Autumn Leaf Activities for Children

My favourite Autumn Leaf Activities for children

The following post contains a range of different autumn leaf activities for children that are related to the autumn season. I’ve done some of these at home with my children and others I have used as teaching activities in school. They all have a teaching and learning objective in mind, but some of them are focused on creative arts and design, whilst others are maths or science focused. Some of the autumn leaf activities are for older children, but many can be done with a range of ages by adapting them slightly. Some of them involve several areas of learning! Please also see my post on My Favourite Books for Teaching the Topic of Autumn (coming soon) for young children.

Autumn Hunt /Leaf Hunt

Before doing any autumn activities it’s nice to go on a leaf and/or autumn hunt. This gives children the opportunity to observe what autumn looks, feels and even smells like! They can collect leaves, acorns, sticks, etc. that they can use for a number of different activities such as the ones listed below.

Miniature Autumn Collage -Autumn Leaf Activity for Children

This activity allows children to collect small natural objects and put them together into a small picture. It’s not only a fun art activity but it’s also a great way for children become familiar with the autumn season and to think about the natural objects that are associated with it. This can help them tune into and observe the changes that happen around them as the seasons change. See my post on Miniature Nature Collages which can be done to explore a range of properties of materials and natural objects.

Autumn leaf activity for children. Miniature autumn collage with leaves and other objects from the autumn season.

What you need:

Place the double sided sticky tape on one side of a piece of card (if it’s normal width tape you may need to do two or three strips of tape depending on the size of card you cut out). They can be saved to be used until children are ready to stick on the things they find that represent autumn.

Write a Recount: An Autumn Walk

It is easiest for young children to write about things from their own personal experience. They can go on a short walk and collect objects that represent the things that they have seen along the way. This can all be recorded visually on a “journey stick” or “journey strip” that they can keep. Please see my post on making a journey stick for more details (coming soon). Children can then use their journey sticks to provide a visual reminder of their walk, and the ordering in which they encountered different things. This can help them when writing a recount about their walk, to ensure that they remember important details and the order in which they occurred.

Journey Stick, Journey strip. Autumn Leaf Activity for children. Children collect objects from their walk. Helps children recount their walk.

Please also see my list of Books for Teaching the Topic of Autumn (coming soon) which are good for teaching children aged approximately 4-7.

Autumn Leaf Wreath – Autumn Leaf Activity

Make a wreath for children to hang up on their door using leaves that they have collected. With young children it’s easiest to do just one layer of leaves. For older children it is possible to layer leaves by stapling a bottom layer or letting the glue dry out between layers.

What you need:

  • Paper plates
  • Glue sticks and/or PVA glue
  • Stapler (optional) *You can staple a layer of leaves underneath and then glue more on top.
  • Leaves (preferably not completely dried out as they tend to fall apart)

*This may require some adult assistance depending on the age and whether you want to layer the leaves on top of one another or just have one layer of leaves.

Leaf Person – Autumn Leaf Activity

This is inspired by the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. Children make a person out of leaves that can either be glued down on a single piece of paper or on a paper stick figure. With the latter, it is possible to make it so the person moves – a paper arm or all the arms and legs can be a fastened to the body with a paper fastener(s). This allows them to rotate and move around. Leaves can then be stuck down on top so then the leaf person can move.

Leaf man activities.  Design and technology activities for preschool.  Autumn leaf activities for children.

See my post on making a Leaf Person who can move.

What you need:

Transient Leaf Art – Autumn Activity for Children

Allow children to play with a range of leaves to make non-permanent or transient art. You may want to give children a prompt to help give them ideas. Providing them with mirror or photos of people’s faces can help them to make leaf faces. You could also show them photos of insects to make leaf insects or photos of aquarium or fish to make leaf fish. Then it’s their turn to explore the objects and make their own pieces of artwork!

What you need:

  • Collection of leaves, sticks, acorns or other natural & found objects
  • Board or mat to act as the children’s ‘canvas’

Autumn Leaf Rubbing Activity

This is a classic activity for children to enjoy exploring the details and features of leaves. It can really help to emphasize the size, the shape e.g. linear (ex eucalyptus leaf), palmately lobed (ex maple leaf), etc. the edging, known as margins e.g. serrated, smooth [entire], lobed, etc. and the placement of the midrib and veins (Britannica, 2019). Children don’t need to know all the technical terms but they may begin to notice the differences and similarities and may even begin to classify them.

I would recommend using leaves freshly fallen off the tree rather than dried out leaves that tend to crack and break. Place the leaf upside down (bottom up) on a flat and smooth surface and then place a piece of paper on top. Then rub the side of a crayon over the top of the paper where the leaf is. I’ve found that the rubbings come out best when the leaf is placed upside down as the leaf details come out much more clearly this way.

What you need:

  • Selection of leaves (preferably fairly freshly fallen of the tree)
  • Paper
  • Crayons with paper/label taken off so that they can be rubbed on their sides.

This activity is also fun for children in school. They can use this as an opportunity to identify and label part of the leaf if this is part of the curriculum.

Leaf Printing – Autumn Leaf Activity

This is very similar to the leave rubbing activity. I prefer it to leaf rubbing because I find the colours come out better and it is easier to make a more visually appealing piece of ‘art’. It is also great for emphasising the features and details of leaves (see leaf rubbing above).

See my full post on Leaf Printing .

The leaves need to be somewhat fresh. Dried out leaves won’t work as they need to be able to bend them. Brush on a very thin layer of paint if you want to be able to see the fine details of the leaf.

I also like the ‘void’ leaf that can be created when painting on the backs of the leaves for printing. This can be quite artistic looking as well. To do this you paint over the leaf on a piece of paper making sure that you cover the paper on the edges all the way around the leaf. Then when you lift up the leaf it’s blank where the leaf was and outlined by strokes of paint.

What you need:

  • Paper
  • Paint (Older & sensible children can use acrylic which looks really nice but poster paint also works well for younger children who might get it on themselves or other things)
  • Fresh leaves
  • Plate or tray to put paint on
  • Paint brushes

Finger Painting Autumn Tree

This doesn’t directly involve using leaves (although you could do this with leaf printing using small leaves). To begin, help the children think about the different colours of the leaves they have seen and found and then have them pick out colours to paint with. You can also give them the option of mixing up some of their own colours.  Mixing red and yellow together, for example, they can see what happens, and observe the different shades of orange. This can support children to think about the seasons and what trees and leaves may look like during different parts of the year.

Children can either paint on a tree trunk and branches or a cutout from coloured paper can be stuck on. Then children can decorate the tree with painted leaves (either with their fingers or q-tip/cotton buds).

What you need:

Leaf Tree Creation Autumn Activity

This is a variation of the Finger Painting Autumn Tree, but instead of using finger painting to make the leaves, children can use real leaves. Children (or you) can make tree trunk and branches out of brown paper or brown paint. Then children can glue small leaves that they have collected onto the branches. This is another art activity that gets children to think about the changes that happen to trees during the autumn (including changes in colour as well as leaves falling down).

What you need:

  • Paper
  • Coloured paper or paint (to make the tree stump and branches)
  • Collection of small dried (and preferably flattened/pressed) leaves
  • glue stick

Leaf Mobile – Hanging Leaf Decoration

A leaf mobile can be done in many different ways, with easier or more difficult versions, depending on different ages and abilities. 

See my post on Leaf Mobiles.

For children about 10 years and older, really fine string or fishing line can be used. This will promote continued fine motor skill development, hand eye coordination, and dexterity.  Using thicker string makes it slightly easier to do.

To make it easy enough for younger children to manage, have them glue leaves to cut out pieces of paper, hole punch and then tie a string through. Alternatively, with large leaves they can just hole punch part of the leaf to tie the string through (this will only work for thicker leaves). Either option makes it much easier for them to tie the string to the leaf piece and then the other end onto a branch. Again, this is a great way to encourage and support fine motor skills and scissor skills.

What you need:

Autumn Leaf Crown Activity

This is a fun art activity for young children. Collecting autumn leaves for the crown is a great way for children to begin to explore the seasons and think about the changes that take place during the autumn. Children can also choose and arrange leaves in a way that they find appealing. Leaves that are slightly bendy are preferable as dry and brittle ones will fall apart when children try to glue them down.

Autumn leaf activity for preschoolers. Leaf crown. Art activity with leaves.

Cut two long strips of paper (thick paper or card preferable). and then staple or glue two of the ends together so they make one long strip of paper. You will want to wrap it around the child’s head to determine how long it needs to be so that you can cut it down a bit before decorating. The children can then select and glue on their leaves. Encourage them to fill the strip of paper as much as possible. Then check again how big it needs to be before stapling or gluing the ends together to make the crown.

What you need:

  • Thick colour paper or card
  • Glue stick
  • Selection of leaves
  • Stapler (optional – to put together crown shape once the leaves are glued).

Autumn Object Counting

Children love collecting leaves, so when they begin to gather them, it is a perfect opportunity to get them counting. Children need lots of practice counting actual objects to help them understand the value of numbers. This can be done as an activity where children count the leaves and match them with the correct numeral or it can just be fun having your child pick up and count leaves, acorns, etc. as they walk along.

Counting Autumn Objects with Numicon

There are lots of wonderful things to be able to count in the autumn! There are lots of leaves, acorns, and seeds, that begin to fall off the trees. Children love picking them up and collecting them, so let them gather stuff for you! They can also count how many objects they collect.

Counting autumn objects with numicon. Using numicon to count acorns. Match the numeral with the numicon.

See my post on using Numicon to support counting Autumn Objects.

Animal Leaf Art Autumn Activity

This is another fun autumn activity for children. There are certian animals associated with autumn (depending on where you live) including squirrels, hedgehogs and turkeys. Making animals with leaves can be a fun art activity with children. The leaves can either be stuck down with glue or there is also the option of making them into non-permanent or transient works of art (mentioned previously). Making this type of artwork requires children to plan, to use fine motor skills, and to make decisions about how materials can be changed or combined to give different effects. In order to put their picture together, they will most likely have to count, compare lengths and use spacial awareness.

We made a porcupine or possibly a hedgehog and a turkey. In order to make the turkey, first we glued down the leaves to make the ‘feathers’. Next, we tried out different shapes and moved them around until we found where we wanted to glue them down. After that, we tried out different objects to make the turkey’s eyes, beak, ‘snood’ and legs. When we were happy with what we chose and their placement we glued them down.

What you need:

  • Paper (including coloured paper [you may want to provide some shapes already cut out for children if this would be too challenging for them]).
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Selection of Leaves, acorns, seeds and other natural things found in autumn.

Ordering Leaves or Sticks by Length

Using leaves and sticks is a great way to begin to introduce children to the measurement of length and distance. Children love playing with them and they can be easy to compare side by side.

Autumn leaf activity for children. Autumn leaf activity for preschoolers. Ordering leaves by size. Shortest to longest.

Please see my posts on Ordering Leaves by Length and Ordering Sticks by Length.

Sorting leaves with a Venn Diagram

Children can also begin to learn about sorting with a Venn Diagram using leaves. There are lots of different characteristics that children can sort by and a Venn Diagram allows them to see how sometimes categories overlap.

Autumn leaf activity with leaves. Venn Diagram to help sort and classify leaves.

Please see my full post on Sorting Leaves with a Venn Diagram.

Pictograph with Leaves – Data Handling

This is a great way to introduce children to data handling as its fun and they can move the objects around themselves. Pictographs are a simple visual representation of statistics/data on a chart.

Pictograph with leaves. Data handling for children. Using leaves to teach children data handling. Autumn leaf activity for children.

Please see my full post on making Pictographs with Leaves.

‘Odd One Out’- Leaf Science Starter

This activity is designed to do in school but there’s no reason you couldn’t do it at home. This science starter is a great way to begin a new topic on autumn or on plants and leaves. There is no one right answer, so it is a great way for children to compare and contrast, discuss their views and explain their opinions. Children will have different opinions and different reasons to justify their answers, so there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss and debate.

Please see my full post on Odd One Out – Leaf Science Starter (coming soon).

References

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (29 August 2019). Leaf, Plant Anatomy. https://www.britannica.com/science/leaf-plant-anatomy

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