Fall is a great time to study nature. The cooler weather and the beautiful trees just make us want to get outside for a nature walk. It is always fun to collect leaves on these nature walks. Here are some ideas to get the most learning out of your leaf collection so that you will be able to dedicate more of your time to it. There is a FREE booklet you can download at the end to teach your children all about why leaves change color and fall.
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Learn Math with Leaves
Counting: Nature walks are great for children who are still working on their counting skills. Not only can children count leaves in the fall, but there are also pine cones and acorns to count. Children can compare how many of each group they have and talk about which group has more or less. Children can also place leaves they have collected in a ten frame grid if this is something they are working on in math.
Sorting leaves: Younger children can sort by color and/or size. Older children can look for the finer details of shape or pattern of veins and sort leaves accordingly.
Graphing: Once children have their leaves sorted, they can use them to create a bar or pie graph. Bar graphs are great for younger children working on counting, while pie graphs are good for older children learning fractions and percentages. Check out Teaching Graphing in Your Homeschool to learn more about graphing and download free templates or link to online graphing tools.
Measuring leaves: Break out a ruler and measure the leaves. Talk about length vs. width. Line leaves up from smallest to largest, longest to shortest, widest to narrowest. This activity targets a lot of math based descriptive vocabulary along with measuring.
Story problems: Have your children use the leaves and anything else you collect as manipulatives to solve story problems. An example of a story problem: “(child’s name) collected 4 red leaves and 5 yellow leaves. How many leaves did (child’s name) collect all together?” or “(child’s name) collected 7 leaves and gave 4 to his sister. How many leaves does he have left?” Or for a little bit older child: “(child’s name) collected 8 leaves and gave half to his sister. How many leaves does he have left?” Part-part-whole circle sets are great to use during story problems.
Practice Writing with Leaves
Encourage your children to lay out what they collected and write a short paragraph using lots of descriptive words. You could give the introductory prompt of “I went on a nature walk today. I found…..”. Encourage them to think about size, shape, color, texture, smell, and sound.
For an older or more creative children, encourage them to think about personifying (giving people like characteristics to) the leaves and writing a creative paragraph or poem. You could read them these poems about leaves from the Scholastic website to get them started. After they write their piece, encourage them to illustrate it.
Leaf rubbings: A fun activity for all ages is to place a blank white paper over a leaf and rub the side of a crayon over it to reveal the edges, veins and stem of the leaf. Doing this multiple times with different leaves and colors can create a fun collage.
Tracing leaves: Having children trace leaves focuses them on the different shaped edges leaves from different trees have. Encouraging them to copy the vein pattern onto the traced leaf is another great activity.
Drawing leaves: Older children can draw the leaves paying attention to the shape of the edges as well as the vein pattern. This will increase their observation skills and allow them to see the finer differences between leaves, which will help with tree identification.
The Science of Leaves
Tree identification: The above activities have hopefully directed your children’s attention to the finer details of the leaves and they are ready to use the leaves to identify which tree they came from. The Trees, Leaves, and Bark Take Along Guide is our favorite book to use because it makes identification simple and easy. If the leaves came from trees near your home, you can revisit the trees to use their bark to help identify the trees or confirm the identification your children have made.
Why do leaves change color and fall?: This is a question most children will ask at some point (or many points!) during the fall. Download our free booklet below that will walk them step-by-step through the answers to these questions. Pictures to color throughout the booklet will keep younger children engaged even if they don’t really understand the science, yet.
How do you learn with leaves in the fall? Comment below with your ideas!