Every leaf speaks bliss to me, flattering from the autumn tree. – Emily Bronte
Collecting and creating art with pieces of nature can be a great way to observe and discuss the changing seasons. As we move into autumn we observe and discuss how the weather and the plants are changing. We talk about the changing seasons and explore our surroundings. During nature walks we notice the colder mornings, children with snuggly sweaters, colorful leaves and fog lingering around the mountains. Eventually the leaves fall off the trees and lend themselves perfectly to closer inspection and a variety of art projects.
Check out our other autumn projects here:
Leaf Rubbing, Leaf Banners, Leaf Creatures, Leaf Imprints and Nature Necklaces, Sticky Paper Leaf Collage, Autumn Shadow Box, Mixed Media Fall Collage, Mixed Media Autumn Wall Hanging, Metal Embossed Leaves.
- Transparency Film (or Plastic Sheet Protectors, Lamination Sheets etc.)
- White paper, colored construction paper
- Craft Wire
- Hole punch
Step 1: Leaf Rubbings
Creating leaf rubbings can be a fun introduction to this project and might prompt a first discussion of leaf details, leaf veins and different leaf shapes. We have done group and individual leaf rubbings over and over again before doing our leaf tracings the next day! Oh, the joy of discovery!
Step 2: Why do leaves change color?
Inspired by the wonderful book “We’re going on a Leaf Hunt” by Steve Metzger we went on a nature walk and collected our own leaves. Looking closely at the different leaves the children discovered that leaves have lines just like our hands. Sitting in a circle we passed a leaf and magnifying glass around. We talked about leaf veins and how they transport water all the way up from the stem to the tip of the leaf. We also talked about how some leaves change their color in the autumn and fall off the trees which led us to wonder about why that is:
“They’re getting too cold!”, “Maybe the tree doesn’t like it when the leaves change color?”, “The leaves can’t get water because the ground is frozen in the winter!”.
I usually encourage children to explore and create their own theories and understandings. As children try to make sense of their world and organize their experiences, their minds still move easily between fantasy and reality. This is a normal stage of toddler development. During the kindergarten years children will have gathered more information about the world that will enable them to draw more rational conclusions.
Step 3: Trace a leaf
Next we tried to find all the leaf veins and were amazed by how many there are! Invite the children to the table where you already set out black Sharpies and clipboards. Prepare the clipboards ahead of time: Glue a leaf on a white paper, cover it with transparency film/plastic sheet/lamination paper and clip it on the clipboard. Set all clipboards out on the table and let the children pick one. Practice your drawing skills by tracing all the lines you can find. Trace your leaf shape, pay special attention to the leaf veins and follow them with your pen. How many leaf veins can you find?
Step 4: Color
After tracing the leaves we colored them with autumn colored Sharpies, paying special attention to follow the natural lines and shapes of the leaf.
Step 5: Add a background
Let the children pick a colored construction paper as background for their transparency paper autumn leaf (which might turn out quite educational regarding contrast and color, e.g.: “Look, you can’t see the pink Sharpie on the pink paper!”).
Step 6: Attach a hanger
To show children that their thoughts and ideas matter I almost always encourage them to add a frame or hanger to their artwork. To create a hanger set out beads and tape craft wires to a table. Invite the children to thread a hanger while you hole punch their paper sheets to attach the beaded wire.
Voilà! What a difference it makes to honor children’s creations! Everyone was so proud to take their finished artwork home and happy to inform their parents and anyone else about leaf veins :)!
Optional: Draw on leaves
Some of the children wondered if we can directly draw on our leaves with our Sharpies. After many leaves ripped we used magic chalk markers to draw on the leaves which worked well. It’s a little bit messy but the children really enjoyed the bright colors as well as further following the lines in the leaves! This works well as a extra side project.