Tiny Salutations

Tiny Salutations


Monday, October 24, 2016

Autumn Leaf Activities

This gorgeous tree is at the end of my street. I regretted that last year I was too sick to pick some of its beautiful leaves- this year though, I got some.

Autumn is my favorite season. (By the way, this is autumn, not fall, in our world of autism inflexibility) I exist all year just waiting for autumn. I love everything about autumn. The smells, the weather, the celebrations, and especially the colors. Every drive I'm constantly pointing at every tree saying "Oh! Look at that one! Look at that color! Those leaves are so perfect! Oh! Oh! And that one!" So I love being able to share leaf activities with my son and really get him into exploring the world during autumn (the best time to explore).

Except..... we got sick. We have been stuck in the house for a while, because our son caught a respiratory virus. Well, actually, he started with bacterial infections in his sinuses and both eyes. Then, he caught a respiratory virus. Good thing? He was on antibiotics, or else I'm pretty sure he would have gotten pneumonia this time. Bad thing? He was already fighting something, so it hit him hard. He has needed steroids, hasn't responded well to normal treatments, and has had some close calls. Then, of course, he gave that virus to us, and now I'm fighting it too.
Our son, stuck in the house, very sick, watching the storm, the leaves, listening to the wind and rain. This little Maple outside our window is my favorite part of this house.
So a lot of time inside. And a lot of time being still. I don't know if you can imagine keeping a four year old boy still for a whole day. Now throw autism in the mix, and it is impossible. Now stretch that day into many many days. Any kind of screen time tends to be a violence trigger in his autism, so that's a lot of keeping him still without many movies either. Okay, sure, we watched a few Star Trek TNG episodes here and there, but mostly.... we got creative.

So I decided to finish all of those leaf projects we had started. So here are a few leaf projects that you can do with kids! (Or as an adult!)
This is from the tree at the end of the street (above). I mean look at those leaves!

In Seattle visiting doctors
These photos cannot do this tree justice
This is another tree near my neighborhood and the yellow is just incredible- most amazing yellow I've ever seen. When you drive onto the street it just jumps out at you.
Just on our street- even if you are stuck at home like us, you can find leaves!
This beautiful woodpecker in our backyard recently. He was amazing. He just went ahead on his business of woodpecking, ignoring us, while we watched him from right next to the tree (we were already there hanging clothes to dry-- Yes, I even bring my camera with me to hang clothes to dry and it's a good thing, right?!). 
Collecting and admiring leaves (before getting sick)
Collecting and admiring leaves (before getting sick)- okay, here think he is probably Maleficent now, but, you know

Autumn landscape
Go for a Leaf Walk (or Drive) 
Most leaf activities are going to need.... leaves! Plus, it's pretty. Can't go out on a leaf walk? Go for a drive or even grab the leaves just outside your front door. I tend to collect leaves... everywhere (I think it is a little tiresome for my family sometimes). We have collected most of them when out at doctors' appointments and in our neighborhood. I like to challenge my son to find different species, colors, shapes, and sizes of leaves. Collecting leaves is a tradition of ours.

My Straw autumn tree painting- everything brown is painted with straws alone, no brushes
My son's Straw autumn tree painting- everything brown is painted with straws alone, no brushes.
Straw Painting
This one, actually, does not require leaves, but we did make autumn trees. To make the trees, we used "straw painting", for lack of a better term, where we forced the paint into branch shapes by blowing the paint with a straw, not with a paintbrush. This part we actually did a couple of weeks ago (my son's lungs could not do this right now). The neat thing is that this is art, but it also works on breathing strength. It is tough to find ways to practice those skills for a little one who is too weak to do most of the usual practices (blowing a ball across the table, bubbles, etc.), so double score. You can see he is still a bit weak to make a tree shape, but he was still excited by the art aspect, so the discouragement of failure also doesn't shut this activity down like the other breathing exercises. Anyways, during this stuck in the house period, we added on the autumn leaves.

Slightly water down your paint if you are using acrylic or tempera or a "thick" variety of paint (I mixed my own brown-another art lesson in itself!-paint and watered it down), or you can use watercolor paint. Place a drop at the bottom of your paper where you want the base of your tree. Using your straw, blow your paint up the page into a tree shape. You will notice that if your straw is nearly parallel to the paper, your paint will tend to go in a line better; if your straw is perpendicular to your paper, your paint will fan out more. When your trees are done, let it dry. After drying, add leaves using a paintbrush. 

 My leaf rubbing (left) and my son's leaf rubbing (right)
Our son creating a leaf rubbing with a Maple leaf
Leaf Rubbings
My son just started getting the hang of this. The great thing about this one is that your leaf doesn't need to be pretty, just intact. So all of the leaves that you collect for leaf pressing (below) that don't work out, you can use for leaf rubbing! It's fairly simple, is relatively pretty, and little ones get good practice and enjoyment out of it.

Place a leaf under a piece of paper. Then rub a crayon on the paper lightly over the area of the leaf. The leaf shape will appear. Tip: for children having a tough time learning to do this, try doing rubbings of coins. They are a little easier to get a shape from which can encourage then and teach them how to do so on a more delicate item such as a leaf.  

 Pressed leaves
 Pressed leaves
 Pressed leaves
Pressed leaves (left) and a birthday card for my husband with leaves that were pressed, then decorated with metallic pens, then decoupaged (right)
Fresh leaves being pressed- lining them up on the paper (recycled copy paper here) between book pages
Fresh leaves being pressed- lining them up on the paper (recycled copy paper here) between book pages (my beloved space book that was slightly tainted by a too-wet-flower)
Our son taping pressed leaves into his nature journal
Our son taping pressed leaves into his nature journal
Leaf Press
I love pressing leaves. I pressed some flowers here and there over the years, but this year I really found my love of pressing plants. I have pressed a ton of leaves this year. Every beautiful leaf I see, I think, I have to have have that! Pressing basically "treats" (dries and flattens) them so that you can keep them without them withering up and dying as they normally would. Then, you can make some beautiful things with them.

Collect leaves that will look nice when pressed. If they have brown spots, they will only look more so when pressed. So you want bright, whole leaves. Other than leaves, you will need newspaper (I use junk mail- reuse before recycle!!) and heavy books (hardback is better). Take the sheets of newspaper/junk mail (if your leaves are at all wet, double up the newspaper- I learned this the hard way with one of my favorite books) and lay them across the back of one of your books between the last page and the back cover. Line up your leaves nicely, not overlapping. Take care in this step, because however you lay them is how they will look forever. Carefully close the book so that the leaves stay in place. Stack more heavy books on top of this book, one or two will work, depending on the thickness of your books. If you have more leaves than will fit on this one piece of newspaper (I have dozens of pages of newspaper), then you can layer them throughout the pages of your books as long as there is always pressure from heavy books. I wouldn't layer them too close within the book, so that your leaves don't have imprints of one another. Then.... wait. Leave them for about a week. When finished, keep them flattened on their own (such as I have done taping them into their own book) or use them in all manner of art, like decoupage, artistic arrangements...

There is so much more than leaves to autumn, and I hope to share it with you! As long as we get well quickly enough not to miss it!