by Judy Mullican
Depending on where you live, the leaves may be changing colors or may be about to change soon. Even if you live in an area that does not experience fall color, leaves offer many opportunities for fun and learning! Some plants naturally produce leaves that are red, yellow, or orange all the time. Leaves also come in different shapes and sizes. Take your children outside to explore! (Caution: As always, be sure to explore safely. Check Know Your Plants or other sites to find out if any plants in your surroundings are poisonous or cause skin irritation.)
Here are a few ideas for fun activities!
Take Photos: Even young children can take digital photos with some supervision and instruction. Encourage them to photograph leaves on plants or on the ground. Later review the pictures on the screen and choose a few favorites to print. The children may dictate a few sentences about where they saw the leaves and why they chose them for the picture.
Rake and Jump: You probably remember raking up leaves and jumping in the piles when you were a child. But this experience is brand new to each new generation of children. It’s a great way to build large muscle skills and create happy memories, too.
Sort Leaves: Invite the children to gather a variety of fallen leaves. See how many different ways they can think of to sort the leaves. They may sort by how well they like them, by whether the edges are smooth or notched, by size, by color, or in many other ways. Some children may also like to arrange the leaves to create patterns.
Leaf Impressions: Invite the children to roll or pat out soft clay or playdough. They can lay leaves on the surface and gently roll over them or pat them with their hands. When they peel away the leaves, there will be an impression. Encourage them to experiment with different leaves. Do fresh leaves or dry ones work best? Does one side of the leaf make a better impression than the other side? What else do they notice?
Paint on Leaves: Large flat leaves can be used as a surface for painting. The children may enjoy simply creating colorful designs or may paint pictures to represent people, animals, or things they see. Let the children use their creativity!
Paint with Leaves: Soft flexible leaves can be used as tools for painting. The children can use them to spread fingerpaint or to paint in other ways. Try taping or tying a few to a stick to create a leaf paintbrush. Hold a celery rib and use the leaves on the end to paint. You and the children may think of more ways to paint with leaves.
Fairy Houses: The children can arrange leaves, twigs, pebbles, and other natural materials to create imaginary homes for fairies. Leaves might work for roofs, rugs, tablecloths, curtains, and more!
Sun Catchers: Cut rectangles of clear contact paper. Have the children fold them in half and crease firmly. Peel back half the backing, beginning at the edge and stopping at the crease. The child may arrange several pretty leaves on the sticky paper. If you like, offer scraps of colored tissue or cellophane, bits of ribbon or yarn, and other collage materials to arrange around the leaves. Peel away the rest of the backing and carefully refold the contact paper so the leaves and other art materials are sandwiched between the layers. Press down firmly. Punch two holes near the top and tie a loop of yarn or ribbon for hanging. Display in a window or hang from the ceiling.
Leaf-shaped Sandwiches: Use cookie cutters to cut leaf shapes from slices of bread. Spread with soft cream cheese and colorful fruit spreads for a fun fall treat.
Sing about Leaves: Lead your favorite songs about leaves! Here’s one you may enjoy.
Move Like Leaves
(Sung to “Do Your Ears Hang Low?”)
Can you shiver like the leaves
That are shaking in the breeze?
(Stretch arms high, clasp hands, and shiver.)
Can you suddenly let go
When you feel a hard wind blow?
(Bend quickly as if struck by wind.)
Can you spin and twirl around
(Spin and twirl.)
And float gently to the ground?
(Pretend to float downward; lie on floor.)
Can you move like leaves?