Today’s guest post is by Monica Wiedel-Lubinski. Monica, program director of The Nature Place at Irvine, contributes a monthly article to (cool) progeny that help you explore nature with your tots! Check out her previous posts on nature play with your little one and growing respect right from the start. We love Monica’s ideas for simple things to do with young kids that expose them to natural wonders!

_ _ _
Now that the warm, sunny days of summer have turned to the cool, breezy days of autumn, take advantage of plentiful leaves! The colorful tree treasures are a great incentive to venture out for fresh air and marvel at the season’s beauty. Here are 12 leafy ideas to try with your little one:

OUTDOOR EXPLORATION

Head’s up.
Beautiful trees are easy to spot in the distance, but we often forget to gaze up. Take in the view looking directly up at the tree top from the trunk. How tall is the tree? Are there any exposed nests? Which branches have the most leaves? Which side of the tree is the sunlight shining on?

A tisket, a tasket. Take a basket outside to gather leaves during an autumn stroll. Try sorting leaves into colors, shapes, or by size. You can encourage counting skills, too.

Leaf races. Go out on a windy day, armed with a sharpie. Mark leaves for yourself and your child with words that describe each leaf (EX. fire red or sunny yellow). When the wind picks up, let your leaves race and soar! Chase the leaves and measure how far they travel. Race again and again!

Rake in the gold
. Experience the joy of jumping in a pile of leaves together. Invite your child to help you rake the yard and reward her with a load of leafy fun.

Good scents
. Fall has a smell all its own. Notice the scents of the leaves, trees, and crisp air.

Rainbow Snakes
. Line up leaves to create giant rainbow snakes. Where is your snake going? Will it still be in the same place tomorrow?

What’s eating you?
Search for leaves that have been nibbled by tiny animals. Look closely at fallen leaves for small creatures seeking shelter (ants, millipedes, worms, slugs, salamanders, and snails).

Musical leaves
. Collect crinkly leaves and stow them in an empty oatmeal can, margarine tub, or cereal box. Experiment with different sounds in different containers. Shake, rattle, and roll your new instruments! When your finished, return the leaves back to nature.

INDOOR ACTIVITIES

Watercolor Leaves. Let nature inspire your tot! Use washable markers to trace around the edges of your leaves on thick tag board or watercolor paper. Use watercolors to paint in the leaf shapes and background. The washable markers will fade and blend with the paint, making for a dreamy leaf picture.

Metallic leaves. Add some pizzazz to fallen leaves by painting them with metallic acrylic craft paint. The leaves can be tucked into a grapevine wreath or strewn along ribbon as festive garland.

Pressed Leaves. Find a heavy book (telephone book works great) and press leaves between the pages. Allow the leaves to become dry and flattened (2-3 weeks). Use them for animal leaf collages or leaf letter monograms.

Tree Top Mobile. This floating mobile is a nifty memento of fall. You will need: crochet hoop, ribbon, fishing line, leaves, chunky beads. Thread leaves and beads onto various lengths of fishing line, making certain that the beads cannot come loose. Tie the fishing line lengths to the inner hoop. Tighten outer hoop once complete. Tie a final length of fishing line to hang the mobile (make adjustments so the mobile is balanced in the center). Embellish with ribbon around the rim of the hoop.