By Jennifer Halter
October is here and that means cooler temps and more opportunities to enjoy all the beautiful sights
and sounds of the new season. Northern Viriginia offers no shortage of fabulous fall foliage to admire during this time. As a family, we try to explore the outdoors as much as possible before the cold winter months have us wanting to hibernate. One of our favorite things to do has always been to collect leaves of various shapes, sizes and colors and use them for a variety of fun and educational activities. Here are a few that you can try:
A great way to get kids involved with collecting leaves is by using their findings to create leaf rubbings. Have the children pick out leaves, including freshly fallen leaves and ones that may be a bit more crunchy and curly. Leaf color doesn’t matter for this project. Place the leaf on a hard surface with the vein side up and cover with a sheet of paper. Grab some crayons (old, broken ones will work great for this!) and remove the wrapper. Lay the crayon flat on its side and rub gently over the paper with the leaf underneath. The leaf shape will start to appear as you work the crayon around on the paper.
This is an easy way to create decorations that can be displayed around your home without dealing with any mess from drying leaves. Collect dry leaves (avoid collecting after rain or early in the morning when dew has built up on them). Color does matter for this activity, so have children choose their favorites. Place your leaves between two pieces of waxed paper and place on an ironing board with a towel on top (Parental supervision is strongly recommended for this project).
Use an iron on a medium heat setting to press over your leaves to seal the waxed paper. This should only take about 4–5 seconds, but it is recommended that you check your leaves before you finish ironing to ensure the wax sealed properly. Repeat ironing if necessary. Allow the leaves to cool completely before cutting them out, making sure you leave a bit of an edge around the leaf to keep it sealed in the waxed paper. Leaves can be used for anything from window decorations to a fun mobile created with string.
Nature scavenger hunt
Do your children like to play I-Spy? Create your own nature version to see who can find items based on clues you give. You don’t have to stick to just leaves for this game. You can include other items, such as rocks, tree branches or even insects that you may encounter on your outdoor adventure. For younger children, you can make this game a bit easier by having them find leaves based on descriptions you give like a yellow leaf, a pointy leaf, a leaf with red and yellow, etc.
Encourage children to keep a leaf journal where they can write or draw about leaves that they find. They can share where and how they found each leaf, what the weather was like the day it was found and the texture and color of the leaf. They can then tape or glue the leaf into their notebooks or sketchpads as a keepsake of the season.
Tree color progression
This one is a family favorite. Take a photo of a tree each day of the season as the colors of the leaves change. You can use a digital camera or smartphone for this. Save all of the photos in a file and create a slideshow to watch the progression of the leaves and how they change in color and eventually fall to the ground. Tip: Be sure to take your photos in the same spot each day.
Jennifer Halter ([email protected]) is the founder of Macaroni Kid in Woodbridge and Gainesville.