By Kara Pleasants
Before the leaves completely disappear from the trees and winter is upon us, one of my favorite activities, which has become an annual tradition that I enjoy with my daughters, is making leaf imprints.
You will need:
- Old crayons
- Yarn or twine (optional)
- Tape (optional)
First, go outside to collect the leaves (this is my favorite part!). Look for leaves that are freshly fallen - dry and brittle leaves will disintegrate under pressure, and wet leaves are just a sloppy mess. Leaves that are newer and brightly colored are ideal.
I like to find a variety of sizes and types of leaves. We take time to identify the types of tree, and often find other autumn treasures like nuts and pinecones fallen on the ground with the leaves (these can be collected for another craft). It’s okay if you detour to crunch the leaves underfoot or hop in a leaf pile. Take your time!
When you return inside with your bundle of leaves, clear a space on the table and put them in the middle. Then, find lightweight paper and old crayons of many different colors. I like to cut standard printer paper into four rectangles and make small cards out of the leaf imprints. You will need to peel the paper off of your old crayons - your toddler will be a happy participant in this part of the activity, even if they resist the rest. Toddlers are experts at peeling paper off of crayons.
Once you have the now-naked crayons ready, you can start making the leaf imprint. Choose a color and a leaf. Any color will do - you might want to match the leaf imprint color to the leaf itself. Red maples are reds and pinks; sweet birch leaves are golden; oak trees are brilliant orange. Often, I gravitate towards unusual shades for my leaf imprints: an aqua blue or a pastel pink.
Place the smooth part of the leaf face down on the table, with the ribbed veins facing up. Place the paper overtop of the leaf and use one hand to hold the paper firmly in place so that the leaf doesn’t move. Hold the crayon horizontally and use the flat side of the crayon (not the point) to gently rub the color onto the page. Repeat the motion over until you like the look of the outline of your leaf.
Usually, it takes me a few tries to get the exact color and outline that I want for my leaf. Some crayon colors work better than others and it’s just trial and error. Keep going! Play with the texture and color.
Some crayon colors work better than others and it’s just trial and error. Keep going!
After you have created a stack of leaf imprints, you can use them in several different ways! One year, we used twine and decorative tape to create a banner. We simple spaced the leaf imprints out evenly along the twine, and I used pretty red decorative tape to fasten them. Another year, we used the pictures as thank you cards that we sent out to friends and family at Thanksgiving.
Each leaf is different, and so every year the craft is different. We always find new treasures and play with new colors.
About the author: Kara is a teacher, author, and mother of two vivacious daughters. A Maryland native, she and her husband are restoring an 18th-century farm in Susquehanna State Park. Her writing centers on literature, art, nature, disability, and working parenthood.
Photo credit: iStock.com/Mkovalevskaya