Preschooler Fun With Fall Leaves!

Preschooler Fun With Fall Leaves!

Fall is such a fun time to explore the world with little kids! You can teach them so much just by commenting out loud about the changes taking place in nature. Here are a few ideas for enjoying autumn with your little ones while boosting their knowledge of the world!

A Good Leaf Read...

Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro is an informative concept book that explains what happens to leaves in autumn as they change colors and then separate from the tree. Maestro includes simple instructions for making a leaf rubbing and for pressing leaves, as well as suggestions for places to visit where the fall foliage is special. Read the story and then go for a Leaf Walk.

Go On A Leaf Walk!

Take a walk on a crisp fall day to see all of the wondrous colors of the season captured in fall foliage. Use this opportunity to introduce words and terms your children may have never heard before - like "fall foliage," "Autumn," and the names of various trees you see - like elm, maple, birch, oak, etc. (Bring along a pocket field guide to help you identify different trees. You can also bring leaves home and identify them using this free leaf identification guide.) 

Talk about the colors you see. Leaves contain a pallet of color at this time of year including gold, yellow, orange, red, burgundy, brown, and green in all kinds of combinations and patterns. Your children may ask why the leaves turn color. Here's a very simple explanation - use it in a way that makes sense for your particular child:

Leaves always have a variety of colors in them, but the colors are hidden in the spring and summer by green "cholorphyll." It's a substance inside the leaves and it not only hides all of the other colors except green, it also helps turn sunlight into food for the leaves. When fall comes, there is less sunshine during the day and it gets cooler. The green chlorophyll moves away from the leaves back into the branches of the tree. When that happens we are able to see the yellow, orange, and red colors or "pigments" that were always there, hiding in the leaf. Rain, wind, temperature and the amount of natural sugar in the leaves can make the colors brighter too.

Don't be afraid to provide your children with these kinds of explanations. They may not fully grasp what you are saying, but they are learning new words and ideas. It could lead to a hundred other questions and discussions that improves their language comprehension, and helps them to understand how things work in their world.

Talk about and compare the different shapes and sizes of the leaves. If you have a large magnifying glass, let the kids peak through it to see the veins and structure of the leaves. All of this encourages young children's classification and sorting skills that are so important in building a foundation for math and science skills. Here are some other ideas to try on your walk:

  • Match leaves you find on the ground to the trees they came from. If you find leaves on the ground that don't match the leaves in the trees nearby, ask your child how the "strange" leaf got here. I bet your child will generate some great creative story ideas! Talk about how the wind blows the leaves from one section of the neighborhood or park to another.
  • Encourage your child to step on dead brown leaves and listen to their crunchy sound.
  • Scoop a bunch of leaves into a pile and jump in them.
  • Toss a bunch of leaves in the air and try to catch them as they float to the ground.
  • Take along a bag to collect fallen leaves and other natural treasures like acorns, nuts and seed pods that you find on the ground. When you get home, sort the leaves according to shape, size, kind, and color and talk about the differences you see.

Last but not least... HAVE FUN!!

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