Oh fall! You are my favorite of the seasons (until March when I am completely convinced spring is the best time of year). Not only doesfall bring cozy sweaters, pumpkin patches, and an endless month-long celebration of Halloween, it is also an amazing time to experience nature in your neighborhood with a young child.
Squirrels are busily storing acorns for the winter, birds gather in trees to eat berries, and the leaves turn amazing colors and drop to the ground for little hands to pick up and ooh and ahh over. Ok, admittedly sometimes bigger hands pick them up too...I just can’t help myself from picking up a beautiful leaf!
Change or turn are the words most often used when describing leaves in the fall, but they don’t really change colors. The other color is there all along, just hidden by the dominating green. Sound vaguely familiar? If so, read on to get from vaguely familiar to familiar!
There are three pigments in most leaves all year round: chlorophyll (green), xanthophyll (yellow), carotene (orange). In the growing season, chlorophyll works hard to produce food for the tree through photosynthesis. In the fall, the lengthening of the nights signal the tree to start to shut down its food factory. To impress people with your new leaf changing knowledge remember it’s not temperature, but length of night that signals the tree and starts the leaves changing colors.
The tree starts to close up shop and a cell layer grows at the base of the leaf and stem juncture, cutting off transport of minerals and water to the leaf. Chlorophyll does not have what it needs to produce food and cannot continue to replace itself. It begins to fade from the leaf. With the dominant green chlorophyll out of the picture, the yellow and orange pigments get a chance to show off. But what about the beautiful red and purple leaves? Those red and purple pigments come from another pigment called anthocyanin that is manufactured from the sugars that are trapped in the leaves. These pigments are not there year round. So next time you are out for a walk with your little adventurer pick up a few leaves and ooh and ahh together.....with a little extra info tucked away in your brain for all those why questions.
Here’s a great website that explains the changing of the leaves in kid friendly language: http://www.kidzone.ws/plants/autumn1.htm
Fall Leaf Art Project Ideas
Stain Glass Leaf Display
One of my favorite leaf crafts with little ones. So easy and fun. Use clear contact paper if you don't have a laminator. I let the kids place leaves on one half of the rolled out contact paper and then carefully fold the other half over.
For full instructions and other ideas:
Simple Fall Leaf Craft
A little glue, a pencil, a few leaves and a little creativity is all that is needed for this great fall leaf craft project!