Image by Annette M. Hall
Fun With Fall Leaves!
Fall is such a fun time to explore the world with little kids! You can teach them so much just by commenting out loud about the changes taking place in nature. Here are a few ideas for enjoying Autumn with your little ones while boosting their knowledge of the world!
A Good Leaf Read...
Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro is an informative concept book that explains what happens to leaves in autumn as they change colors and then separate from the tree. Maestro includes simple instructions for making a leaf rubbing and for pressing leaves, as well as suggestions for places to visit where the fall foliage is special. Read the story and then go for a Leaf Walk.
Go On A Leaf Walk!
Take a walk on a crisp fall day to see all of the wondrous colors of the season captured in fall foliage. Use this opportunity to introduce words and terms your children may have never heard before - like "fall foliage," "Autumn," and the names of various trees you see - like elm, maple, birch, oak, etc. (Bring along a pocket field guide to help you identify different trees. You can also bring leaves home and identify them using this free leaf identification guide.)
Talk about the colors you see. Leaves contain a pallet of color at this time of year including gold, yellow, orange, red, burgundy, brown, and green in all kinds of combinations and patterns. Your children may ask why the leaves turn color. Here's a very simple explanation - use it in a way that makes sense for your particular child:
Leaves always have a variety of colors in them, but the colors are hidden in the spring and summer by green "cholorphyll." It's a substance inside the leaves and it not only hides all of the other colors except green, it also helps turn sunlight into food for the leaves. When fall comes, there is less sunshine during the day and it gets cooler. The green chlorophyll moves away from the leaves back into the branches of the tree. When that happens we are able to see the yellow, orange, and red colors or "pigments" that were always there, hiding in the leaf. Rain, wind, temperature and the amount of natural sugar in the leaves can make the colors brighter too.
Don't be afraid to provide your children with these kinds of explanations. They may not fully grasp what you are saying, but they are learning new words and ideas. It could lead to a hundred other questions and discussions that improves their language comprehension, and helps them to understand how things work in their world.
Talk about and compare the different shapes and sizes of the leaves.
If you have a large magnifying glass, let the kids peak through it to see the veins and structure of the leaves. All of this encourages young children's classification and sorting skills that are so important in building a foundation for math and science skills. Here are some other ideas to try on your walk:
- Match leaves you find on the ground to the trees they came from. If you find leaves on the ground that don't match the leaves in the trees nearby, ask your child how the "strange" leaf got here. I bet your child will generate some great creative story ideas! Talk about how the wind blows the leaves from one section of the neighborhood or park to another.
- Encourage your child to step on dead brown leaves and listen to their crunchy sound.
- Scoop a bunch of leaves into a pile and jump in them.
- Toss a bunch of leaves in the air and try to catch them as they float to the ground.
- Take along a bag to collect fallen leaves and other natural treasures like acorns, nuts and seed pods that you find on the ground. When you get home, sort the leaves according to shape, size, kind, and color and talk about the differences you see. Count the leaves. Use them for some of the activities listed below.
Make a Leaf Rubbing!
This is an easy art project that will preserve your Leaf Walk memories. For each leaf rubbing you will need:
- 2 sheets of plain, white paper
- crayons (with the wrappers peeled off)
- use fall colors like brown, red, orange, and yellow.
Directions: Place a leaf, vein side up, on one piece of paper. Lay another piece of paper over the top of the leaf. Take a wrapper-less crayon, turn it on its side, and gently rub over the top sheet of paper. The leaf image will appear on the paper. If you want, write the name of the type of leaf that your rubbing portrays on the paper. As you get more adept at this, try using several leaves at the same time -- and different crayon colors. Display your masterpiece as is, or cut the leaves out and use them for decorations around the house. You can also mount the pages into a "My Leaf Walk" nature journal.
Make A Leaf Wreath!
You will need:
- A paper plate with the center cut out for each wreath -Brown, orange, red, or yellow paint -Leaves collected on your Leaf Walk.
- Hole Punch
Directions: Show the children how to paint their paper plates and set them aside to dry. When the plates are dry, show the children how to glue the leaves to the plates, making a leaf wreath. Take a hole punch and punch two holes about an inch apart into what will be the top of the paper plate wreath. Thread some ribbon through the holes, tie a bow, and hang it up!
More Leaf Craft Ideas - From A Book!
In the book, Look What I Did with a Leaf! by Morteza E. Sohi, you can find out how to make pictures of animals and other things using leaves as a base. Geared for ages 5-8, many of the activities can be used for younger children with a little help from mom or dad.
Read a Good Fall Book
- Count Down to Fall by Fran Hawk
- Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro
- Mouse's First Fall by Lauren Thompson
- Look What I Did with a Leaf! by Morteza E. Sohi
- Arthur Jumps into Fall by Marc Brown
- Leaves by David Ezra Stein
- Fall Leaf Project by Margaret McNamara
- We're Going On A Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger
- Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson
More Leaf Activities - Online!
You won't believe the REALLY SIMPLE and FUN assortment of ideas, activities and games that you can do with leaves at this site. They have everything from making "leaf people" to conducting leaf races, to leaf poems and songs. Leaf Activities
Fall Leaf Coloring Pages:
You'll find a variety of free fall leaf patterns to print out and color here: Free Fall Leaf Coloring Pages
Take The Chill Off Your Leaf Walk with
Warm Cider and Pumpkin Cookies!
Warm apple cider served in a mug or a "sippy cup" takes the chill off after a walk in the crisp autumn air. List member Judy sent a recipe for the perfect accompaniment -- pumpkin cookies!
Pumpkin Cookie Recipe
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 cup butter
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 cup 100% pumpkin
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 package (12 oz) white morsels (like chocolate chips, but white)
- 2/3 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cinnamon, cloves and baking soda in a small bowl. Beat butter, and sugars in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract until blended. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels, and nuts. Drop by rounded tbsp onto greased baking sheets: flatten slightly with the back of a spoon and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Bake 11-14 minutes or until centers are set. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Have fun with leaves and give your little ones a hug for me!
Updated: September 7, 2011