Thursday, December 17, 2009

Playing in the Leaves

Fall is a time of great change, and it offers a world of learning opportunities for our kids. Before the rains start, and drive everyone inside, take some time to explore the wonders in your own backyard or park.

Out in the yard...

Go outside with your child, and bring along a basket.Help your child find as many different types of leaves as possible. Pick up the different kinds of seed you find as well. Make sure you haven't picked up and creepy crawlies, and bring your treasures back inside. Now the fun stuff begins...

Talk to your child about what you saw. They may want to know why the leaves change. Check out Science Made Simple for a great explanation. Or you might read aloud. Top Secret by John Reynolds Gardiner is a great read-aloud book for the elementary/middle school grades. Written at about a fourth grade level, the book tells the story of a boy who decides to solve the mystery of photosynthesis for a school science project. Students learn all about photosynthesis from the book.

Get Crafty...

Print out some of the coloring pages at and see if your child can match the leaves he/she collected to the pictures. Have them color the pictures too. This is a great opportunity to practice hand-eye coordination and matching. You child may enjoy identifying the different trees the leaves and seeds come from.

Leaf rubbings are another kid favorite. Take the leaves you collected on your walk.On a piece of plain white paper, position leaves vein side up in an pattern you like. Lay another sheet of plain white paper over the top of the leaves. Have your child select the crayons that they would like to use to create their rubbing and help them peel off the paper wrappers. Have them turn a crayon on its side and gently rub over the top sheet of paper. The leaf images will magically appear on the paper! Have your child experiment with different crayon colors and leaf arrangements.

Make a leaf mobile! You will need: a cereal box,waxed paper, yarn, scissors and tape. Cut a 1 inch strip the length of the box. Tape it into a circle. Punch 6 holes around the strip.Have your child pick six different leaves from their collection. Press them between pieces of wax paper a couple of inches larger around than the leaf. Punch holes in the perimeter of the wax paper and have your child "sew" them closed with yarn (tape the end to make it a bit easier) Mom needs to do this part...Set your iron to a hot setting. Cover the layers of wax paper with a couple sheets of newspaper and iron them. Let them cool. Tie different lengths of yarn to the finished leaves. Tie the other end of each length to the circular strip. Hang it in a breezy corner and watch the leaves twirl!

Make an Autumn Tree. You will need a large piece of brown paper or an old paper bag, glue, and some more of your leaves. To make a tree outline, trace your child's hand (with fingers spread) and arm (up to the elbow) on the large piece of paper or bag. Now, glue leaves onto the branches and around the base of the tree. You can also cut out "apples" and glue them on the tree!

Leaf Prints... Careful, this one can be messy! Put down lots of newspaper! You will need leaves, craft paint ("fall" colors), and black construction paper. Paint one side of each leaf (not too thick). Carefully arrange leaves in one layer, paint side up, on clean newspaper. Place a piece of black construction paper over the top of the leaves and press gently! A little messy, but very fun.

Make a fun fall wreath. This one is a bit more for mom, but there is a fun kid version too! You will need fall leaves, pinecones, etc.,Hay wreath,Hot glue gun,a large bow in fall colored ribbon, and fall colored ribbons to hang pinecones with. Bake all of you outdoor finds for 45 min at 200 degrees to kill any insects and eggs. Use the hot glue gun to attach the leaves, seeds, etc, to the wreath, as well as the large bow. Attach the pinecones to ribbons and hang them in the center. As a simpler project for children, paper plates with the centers cut out and craft glue can be used to make small wreaths. Punch a hole in the top of the plate and put a ribbon or yarn through to hang it.

For tips on preserving your leaves, visit where you will find several different easy methods.

Play it up...

Raking Leaves
Let children help you rake the fall leaves, they can rake with smaller rakes, fall in the piles (remember how fun that was?)or help you place leaves in bags, or what we do is bury them in our garden, so our garden is healthier the next year.

Leaf Fall
Have the children pretend they are leaves falling from a tree.

Have the children pretend that they are squirrels getting ready for winter.

Rhyme time...

Five Little Leaves:

Five red leaves, five and no more,

The caterpillar ate one, now there are four.

Four red leaves, that's easy to see.

Along came a rainstorm, now there are three.

Three red leaves, nothing much to do

A big wind blew, now there are two!

Two red leaves, that's not much fun,

I glued one on my paper, now there is one!

Hang on pretty red leaf, your branches won't break,

You're one less leaf for me to rake!

We hope you and your child have lots of fun playing in the leaves! Enjoy!

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