(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 4, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Gathering Leaves
by Robert Frost

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.
I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.
But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.
I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?
Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.
Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop?

Image Image

Sweet Gum Leaves

Glittered Silk Leaves

One of the most enjoyable times of year for me is autumn. The air is crisp, the sun less intense, and there is a sense of harmony in the gentle rustle of the trees. I marvel at the many vibrant colors which abound in the fall. And I enjoy watching my children rake the colorful leaves into piles and leap into them like frogs on a mission. I set aside time each year to roam the gardens and wooded acres of our farm to collect items with my children before November arrives with its cold winds and pearly hoarfrost to dry up the fall treasures. Not only is it an adventure to search for fall's bounty, it is also an opportunity to make memories with my children.

An autumn treasure hunt is also a great way to teach children about tree identification. One of my favorite ways to do this is by making a leaf collection book. This is simply a book of pages, you put together, which identify trees according to the leaves you collect. My children like to create crafts from the leaves and other treasures we discover on our autumn treasure hunt as well.
To prepare the leaves you collect, clean away dirt from them by gently wiping them off. Air-dry and press the leaves between the pages of a book. The leaves can also be ironed between two sheets of wax paper. Other objects should be cleaned with gentle care and rested on a paper towel to air-dry before use.

Some suggested fall crafts are listed below. In several of the crafts purchased silk leaves and other artificial fall objects can be substituted for the collected items.


Leaf Raking

Craft Suggestions

Leaf Rubbings- Use crayons to make leaf rubbings by placing a leaf beneath a blank sheet of paper. Color over the leaf in long, gentle strokes and your leaf will appear on the paper.

Fall Fairy- Girls love to dress up as fairies. Create a fall fairy wand from a stick or wooden dowel, a few leaves as toppers and some ribbon. Make a crown of leaves by gluing leaves together and arranging in a circle to fit the child's head.

Autumn Wreath- Create a fall wreath by gluing the leaves and other fall items you collected onto a circle cut from cardboard, a paper plate or a store-bought straw wreath base. If the wreath is to be used for Thanksgiving Day attach pilgrims or a turkey to it.

Autumn Mobile- Using the items you found, create a mobile. Simply attach string to the items. Tie the items to a distinctive tree branch and hang it somewhere. The children will go back time and again to point out all the treasures they discovered on their treasure hunt.

Halloween Mobile- Add creepy spiders and other Halloween items to the autumn mobile and suspend it from the porch roof as a decoration for Halloween night.

Make a scarecrow- You can create a scarecrow from old overhauls and boots. Use the leaves you raked from your yard to stuff the scarecrow. Find two acorns and add these for eyes. Other fall items can be utilized as well. Use your imagination and have fun creating the scarecrow.

Create a Centerpiece- Make a table centerpiece from the items you collect.

Stained Glass Leaves- Make faux stained glass from the colorful leaves you've collected by laminating them in clear contact paper and taping them to a the window.

Name that Item Game- Fill a shoebox with the items you have collected. Blindfold the children and have them draw an item from the box. Allow them time to feel it, and then have them identify the item. To spice up the game throw in a few silly items such as Barbie doll shoes or uncooked macaroni to mystify the children. Set a kitchen timer so children have only a moment of time to name that item.

Pinecone Bird feeders- This is a craft from way back. Use all those pinecones as bird feeders. Mix peanut butter and bird seeds together. Slather the mixture onto the pinecones. Hang the cones from a tree branch and enjoy watching the birds eat. (Be aware that some children are allergic to peanuts)

Thanksgiving Place Card Holders- Make unique place card holders by writing your guest's name on a card with a calligraphy pen and hot-gluing the card onto some of the items you collected. A pinecone with leafs glued to it is a great base for place cards. Decorate the found items with paint or glitter before attaching the place card.

Make a String of Leaves- Tie dried, silk or paper leaves to string and swag the string along the ceiling, a mantel or stair banister.

Fall Foliage Costume- Don a red, brown or black sweat suit. Pin leaves and other fall items to the sweats. Silk leaves work best for this project.

Leaf Mask- Glue leafs to a basic mask form and decorate it. Another way to make a leaf mask is by enlarging a leaf pattern, painting it and decorating it with glitter. Cut cord and attach it to the mask. Slip the mask over the child's head when finished.


Leaf Mask

Ode to Autumn
by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

The autumn season is an exciting time for children. Why not enjoy it with them? Take them on an autumn treasure hunt? You may discover the best treasure of all; a moment of happiness with your children.

Useful Links
PlantFiles: The Dave's Garden plants database
Dave's Garden Crafts and Decorating Discussion Forum
Autumn Themed Crafts

Photo Credits
My gardens

Image Pleasant gardening