Let the Fun Fall with the Leaves

Published on October 16, 2015
Written by Ray Access

Seven autumn activities to do with your crafty kids

It wouldn’t be a real Appalachian autumn without watching children dive into a huge pile of fallen leaves. It’s a rite of passage, a way to tell time — you see who jumps right in, who wasn’t quite ready last year but now goes full-speed ahead, and who were master leaf-jumpers last year but might be a little too cool for it this year. But when the kids get tired of jumping, how do you keep them busy, and what do you do with all those leaves?

Children are naturally creative, and autumn is the perfect time to help them explore their creativity with materials found in nature. No natural material is more abundant in the fall than dried leaves. The variety of shapes and vibrant colors make fallen leaves the perfect starting point of fun fall arts and crafts.

1. Family Tree

This is a great project to do around Thanksgiving. Start with a large piece of poster board. Draw or paint a tree trunk up the middle, stopping about three-quarters of the way up. Add plenty of branches. Older kids might like to glue pieces of bark to the trunk to make it more realistic; younger kids can simply color it in with crayons. Glue pretty dried leaves to the branches, and write the name of a family member next to each leaf. Then have your kids write something they’re thankful for next to their names.

2. Leafy Suncatchers

Have children gather dried leaves in assorted shapes and colors. Smaller, less brittle leaves work best for this craft project. Give each child a rectangular piece of transparent, self-stick paper with the paper backing peeled back to expose the adhesive on half the sheet. Have the children stick leaves to the adhesive; they can create a random design or use the leaves to make a picture, such as a tree or a heart. Once all the leaves are in place, peel off the remaining backing and fold the clear paper in half, sealing the leaves inside. Hang the finished sheets in a window to catch the autumn sunlight.

3. Pretty Paperweights

This craft project comes in handy on those warm Appalachian fall days when the breeze is blowing through your wide-open windows. Gather a few medium-sized, smooth rocks and some small dried leaves. Brush the surface of the rocks with craft adhesive such as Mod Podge, and then stick a pretty leaf or two to each rock. Apply a thin layer of craft adhesive to the paperweight to seal and protect the leaves. Let dry completely.

4. Autumn Wreath

Many people decorate their front doors with festive fall wreaths, and kids often enjoy decorating their own space as well. It’s easy to create an autumn wreath with a paper plate, some craft glue, dried leaves, and accents such as ribbon, hemp twine, and acorns. Cut the center out of the paper plate, and glue leaves all around the remaining ring. Decorate the wreath with a ribbon or twine bow. Glue a few acorns to the bottom. Use twine and a thumbtack to attach it to your child’s bedroom door.

5. Leafy Turkeys

This is a fun twist on the “hand turkeys” almost everyone made in elementary school. Trace your child’s hand on a piece of cardboard or construction paper. This is the body of the turkey, with the fingers as tail feathers and the thumb as the head and neck. Have your child draw on feet, eyes, a beak and any other details he would like to add. Glue leaves to the fingers to imitate feathers. Long, slender leaves work best, but let your child use whichever ones he wants. Leafy turkeys aren’t picky about their feathers at all.

6. Mixed-Media Mosaic Art

Gather a variety of natural materials, including dried leaves, small stones, acorns, pieces of bark, and even discarded insect exoskeletons and snake skins. Use the found materials to create abstract patterns or simple scenes by gluing them to a sturdy piece of cardboard, the inside of a shoe box, or an old or disposable cookie sheet. Hot glue works best for this, so younger kids will need some assistance.

7. Puppet Show

Large, less-brittle leaves work best for this project. Have your child use white glue and string to create a mouth on each leaf. Glue googly eyes or small cardboard circles near the top of each leaf for eyes. Use bits of other leaves, paper, grass or other found materials to complete the faces. Glue a craft stick, popsicle stick, or small twig to the back of each leaf; hot glue works best, so make sure to help the younger kids. While the glue on the puppets is drying, the children can invent characters and create a story, and later tell the story using their leaf puppets. Who knows, their puppet show story just might be the next Appalachian folk tale, handed down from one autumn to the next until it becomes a part of history.