Simple Fall family field trip
by Kathy Ross
for Real Families, Real Fun
risp fall days are the perfect time to get out with the family for a "leaf hunt." Whether you opt for a hike in a nearby woods, a stroll around the block, or just some time in your own backyard, gather up some of nature's bounty to use for these fun, fall activities. A Nebraska mom said, "Once we were out, the boys (9 and 11) didn't want it to end. It was a great time to talk about 'things' and to enjoy the crisp weather and leaves underfoot. We took turns describing the sound of the leaves underfoot. Potato-chip crunch and cellophane were two."
Make sure that everyone has a collection bag in which to carry leaves and other natural treasures home. Brown lunch bags work well for this. If your outing will involve more than one child, putting names on the bags is a good idea. Let the children decorate the bags with crayons or markers if time permits.
If you are collecting with a very young child, you will need to supervise closely to be sure the treasures end up in the collection bag and not in the mouth. And tell them to ask you first if it's okay before they pick up anything that is not a leaf.
"We had to keep a close eye on Dad," quipped Mom Peggy LaClair. "because he kept putting berries in his mouth. I'm glad the kids (Ryan, 12, Rachel, 9 and Christine, 5) know not to do that!"
Leaf Sort--for the Very Young
Scoop up a pile of leaves. Ask your child to help you find a leaf that is big and red, a leaf that is the same as the leaf you are holding, all the yellow leaves, a small leaf, and so on. You also can show your child how to sort the leaves by size, shape, color, or kind.
Leafy Scavenger Hunt
Go out ahead of time and pick up a leaf from several different kinds of trees in your yard or along your intended route. Enlist the help of older kids in the family in preparing this game for the younger ones.
You can enjoy this activity by making a book of the leaves you collected or by just holding up leaves from a variety of different trees and asking who can find more leaves like them. If you decide to make a book, trace the shape of each different kind of leaf on the top of a sheet of white paper, each leaf on a separate sheet of paper. Staple the set of papers together to make a book, with the leaf outlines stacked in the order of appearance along the route.
Starting on the first page, ask the kids to find a leaf to match the shape of the leaf in the book. When they each find one, ask them to look up and decide which tree it came from. Ask if anyone knows the name of the tree. As each leaf shape is discovered, it can be placed in the collection bag to be taken home. "The kids could identify more leaves than I could!" said Tricia S.
Extra Activity: Each leaf can be taped on the correct page of the book and labeled with the name of the tree it came from. Weighting the completed pages of the leaf book under something heavy for a few days will help the leaves to dry flat. Covering the leaves with strips of clear packing tape will help to preserve them. Packing tape can be a bit unruly so let an adult do this part. A decorated, construction paper cover can be added.
Have the children collect several pairs of matching leaves, and use them to make a memory game. They will need at least ten different pairs to make a game. The pairs of leaves do not all have to be from different trees; their differences can be color and size. For example, you can have a pair of small maple leaves and a pair of large ones, or a pair of red leaves and a pair of yellow ones.
Press the leaves between the pages of an old phone book and weight it down with additional heavy books for a week. Cut twenty 5-inch squares from poster board to make the playing cards. Attach a leaf to each card using a small loop of tape rolled inside out. Cover the leaf side of each card with clear contact paper or strips of packing tape.
To play, put all the cards face down on the floor. Take turns turning two cards over looking for a match. If a player gets a match, he gets to keep the pair and take another turn. Play until all the cards have been matched.
Additional cards can be added to the game to increase the difficulty and extend the playing time. These cards can be used with very young children, too.
Press some tiny leaves in between the pages of a phone book until they are dry. Stick them along a 6-inch strip of packing tape, taped at each end to a non-porous surface such as a counter. Cover the leaves with a second piece of tape. Trim the sides, and round the corners of the strip at each end. Punch a hole in the bottom of the strip and tie a 10-inch piece of thin ribbon through it. This makes a great gift!
Mom Tricia S. said, "We made our own variation of the bookmarks by taking two clear pieces of contact paper and pressing smaller leaves between the sheets." Love these creative parents!
Nature has many gifts to offer in the fall so you probably will come home with more than leaves in the collection bags. To display such extra treasures as nuts, berries, small pebbles and feathers, create a nature collage. Paint the "eating" side of a heavy paper plate a bright color and let it dry. The items can be glued in a pleasing arrangement on the plate. Cover the display with plastic wrap secured with tape at the back of the plate. Punch a hole in the top of the plate and string a piece of ribbon or yarn through the hole. Tie the two ends together to make a hanger for the project. Nice!
TAKE IT FROM ME
""For the nature collage, we also used tabs from soda cans and glue-gunned them to the back of the hanging."
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