Brynne Eisele, Master Gardener
This page introduces books and fun activities that will help your child to understand why leaves change color and learn that leaves have some things in common with humans.
Summer Green to Autumn Gold: Uncovering Leaves’ Hidden Colors, by Mia Posada, answers readers’ (ages 5-10) questions about why leaves change colors. It gives the science behind the many different colors of leaves and includes beautiful watercolor and collage art on every page. The author and illustrator reside in Golden Valley, MN!
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, by Julia Rawlinson, lets young readers (ages 1-5) follow Fletcher the fox cub as he discovers his favorite tree seems to be sick. Each day more leaves turn brown and fall to the ground. Fletcher is very worried for the tree until he finds a wonderful surprise on the first day of winter.
For elementary aged children try these two very simple experiments that demonstrate the importance of trees and their leaves to our daily lives. It will also help them visualize the concept that plants and trees are alive just like us!
1. Do Leaves Breathe?
Freshly picked leaf that is still green
Bowl of water large enough to fit the leaf
Rock or something to weigh down the leaf
Ask the child to observe the leaf. What do they see? Do they hear the leaf breathing?
Fill the bowl with water and submerge the leaf in water using the rock to make sure the leaf is fully submerged.
Place the bowl in a sunny location.
Wait for a few hours then check on the leaf. You should see small bubbles forming on the leaf and edges of the bowl
Explanation: Your child is observing part of the process of photosynthesis where oxygen is being expelled from the leaf. While the leaf doesn’t use lungs to breath as we do, it does similarly take in and release air. As humans we breathe in the oxygen expelled in our daily lives.
Adapted from science-u.org
2. Do Leaves Sweat?
Clear zip lock bag
String or twist tie to secure the bag tightly
Branch of leaves in the sun
Ask the child to observe the leaf. How does the leaf feel? Can they see the leaf sweating?
Fit the plastic bag on the end of a branch which has several green leaves on it.
Make sure your branch is in the sunlight for a few hours.
Secure the bag tightly with the string or twist tie.
One corner of the bag should be pointing down toward the ground so that the water can collect into one location.
After a few hours, check the bag. You should see water pooled in the corner of the bag.
Explanation: Your child is observing plant transpiration. This process can be explained to a child by comparing it to a human sweating and expelling water to cool down. Plant transpiration is crucial to our daily lives as it releases water into our atmosphere to be evaporated.
Adapted from Kids Fun Science, Youtube channel
Fall Leaf Scavenger Hunt
For younger children around ages 2-5 set up a fall leaf scavenger hunt. Depending on the age, the child may need greater parental assistance. See below for some suggestions but feel free to add your own categories!
Find a yellow leaf (or one with yellow on it)
Find a green leaf (or one with green on it)
Find a red leaf (or one with red on it)
Find a brown leaf (or one with brown on it)
Find a leaf with a whole in it
Find a leaf with three points
Find a leaf that has an oval shape
Find a small leaf
Find a big leaf