Fall is a time to marvel. For one glorious season, deep colors burst into the world, announcing their beauty to anyone who is paying attention. This dramatic change attracts young children's alert gaze. Join in their sense of wonder by looking with them. Slow down, look up, and start collecting leaves!
These temporary gifts of nature are everywhere at this time of year. Sometimes, a fallen leaf can be so robust in color and perfect in shape that I feel like I am stealing it from a neighbor's lawn. I almost feel compelled to make sure that no one else wants it before picking it up to bring to my classroom. When you start looking, as if through a child's eyes, neighborhood leaves reveal themselves to anyone who wants to see.
There are many creative ways to walk among the changing leaves with young children. Early autumn strolls offer simple joys with many new sights and sounds to notice. As the season progresses, try bringing new intentions into your walks. Vary your focus. Each activity offers a new way to connect with your young child through nature:
1) Photos Over Time Pick a tree that your child loves and return to the same spot at the same time each day. Note the changes. Ask your child to take a daily photo. Line up the printed pictures in a chronological series as you go to see the changes over time.
2) Japanese Leaf Design Bring a container and collect a full variety of leaves (about ten of each). Look for different colors, shapes, and sizes. When you are beneath a tree collecting its fallen leaves, look up at the ones still attached. Name it if your child is interested. Bring your leaves home, sort them, and try your hand at Japanese leaf design. These exquisite arrangements have recently become popular in Japan. Build your own design as you might a jigsaw puzzle, trying to fit one leaf at a time in a chosen pattern. Try monochrome and mixed color designs, like the ones below.
If you are working outside, the wind will introduce a time element: Can you finish before the wind blows it away? These designs are as ephemeral as fall itself! They reign for the moment, like a tower made of blocks, but are meant to be taken apart and reassembled in new ways. Keep your leaves stacked by type so you can easily start again. Most leaves last indoors for a few days. (Of course you can always collect more!) Take photos!