minimal mess, this pinecone roll process art activity is a lot of active fun. Use a cardboard box, squeeze in some paint and roll the pinecones in the box. The end results are beautiful and once dry, the pinecones make fantastic centre pieces.

Autumn art ideas: A toddler rolls some pinecones in a grocery box. Visible are some paints that have been splattered on the bottom of the box. On the floor are some golden and brown leaves because the photo was taken in Autumn

Temporary Art

The Autumn art ideas you try at home don’t have to be messy – or even permanent. If you’ve been out on a nature treasure scavenger hunt or want to do some art outdoors, you can always try some temporary art. Often known as ‘transient art’, this is a really low pressure way of getting creative.

Whilst I have shared an example of a butterfly below, you can create absolutely anything. Start with simple patterns or spirals, then work up to different shapes and animals, especially if you are working with very young children.

But this activity isn’t reserved for young children, you only have to look at the work of James Brunt to realise than transient art with nature is a fantastic creative outlet for adults too.

Autumn art ideas, a butterfly has been made out of various nature treasures including leaves, dandelions and petals

Autumn Blog posts to read next:

If you loved this Autumn Art Ideas blog post, you might also enjoy some of our other Autumn and Bear Hunt posts. Most are suitable for both toddlers and preschoolers:

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Mask

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt story basket

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt pre-writing skills  activity 

21 Autumn Ideas for the Entire Family

Autumn Activities for Kids: 25 Playful Prompts

Autumn Loose Parts Play

Autumn Preschool Leaf Cutting Tray

You can also search the keyword ‘Autumn’ in the blog search bar for the most up-to-date Autumn blog post listing.


Are you currently planning all things Autumn?

If you enjoyed this blog post about Autumn art ideas, you might just like my exclusive membership, ‘How I drink my Coffee Hot’ too. The membership costs just $5 per month and you get access to 10 mini courses on a range of topics including sensory play, play spaces and starting school. Here are some membership posts that you might enjoy:

Autumn at Home Art and Sensory Camp

Family Rhythms for Autumn

Autumn Break with Kids 

Halloween with little kids? 

Sian Thomas
an image of This Playful Home founder, Sian Thomas. The photo includes a photo of her daughter when she was around 18 months old

I’m Siân (rhymes with yarn), a play advocate, proud parent to three, and former teacher. My mission is to infuse more joy and less overwhelm into the lives of parents. Discover play-based activities with me that not only make learning FUN but also forge deep connections with your young learners, creating memories to cherish forever.