In Australia, Autumn is from March to May. This cooler season between Summer and Winter is referred to as Fall in America and, being in the Northern Hemisphere, occurs from September to November.
Wherever you are, this is a colourful time when the leaves on the deciduous trees turn from green to golden yellow, shades of red or orange creating wonderful displays - and piles of leaves to play in. These are some activities I like to engage kids in at this time after exploring the yard.
1. Studying leaves
As the weather gets colder and there is less sunlight, some plants stop making food to grow and become dormant - a bit like how bears hibernate. When there is no food being produced, there is no chlorophyll which gives them their green colour. The red, yellow, orange and brown pigments dominate. Trees draw out the nutrients they need and then let the leaves go.
The autumn leaves on the ground dry out and can be quite brittle, swirling and dancing as the wind picks them up. Feeling them, looking closely at their structure and comparing leaves from deciduous and evergreen trees reveals some common elements but also huge diversity: the wide blade area with its midrib and veins and usually a stalk that attaches the leaf to the stem of the plant (more details). See how many leaves of different shapes and sizes your children can be found in the backyard or local park.
2. Collecting leaves and creating rubbings
Consider the thickness and suppleness of each leaf. This activity works well with all shapes and sizes of leaves but particularly with those that have distinctive edges and veins, and can be laid flat. Leaves which have dried out too much or curled will not be as effective. It may also be fun to include leaves from evergreen trees.
Place them under a piece of paper. Use autumn coloured crayons with the outside paper removed. With the crayon held flat, not on its end, shade gently and lightly over where the leaf is hidden. The outline and any raised areas will show up in the shading. This can be done randomly on the paper or perhaps on further attempts there can be a plan or design to how the leaves underneath are laid out. Or with each rubbing, place the leaf and paper in a good position relative to what has already been created.
3. Glueing together to make pictures
The shape of some leaves lend themselves to be used as a specific object in a picture. For example, does it look like a boat, a tree, a pole, hands or perhaps hair? Other elements from the garden can be added too like grass or little twigs, small nuts or flowers. The whole creation could become even more three dimensional with larger nuts and seed pods as little animals or imaginary creatures. The picture becomes a diorama.
4. Adding leaves to create an animal or person
Cutting out the shape of, say, an echidna or porcupine using strong paper, cardboard or even paper plates provides a sturdy base on which to paste the leaves. Children can use their imagination to determine which animals have a ‘coat’, skin or fur that can be recreated with the autumn coloured leaves. The same idea could be used to create masks which represent these furry or scaly animals.
5. Painting autumn
Because of the rich colours, it seems a perfect time to try to capture that beauty in paints on canvas. We’ve had some beautiful sunrises with similar vibrant colours illuminating the skies behind the autumn trees. Then watching the wind create eddies of leaves in corners of the garden. Appreciating the streets lined with autumn trees as we drive through the orange, red and yellow tunnels. Walking through the blankets of leaves, listening to the swish as they are kicked up in the air. Raking up piles of colour and throwing them in the air like giant confetti.
Brainstorming autumn scenes or activities like these provides ideas for painting projects. This is also an excellent opportunity for students to experiment with colour combinations. What colour is created when mixing red paint with yellow?
There’s no question that the leaves are drawing our attention. It’s a pretty time of year (pretty messy too, if you look at my backyard) with some options for different art activities. If you search Artventure for autumn, leaves, leaf, seasons, wind or even tips you’ll find lots of drawing and painting ideas.