Conkers, otherwise known as horse chestnuts, are everywhere in the UK during autumn and because of this, they’ve become the perfect symbol for autumn and fall. Conkers litter the floor of all our parks, woodlands and gardens and have been collected for generations. In fact, conkers have been collected throughout history and even played a part in helping the Allies in the First World War.
These days, conkers are still collected annually by children and adults alike and have become a regular feature in British households during the autumn months. But you may be wondering what to do with conkers? There are many decorative and practical uses for conkers in the home, as well as an abundance of games, crafts and toys for children to make and do.
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What to do with conkers: Here’s a list of 43 different ways you can use conkers in and around your home.
What To Do With Conkers: Decoration Around The Home.
When asking what to do with conkers, one of the first things that comes to mind is to use them as home decor items. There are plenty of ways to use conkers in and around the home by way of decoration, here are a few of our favourites.
Conkers can be collected and used as an addition to autumnal front door wreaths. Simply glue them to your wreath base with a hot glue gun* or use match sticks/cocktail sticks to hold them in place. You can add sparkles to your conkers or use other natural materials such as twigs and leaves to create a whimsical autumnal wreath.
Drilling holes all the way through a conker allows you to carefully thread crafting wire* through and form a heart shape. This makes a great wreath for the front door and can be finished off with a big ribbon at the top, or left as is.
Another popular craft on our list of what to do with conkers in and around the home is to create a Halloween wreath. Create a wreath base from cardboard or purchase one and hot glue* on painted conkers. You can paint spiders, eyeballs, pumpkin faces, or any other spooky things that come to mind on your conkers. It’s easier to decorate these spooky Halloween eyeballs with acrylic pens* as you can add a lot more detail this way.
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Conkers in a bowl or vase
What to do with conkers when you don’t fancy getting all the craft supplies out? Well, thankfully conkers make beautiful decorations without the addition of anything else and can be placed in glass vases with or without candles to bring an instant autumnal feel to your home. Wooden bowls can also be used and look great on mantelpieces, tables and windowsills. This can make a great autumn or Thanksgiving centerpiece, so why not get collecting now?
Scattered across the mantlepiece
What to do with conkers when you seriously don’t have any craft supplies or additional props? Scatter them! Scattering conkers across the mantlepiece adds instant cosiness to your home. You can also add other foraged goodies such as acorns and leaves.
Natural baskets with conkers, pinecones, acorns etc
Filling a natural basket*, or other container made of natural materials, with foraged conkers, pinecones and acorns makes a beautiful autumnal centrepiece.
Christmas tree decorations (snowflakes/baubles etc)
If you are wondering what to do with conkers once autumn has passed, consider using them as Christmas tree decorations. Drilling holes through the conkers allows you to thread ribbon, string or crafting wire* through them. You can really let your creative juices run wild and create some great Christmas tree decorations. Using cocktail sticks or match sticks allows you to connect conkers together to create different shapes, such as snowflakes and stars. You can paint the conkers to create baubles, use acrylic pens* to draw patterns, or draw faces on them to create angels/reindeer etc.
Make your own conical Christmas tree
Another amazing Christmas craft on our ‘what to do with conkers’ list is to make your own Christmas tree. If you’re able to collect enough, you can create your own mini Christmas tree completely from conkers! Using a hot glue gun*, glue a ring of conkers together on a hard base and build up your tree until you have a cone shape made from conkers. Decorate with glitter etc.
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Wondering what to do with conkers if you want to be a little more creative with your decor? How about creating conker words. Use match sticks, cocktail sticks or hot glue* to shape conkers into seasonal words. You could try creating words for your mantlepiece or bookshelf such as ‘Autumn/Fall’, ‘Hello’, or ‘Love’.
Using other foraged materials you find when walking, such as pine cones, acorns and sticks, you can make your own autumn-themed mobile. Painting the sticks and using different coloured threads or strings to hold your conkers is a great way to add an extra level of personalisation to your autumn mobile.
Autumn flower arrangements
When thinking about what to do with conkers, one of my personal favourite activities to to use them within autumn flower arrangements. When arranging vases of autumn flowers (real or fake), hot gluing* conkers to the end of kebab sticks or sticks and arranging them with your flowers is a great way to bring some autumn cheer into your home.
Centrepiece for table/mantle
Another decorative item on our ‘what to do with conkers’ list is to use them to create an autumn centrepiece. Placing conkers in bowls, vases and baskets, or arranging them around the bottom of pillar candles* make great centrepieces for your dinner table. This is lovely for casual dinners, but it also makes a lovely free centrepiece for Thanksgiving Dinner.
What To Do With Conkers: Practical Uses For Conkers.
When deciding what to do with conkers, you may be surprised to hear that there are lots of ways to use conkers besides simply having them as decorations in your home. Here are some practical uses for conkers, from keeping bugs at bay to washing your clothing.
Keep moths at bay.
Want to know what to do with conkers when you have a few going spare? Use them to keep your clothes safe! Placing conkers in your wardrobe and chest of drawers is meant to repel moths and therefore save your clothes from being nibbled on.
Keep spiders out of the house.
One of the most popular uses that comes to mind when someone asks what to do with conkers is related to spiders! It’s said that placing a conker in each corner of the room will repel spiders. This is particularly helpful as in autumn, British households tend to find they are invaded by house spiders – a harmless, but very large and hairy type of spider.
Creating hand soap is something that doesn’t come up much when people start to discuss what to do with conkers. Conkers contain a natural substance called saponin, which can be used to create hand soap. By cutting and boiling the conkers in water, and adding some lemon and some linseed, you can create antiseptic hand soap for your home. You can also grate and soak conkers for a few hours until they’re soft, and the mould into a solid soap block. The horse chestnut leaves can also be used as hand soap and are often used by bushcrafters.
Laundry detergent / Soap Nuts
As well as being used as hand soap, those looking to find out what to do with conkers may also be interested to hear that conkers can also be used like soap nuts, or be made into laundry detergent. To use as soap nuts, cut the conkers in half (around 6 per washing cycle) and place them in a muslin bag and wash your clothes with these instead of detergent. To make detergent, cut and soak conkers for a minimum of 30 minutes before washing. Drain and use the liquid as you’d use commercial laundry detergent. Note: some people believe that the yellow tinge to the laundry detergent could stain clothes, so removing the outer brown shell is advised. Others report that no such thing has happened to them, so please use at your own risk.
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Just like when using conkers to make laundry detergent, 4 or 5 crushed conkers can be soaked overnight in warm water and the sieved liquid can then be used on your hair as shampoo. The natural conker shampoo will not lather up like commercial shampoos, so ensure you apply it to your roots well. Rinse with water and dry! This is something on the ‘what to do with conkers’ list that I have never tried – so if you give it a go, I’d love to hear how you got on!
Grow your own chestnut tree
Perhaps the most obvious but overlooked suggestion when people ask what to do with conkers is to plant them. It’s easy to simply collect them and plant your own horse chestnut trees. Conkers are the seeds of the tree and so planting them will, eventually, produce a horse chestnut tree.
Photo props for Instagram / blogs / Christmas
If you’re an Instagram fan, or you love curating beautiful photos, this next tip on the ‘what to do with conkers’ guide is for you. Conkers make excellent photography props for all sorts of photography styles. As a blogger, I find that conkers look great scattered across a photography set and are particularly good for flat lays (like the ones in this post!).
Fancy updating your home but still want to know what to do with conkers that you have lying around your house? Simply drill a hole through your conker and string to your bathroom light pull.
What To Do With Conkers: How To Use Conkers To Create Toys And Play Games.
The Traditional Conkers Game
When thinking about what to do with conkers, the very first thing that pops into my head is this classic playground game. Nothing marks the return of autumn quite like a good old-fashioned game of conkers! Thread a conker with string or a shoelace and take it in turns to hit your opponent’s conker with yours. The last conker standing is the winner! Read all about this British game, including the rules of play, over here: Conkers: A Classic Game of Friendship & Fierceness
Painting Halloween Decorations
Another fun and spooky way to answer the question ‘what to do with conkers?’ is to paint them for Halloween. You can paint all sorts of things, but one design that looks particularly good is creepy eyeballs! Scatter them around the house on Halloween or pile a cauldron on the front porch full of them. You could try using acrylic pens* to create pumpkin designs, monsters, witches, ghosts and so much more.
All you need to turn the humble conker into a cute little spider is a pair of googly eyes, some pipe cleaners and a dollop of glue/piece of tape. Pop your googly eyes onto your conker and cut 2 pipe cleaners in half. Fold them across each other so the pipe cleaners stay in place and create 8 legs for your conker to sit on top of. Either use glue or sticky tape to hold the conker in place. If you want to know what to do with conkers that will entertain the kids, check out my blog post with all the details on how to make conker spiders.
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What to do with conkers that is practical and fashionable? Well, have you ever seen conker necklaces on Etsy? Or maybe you spotted Vivienne Westwood sporting a necklace made entirely of conkers? Well, you can save yourself a fortune and make your own conker necklaces by drilling holes through the entirety of the conker and threading them onto a long piece of string.
What to do with conkers and other natural elements that is enriching and fun for children? Make art with them of course! Collect conkers, along with acorns, pinecones, leaves and twigs and create your own art out of nature. You can either loosely shape the materials on the grass outside, or bring them home and glue them onto paper, thus creating your very own nature collage. You can create different animals, people and places. You could even create your outline made entirely of conkers!
Play A Game Of Marbles
Another fun game that can be played when thinking about what to do with conkers involves a twist on another classic children’s game: marbles. Collect conkers in a variety of sizes, make sure you find a nice big one! Then play a game of marbles as you usually would, only with conkers. Roll or throw the biggest conker – all the other players have to try and get their conker to land closest to the biggest conker. It might help you draw on the conkers with acrylic pens* or paint each player’s conkers a different colour to avoid confusion.
Conker Snakes and Worms
Want to know what to do with conkers that looks cool and doesn’t require much effort? Make conker snakes and worms. Drill a hole through your conkers and thread them together with string or pipe cleaners. You can decorate the conkers to create snake-like patterns with acrylic pens* and use googly eyes.
One of the best things about playing with playdough is the variety of additional items you can bring to the table. I love making my own homemade playdough and creating seasonal play ideas, but you may be wondering what to do with conkers when it comes to playdough. Well, making some cinnamon-spiced playdough and adding conkers, twigs, acorns, leaves and other natural materials to the mix is a great way for kids to explore nature, especially on a cold or rainy day.
Conker & Cocktail stick/matchstick weaving
A classic conker craft from my own childhood – weaving! Whether you spin this idea as a way to introduce the art of weaving, or whether you use it as a fun way to create spooky spider Halloween decorations, weaving is a really fun way to use conkers. To create your autumnal conker weave, pierce the conker with cocktail sticks or matches in a star shape and then tie some wool around one stick. Weave the wool over and under the sticks consecutively and your design will start to take place. Mix up the colours and textures of the wool and you’ll have yourself a unique autumnal craft project.
Use googly eyes, felt, marker pens, paints, pipe cleaners and any other crafting materials you have to hand and create unique pencil toppers for the kids. Drill a hole that stops midway through the conker and is big enough to fit a pencil in. Decorate however you like – you can make Halloween monsters, animals, or even a self-portrait.
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Once you’ve made yourselves a collection of fun pencil toppers, why not take it one step further and put on a stick puppet show?
Bonfire night explosions
Chucking a handful of conkers onto a bonfire will create lots of crackles and explosions as steam builds up within the seed. This always makes for a fun and entertaining addition to bonfire night celebrations, just be careful with playing with fire!
For smaller children, conkers are a great natural resource for learning. You can use them to create groups of numbers, for examples, or practice addition and subtraction. You can also use acrylic marker pens* to write letters onto the conkers to help children practice phonics and learn simple words such as their name, cat, dog etc.
Just like the conker necklaces, these chestnut seeds can be used to create friendship bracelets. Use acrylic marker pens* to draw fun designs and get an adult to drill through each conker. Then all you need to do is thread them together and give them to your friends!
Marking making with conkers and paint
Small children and toddlers love exploring mark-making – in fact, one of Luke’s favourite activities when he was younger was mark-making with toy vehicles. Mark-making with conkers is a cheap and fun way to explore colours, texture and nature. Simply get some paper and some paint and use the conkers to paint. You can roll them across the paper, drop them or even put your paper in a tray with sides and shake the conkers to create new and exciting patterns.
Use matchsticks or cocktail sticks to create legs and arms, or join conkers together to create different animals. Decorate the conkers with marker pens* or paint and use some playdough to create a snazzy snail.
Conker and spoon race
Just like the traditional Sports Day egg and spoon race, only that instead of using an egg, you use a conker.
Nothing beats a good old fashioned game of catch. This game is better suited to older children who have developed the necessary reflexes as conkers are much smaller and harder than balls!
Wrap yellow, red, and orange tissue paper* around a conker and secure with an elastic band. Using scissors, cut the tissue paper to make it look like the tail of a comment and then throw it.