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. 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 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. 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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Here’s a list of 43 different ways you can use conkers in and around your home.
How To Use Conkers For Decoration Around The Home.
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.
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.
Create a wreath base from cardboard or purchase one and hot glue* on painted conkers. You can paint spiders, eye balls, 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.
Conkers in a bowl or vase
Conkers make beautiful decorations and can be placed in glass vases with or without candles to bring and instant autumnal feel to your home. Wooden bowls can also be used and look great on mantelpieces, tables and windowsills.
Scattered across the mantlepiece
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)
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
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.
Use match sticks, cocktail sticks or hot glue* to shape conkers into season words. You could try creating words for your mantlepiece or book shelf 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 thread or string to hold your conkers is a great way to add an extra level of personalisation to your autumn mobile.
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.
Centerpiece for table/mantle
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.
Practical Uses For Conkers.
Keep moths at bay.
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.
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.
Conkers contain a natural substance called saponin, which can be used to create hand soap. By cutting and boiling the conkers in water, 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, 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 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.
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!
Grow your own chestnut tree
Perhaps the most obvious practical use for conkers is to 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
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.
Fancy updating your home for the autumnal months? Simply drill a hole though your conker and string to your bathroom light pull.
How To Use Conkers To Create Toys And Play Games.
The Traditional Conkers 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 opponents conker with yours. The last conker standing is the winner!
Painting Halloween Decorations
Another fun and spooky way to use conkers is to paint them for Halloween. You can paint all sorts of things, but one design that looks particularly good are 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. Here’s my blog post the details how to make conker spiders.
Have you ever seen conker necklaces on Etsy? Or maybe you spotted Vivienne Westwood sporting a necklace made entirely of conkers? 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.
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
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
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. 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.
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.
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.