As you may know, I run a nature program for young children. This week’s topic was leaves and I wanted to share with you what we did because it illustrates how I combine storytelling, nature exploration and art & craft activities to create a rich, yet balanced experience for the children.
Come along and take a peak into the class. You will get a feel for how it all comes together and find out how to create a similar experience for your child at home.
I began the class by telling a story about a little green leaf that was visited by Jack Frost night after night. His ice crystals made the leaf shiver and it had to put on warmer and warmer coats. First yellow, then orange and finally red. In the end the leaf fell down and, along with other leaves, created a nice warm leaf blanket that kept the roots and earthworms warm all winter long.
After the story, I challenged the children to find as many different leaves as possible. We talked about the various shapes and colors, and which tree they are from. I handed each child a clipboard and we taped the leaves on with the veins facing up.
Leaf Rubbings with Watercolors
Next, I placed card stock on top of my leaves. I rubbed over the entire paper with a red crayon and the children watched as the leaf veins and outlines appeared. Some were mesmerized and asked how the leaves showed up on the paper. Others had done leaf rubbings before and were excited to explain the process. And then everyone eagerly rubbed over their own leaves. (My 3-year old did this orange leaf rubbing.)
We then covered the entire paper with a thin layer of paint. Again, the children were amazed that they could still see the leaves after painting over them and watched closely as the wet paint rolled off the waxy crayon marks on the paper.
The goal of this project was not to create a masterpiece but rather to enjoy and explore the process. It was about experimenting with the various materials. This kind of art activity is called process art. It’s perfect for toddlers and preschoolers that are naturally all about experimenting. And it’s easy for us moms because it doesn’t require much preparation.
Playing with Leaves
While their painted leaf blankets dried in the sun, everyone gathered baskets full of leaves, which we unloaded on top of a parachute. As we all held on to the parachute I quietly said that the wind began to blow slowly and gently lifted the parachute up at the same time. The children followed my lead. Then the wind grew stronger (and so did our parachute movements) and before we knew it we had a full blown storm and leaves were flying high up into the air and all around us. Don’t have a parachute? Rake them into a pile and jump in. Throw the leaves into the air. Run through them.
At the end of class, we all sat down at our picnic table. I passed out a picture with roots and earthworms and gave simple step-by-step instructions on how to draw a leaf (included in the October pack). And before I knew it, everyone was drawing leaves twirling through the air and falling down to make a leaf blanket.
Giving children simple instructions on how to draw something and then providing them with a starting point for drawing is a combination that works really well. Some will draw one or two leaves and then color the rest of the picture. Others draw as many leaves as they can fit. And some children draw the leaves, add other elements, such as squirrels carrying the leaves, and come up with their own story as you can see in the drawing pictured.
I did all the activities within an hour but I would recommend spreading them out over an entire day or even a week. It gives your child more time to play around, experiment and process the information. That also gives you more opportunities to retell the story and we all know that repetition is something all young children crave.
The Happy Ending
On our way back from school this morning, my 3-year old found a red leaf on the ground and said “Look mama, Jack Frost came last night and the leaf put on its red jacket. And then it fell down.”
Moments filled with joy and wonder.
Moments that create a deep connection with nature.
Moments that spark their creativity and imagination.
Ready to inspire your child and add magical moments to their lives?
Use this leaf story and the activities or get your copy of the Sophie & Max October pack, filled with more autumn stories and activities to get your started. (Grown-ups need a starting point just like our children.)