Autumn is upon us and the leaves, they are a-changing.
As summer winds down, the days get shorter and shorter, the weather starts to cool down, and, right on cue, the deciduous trees begin to ready themselves for winter and their leaves begin to work their magic. It’s really quite spectacular, and with all the summer rain we’ve had, it’s expected to be breathtaking.
Each fall, kids and grownups alike marvel at the colors, as if they’d never seen them before. “Ooooh. There’s a red leaf!” “Look! I found a yellow leaf!” “This leaf is three colors – green, red, and orange!” The season’s bounty and brilliance might even tempt you to save some fallen leaves for scrapbooks and albums – and, of course, create fall art projects with the little ones.Remember when you were a kid or your kids were kids — and the delight of creating beautifully colored window hangings, placemats, and other decorations by pressing fall leaves between waxed paper? Like stained-glass, the light shines through in a rainbow of hues. Some things are just too good to forget, and this is one fall craft activity that must be passed on to the next generation! (Keep reading. The instructions for simple and fun pressed leaf craft projects follows the “how and why” of leaves changing colors.)
Do you know how and why the leaves begin to bronze and their vibrant colors delight the eye with a cacophony of color? Be at the ready with the answer when your grandchildren want to know…and they always do.
The simple answer is: Photosynthesis (which means “putting together with light.”) (Great word! Say it out loud a few times. It just rolls off the tongue.)
Anyhow, plants take in water through their roots, carbon dioxide from the air, and use sunlight to turn the water and carbon dioxide into glucose, a kind of sugar, which they use as food for energy to grow. The way they turn water and carbon dioxide into sugar is called photosynthesis. A chemical, chlorophyll, helps make photosynthesis happen. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color.
The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the green colors fades away, the leaves appear to turn yellow and orange. These colors have been in the leaves all along, but have been covered up by the green chlorophyll. The bright reds and purples you see in leaves are made when the glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and cool autumn nights cause the leaves to turn the glucose into a red color.
There. Now you know. And you also know how much fun it is for kids to make craft projects with their grandparents. Pressing leaves between wax paper captures and preserves the color. Use this method as a finished project or to make a mobile, sun catcher, placemat, greeting cards, wrapping paper, and more. With nature’s help and a little imagination, there’s no end to the fun you can share with your grandchildren.
Fall Craft Project: using colorful fall leaves preserved with waxed paper
What you’ll need:
- 2 Paper towels or old cloth to protect your iron and ironing board
- 2 Sheets of wax paper, sized to accommodate your leaf or place mat size for multiple leaves
- Scissors (optional)
- Colorful leaves
- Waxed paper, for pressing
- Iron and ironing board or safe ironing surface
- Ribbon or string (for mobile)
- Clear tape (for sun catcher)
How to make a mobile, suncatcher, placemat, etc.:
- Collect leaves. Autumn is a wonderful time to collect leaves. Take a walk with your grandchildren and collect a variety of different leaves – look for different colors, sizes, and shapes. Take along a bag or box to hold the leaves.
- Prepare leaves. Select the one(s) you want to use and gently wash them and pat dry.
- Prepare work surface. Cover your ironing board with paper towels or an old cloth to protect it.
- Preserving the leaves. Cut the wax paper to the size of the project you want to make (both sheets should be the same size).
- (Adults only, please.) Preheat your iron to medium setting (no steam).
- Place one sheet of wax paper on the paper towel or cloth, shiny side up.
- Arrange your leaf/leaves on the wax paper. If you put the leaves face down, they seem to stay in place better.
- Place the second sheet of wax paper on top of the leaf/leaves, shiny side down.
- Cover the leaf/leaves with the second piece of paper towel or old cloth.
- Iron slowly and smoothly on the paper towel – don’t wiggle the iron. The heat from the iron will seal the two sheets of wax paper together, with the leaves inside. Make sure it is not melting or sticking to anything except the other piece of wax paper you’re trying to fuse it to. (Caution: The leaf sandwich will be hot. Don’t let the kids touch it.)
- Let cool.
- Unplug the iron when through, and put it someplace safe to cool.
- Once the leaves are cool, you can trim around the edges of the waxed paper (but not too close to the leaves or the waxed seal will break.)
- For mobile or wall hanging: punch a hole or holes in the pressed leaves depending on how you want them to hang. Use ribbon or string and hang it on a thumbtack or nail. Hang with ribbon or string.
- Tape to window to make a sun catcher.
Other projects: make a placemat; add to folded paper to make greeting cards; place in an album or scrapbook (older children can then try to identify each different leaf by looking online or going to the library and finding a leaf identifying book)
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