Easy Fall Nature Projects to Do With Your KidsBy Tricia Drevets (tdrevets)
October 23, 2013
Why not take the next sunny fall afternoon to work on one of these easy ideas with your kids? The first step is the most fun one. Go for a fall scavenger hunt. Each of you needs to head out equipped with an eagle eye and a bag to hold your findings. Now find some trees! This might be the time to head to your local park or forest preserve, or it could be as simple as taking a walk around your neighborhood.
Look for leaves in different shapes, sizes and colors to put in your bags. As you go, talk with your kids about the different trees in your area and explain how leaves change color in fall because of shorter days, cooler temperatures and the resulting lack of chlorophyll in the leaves. Kids love to know that small amounts of those fall vibrant colors have been in those leaves all year long, but that we just can't see them when they are covered by green chlorophyll.
Encourage your kids to hunt for acorns - both full ones and just the tops - and pinecones in a variety of shapes and sizes as well.
When you get back home, arrange your findings on some sheets of newspaper. If any of your treasures are wet, allow time for them to air dry. Now's the time to decide which project you would like to do first. Here are a few ideas...
Fall Leaf Placemat
It can't really be fall around my house unless we have made some new leaf placemats. This is a great project for little hands, and you can use your placemats for regular meals or save them for Thanksgiving. What you need:
- Construction paper
- Clear Contact Paper (or wax paper and an iron)
- Dry colorful leaves of various shapes and sizes
Arrange your leaves on a sheet of construction paper in a pleasing design. Your kids can be as creative as they want with this, making anything from a leaf-tailed turkey, to a tree trunk with leaf branches, to a simple but pretty array of color.
Now carefully place your leaf picture on top of a sheet of contact paper or wax paper that is about a half-inch or so larger than your paper. Working slowly from one side to the other (maybe a job for Mom), carefully place another sheet on top of your leaf design. We have found a rolling pin works well to get the bubbles out that result. Trim the sides if desired, and you are done!
Pinecones can suggest many different creatures to imaginative children. Encourage them to hold their pinecones at different angles to discover what kind of creature they can create. A dragon? An owl? A dog? An elf? What you need:
- Pinecones in various sizes
- Acorn "caps'
- Craft glue or glue gun
- Pipe cleaners
- Googly eyes
Use the glue to attach eyes, jaunty acorn caps, and pipe cleaner arms and legs to your creature or person. Small leaves can be used as wings, feathers or skirts.
These little guys are a fun table or windowsill decoration for the season.
The lovely patterns inside an apple can make a great stamp for pictures or for wrapping paper. What you need:
- Construction paper or newsprint
- Paints (finger-paints work well)
- An old tablecloth or newspaper to work on
After spreading out a cover for your work space (this will get messy!), an adult should cut the apples in half. All shapes and sizes will work. Choose the sizes that work best for your artists' hands to hold. We pour a different color of finger-paint into separate paper plates. If you have a child who doesn't like to get paint on his or her hands (there's one in every crowd!), try sticking one end of the handle of a wooden clothespin into the peel side of the apple section to use as a no-mess holder.
Encourage your kids to pick up the apple carefully, place it down firmly on the paper, and then pick it up again without sliding it around. Let them practice a few times, and they will get the hang of it. Then let them create! Apples can become butterfly wings or a knight's armor and shield with a little inspiration.
You can even create some pretty gift wrap by stamping newsprint or butcher paper. These home-made designs are a wonderful way to wrap holiday gifts.
The intricate veins of leaves can make for some beautiful artwork. While we have used a variety of methods for making leaf prints, I think we have gotten the most satisfying results with stamp pads. What you need:
- Stamp pads (found in the office section of your store or even at the dollar store).
- White paper
- Leaves in various sizes and shapes
- Colored pencils
Place all or part of the leaf on the ink pad and, using the back of a spoon, press down gently to make sure the leaf is covered evenly with the ink. Gently lift the leaf and place it on your paper in the desired location. Use the spoon again to evenly transfer the inky leaf print. The larger the ink pad, the easier this project is for younger children.
Large leaves can make dramatic statements all by themselves and can be suitable for framing, or create an artistic arrangement of leaves in any way you wish. You can get stamp pads in a variety of ink colors or just use black ink for a bold black and white effect. Another idea is to use black ink and let your kids color in the designs.
Try experimenting with printing both the "fronts" and the "backs" of your leaves and talk about the similarities of the leaf's veins to those in your own hands.
Now how about a nice cup of apple cider while you admire both the handiwork of nature and of your children?
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