Tag Archives: Trees

Fall Leaves and Gingersnaps! (Recipe at Bottom!)

We went on one of my favorite fall outings today!  Armed with a great book, some craft supplies, and a pile of snacks, we headed up the canyon near our house to explore fall in one of its best displays!

After throwing rocks and leaves in the river for a while (an activity you simply can’t skip over with my boys)  we gathered with some friends to read Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.  I really enjoy sharing this book with children!  The illustrations are all made up of photocopied leaves.  It’s a fantastic creative collage approach that really gets kids thinking outside of the box.  After the story, we went for a little hike to gather some of our favorite leaves and bring them back to our picnic spot to create our own leaf pictures. 

Leaf Man (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))

Using black cardstock as a background, similar to the dark background in the book, the children arranged their collections of leaves.  Some made people, others created monsters, while some simply arranged their colorful collections.  Once they were all in place, we sealed them down with a layer of contact paper.  The black background really makes those fall colors pop!  And as long as the leaves are dry, the contact paper seals them in, preserving them for years!  (You can read more about what I wrote on this activity here.  Apologies for the sub-par photo!)

And of course, we had to cap the activity off with some fall treats!  There are some snacks I just have to make every time the fall season rolls around, and gingersnaps are one of them!  Try a batch for yourself (the recipe’s at the bottom), and serve them up with some apple cider.  If you could taste fall, it would taste like this!

What are your favorite fall treats?

Soft Gingersnaps

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 cup oil

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. cloves

3 tsp. ginger

3 tsp. cinnamon

3 tsp. soda

6 cups flour

Mix the sugar, eggs, molasses, and oil.  Then add in the salt, soda, and spices and mix well.  (Or for you Martha Stewarts out there, go ahead and sift the salt, soda, and spices with your flour.  I’m just not that ambitious!)  Gradually add the flour and mix until a consistent dough forms.  Form into  balls and roll in sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet and flatten slightly with a glass.  Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes.  Makes about 4 dozen large cookies.

Top photo by silgluck.

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Filed under Create, Field Trips, Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Edible, Uncategorized

Book Activity: Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf

Red Leaf, Yellow LeafHave I mentioned yet that I really love Lois Ehlert’s books?  Her collage-style illustrations are just so simplistically and realistically appealing.  Particularly for fall, they really capture the vibrancy and texture of the season!  In Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, Lois Ehlert spotlights one of my favorite trees, Maple, as it is selected and planted while a seedling, then as it grows through every season, highlighting the narrator’s favorite season for the tree, fall!  This book is great as a science focus, as well as for an art focus!

Afterward, have the children create their own colorful fall trees.  First smock up!  Once each child has a piece of paper on an art tray to work with, have each one take a brush, and with brown paint make the trunk and branches of their trees.  Talk about the difference between the straight lines of the trunk and the curving, climbing, intertwining branches at the top.

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Once everyone is done with the brown, bring in red, orange, and yellow finger paints – one at a time – and have the children dip their fingers into the paint and onto the paper to create small, falling leaves!  (I usually use washable tempera paint for fingerpaint, and pour it into leftover plastic lids.  The ridges help to keep the paint from spilling over.  Painting is a great creative as well as fine motor experience for children.  Adding fingerpaint also makes it a sensory experience.  Here are some child samples:

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(All of these samples show a two-stroke tree trunk, but a single stroke would do the job as well!)

Enjoy Red Leaf Yellow Leaf with your little ones!

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Create, fine motor skills, Learning through Play and Experience, sensory activity

Book Activity: The Apple Pie Tree

The Apple Pie TreeIf you are doing a study of apples, or  on trees in general, you should really consider using the book, The Apple Pie Tree, by Zoe Hall.  This wonderfully illustrated book follows a single apple tree, and the two girls who love it, through the seasons, until its fruit can finally be picked, chopped, and baked into a perfect apple pie.  It is a great illustration of the cycle of seasons, as well as the process of making pie! 

Understanding the cycle of seasons is a pretty obvious science objective, but learning to put things in an ordered series also builds cognitive and language skills  that lay the foundation for reading and writing (beginning, middle, end) while also contributing to preschool math  and problem-solving skills. 

As this story is built on cycles and series, I like to have the children do some seriating activities afterward.  As your first option, you can use the tree pictures from the Four Seasons Chart  and have the children place those tree cards in order.  You could also use these  Pie Series cards I made, to put the steps of making pie in order. (One of my better illustrating attempts, I’d say.  Pick apples, chop apples, mix and stir, bake the pie, and serve!)  While on the topic of seriation you could continue with these cards I’ve made as well: Seed Series and Snowman Series.  (As always, these resources are free for you to use and share for educational purposes.  Please recognize www.notjustcute.com as your source when sharing!)  Enjoy!

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

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Old-School Leaf Rubbing

leaf rubbingI once heard someone say that we have to be careful not to be in such a rush to give our children all the things we never had, that we forget to give them the things we did have.  That saying comes to mind as I think about this old-school leaf rubbing activity.  I don’t think I even need to give directions, do I?  I hope you all had plenty of opportunities to make leaf rubbings as children!  I just wanted to remind you to pass on that opportunity!  Even today, in the age of the internet and wii, children light up as the leaf seems to magically appear on the page while they feverishly rub their crayons across the paper!  This activity increases fine motor skills while also creating awareness of the texture and other characteristics of leaves (science).  Combine this with other leaf activities that can be found at the fall favorites page!  Enjoy childhood!

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Leaf Pounding

Leaf pounding

This is one of my favorite activities!  Help your child take a leaf and place it between two strips of muslin or other white, cotton fabric.  Together, hammer the muslin with a rubber mallet.  As the mallet strikes the leaf, the chlorophyll is released from the leaf and absorbed by the fabric.  Colored leaves in the fall work also as long as they have not become too dry (though their red and purple colors come from a type of sugar in the tree instead of chlorophyll.  Check out this website  for more science information about fall leaves.) 

When I’m talking with children as they do this activity, I mention that the leaves are holding the color inside, kind of like a water balloon.  When those balloons are hit, they break and the color comes out onto the fabric. 

This experience builds science knowledge while also providing a large motor activity.  Obviously, with all the pounding, this activity can be noisy, and it requires enough room for safely swinging the mallet.  Outside is ideal!  That way, the children can also search for their leaves as they wait for a turn.

Find more about trees and leaves at the fall favorites page!

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Filed under Create, Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, science activity

Falling Leaves Parachute Activity

Leaf Parachute 1Parachute activities are always enticing to kids.  They’re great for building motor strength and control, as well as self-control.  They also strengthen the child’s ability to listen to and follow directions and to work with others as a group,  all great social skills.  Parachutes don’t have to cost much.  I picked up a small, 6 foot version, to be used in small spaces and with groups of 10 or less children for about $10 (see where to order it here).  You could also just use a bed sheet instead of a parachute.

Whichever type of parachute you use, begin by explaining that it is very important for the children to listen carefully, follow directions, and work together to make the parachute activities work.  Start out with the parachute spread out on the floor.  Have the children find a handle and pull the parachute out flat.  Have everyone slowly touch their toes, then stretch up to the sky.  You could also have them all turn to their left and do a variety of locomotor moves (walk, tip-toe, hop, etc.) to make the parachute spin.  Then practice shaking the parachute.  First softly and slowly, then more quickly and wildly.  Practice intermittent stopping to check for listening and control. 

Once you feel the children are getting the hang of the directions, tell them you are all going to be moving the parachute like the wind.  Sometimes the wind is calm, soft and slow (move parachute accordingly), sometimes it is wild and fast, and sometimes it stops altogether.  Now, in the fall, something very interesting happens when the wind blows.  The leaves fall from the trees and dance in the wind! 

leaf parachute 2

Having the children hold the parachute still, place some leaves in the center of the parachute (I used artificial leaves so they can be reused throughout the month).  Have the children move the leaves about in the wind by moving the parachute as before.  They will have to listen very closely to your signals and work together.  As the wind blows gently, the leaves should stay on the parachute.  Stronger winds will send the leaves flying and the children giggling!  After a big stormy, strong wind, stop and have the children “rake” up the leaves that have blown off of the parachute.  The children will love doing this activity over and over again!

After a parachute activity, you can easily transition to circle time.  Have the children stretch the parachute out flat  and and then sit down.  Have the children set the parachute down and you pick it up from the center.  Abra-cadabra, the kiddos are already in perfect circle formation for the next activity!  You may want to follow up with the Autumn Leaves Song and a great book like Leaf Man.

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

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Filed under Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, Transitions

Autumn Leaves Song

leaves

Here’s a song you probably already know, but just in case you don’t I’ll share it with you!  It’s so simple and perfect for the season.  As we sing, I have the children float their hands back and forth down to the ground like falling leaves.  Here’s the song:

Autumn Leaves (tune: London Bridges)

Autumn leaves are falling down

Red, gold, and brown,

Down to the ground!

Autumn leaves are falling down,

We love autumn!

I usually precede this song by talking about the fall season, and the fact that it’s also called autumn.  We talk about the changing leaves and look at a few colorful samples from outside.  I also like to bring in some needles from an evergreen tree to compare and discuss.  Also, other fun tree items to examine in this discussion are acorns, Maple tree seeds (helicopter seeds), and nests (if you happen to find an abandoned one).

This song and discussion builds science knowledge about seasons, cycles of living things, and characteristics of trees.  Singing is also a great language builder and promote phonological awareness!

This song also goes very nicely with the leaf parachute activity  I’ll be posting soon!!!

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

Top photo by porah.

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Filed under language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, science activity