Learning About Leaves

Autumnal leaves offer plenty of DIY activities. (Photo: liz west [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)

Nothing says fall like piles of leaves on lawns and sidewalks. Between the cooler temps and the explosion of colors here in the East, fall is hands down my favorite time of year. It's also a wonderful time of year for getting back to nature. Autumn's beautiful falling leaves make the most wonderful craft supplies, perfect for teaching kids about photosynthesis, the importance of trees, and animal life cycles, or simply for enjoying their different colors and shapes. So gather up a basket full of your favorite fallen leaves and try these crafts with :

Leaf printing: Paint the underside of dry leaves with paint and press the painted side of leaves on to paper. Simple as that. The paint will highlight the intricate structure of the leaf and give your little one a lasting memory of the season.

Leaf people: Lay the leaf in front of you with the stem edge down (stem pointing towards you). Cut pieces of yarn and glue it along the top edge of the leaf to be the hair. Glue on the wiggle eyes just below the hair line. Use the scrap pieces of fabric and cut out the appropriate shapes for clothes. Glue the clothes on and set your leaf people aside and let them dry. Hang them up!

Placemat: Collect several different leaves of various shapes, colors, and sizes. Cut two pieces of clear contact paper about 2-feet long. Remove the backing from one piece and stick the leaves onto the sticky side of the contact paper in whatever pattern you choose. When you're finished, peel the backing off the second piece of contact paper and cover the leaves with it to seal them in between the contact paper sheets. If you want to get fancy, trim around the edges of your placemat with pinking shears or other fancy edged scissors.

Guide book: Kids who want to learn a bit more about the different types of leaves falling around their homes might enjoy making a leaf guide book. Simply press leaves into a photo album or scrapbook and label accordingly. If you need help identifying the leaves, check out the "What Tree is That?" guide from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Votive candle: Follow the instructions from Making Friends to make a beautiful votive candle using pressed fallen leaves (makes a great holiday gift!)

Suncatcher: Another super easy craft that is a big hit with kids. Cut out two pieces of wax paper, lay leaves in between them, and iron together. If you want, you can label the leaves with a permanent marker to practice your ID skills. Then hang them up in the window and let them shine.