L Is For Leaves

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Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
~Emily Bronte

Invitation to Play:

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For this week’s invitation, I initially gathered large leaves from the maple tree in my front yard and placed them in a bowl on a small table.  I also set out a variety of art materials–lots of drawing paper, Crayola Twistables, oil pastels, stamps & stamp pads, glue and glitter.  My thought process was that the children would use the leaves to create art.  Or, even better, create art on these lovely, large leaves.  And sure enough, the creations that my littles produced were wonderful!  The next class period, I used much smaller leaves from my Black Walnut tree and they loved using those also as a part of their artwork.

Circle Time:

Here in Utah, we are moving into the height of autumn.  The mountains are a glorious blaze of colors and the trees in my backyard shine gold against the cerulean blue sky so common here in the Rocky Mountain West.  Yet, with the greater glow of colors comes an earlier deepening of darkness.  We talked about that in circle time, how the dark comes sooner each night.  I told the children that the earth is preparing for her winter nap.  The leaves are making a colorful blanket for the earth and the animals are also preparing for the winter’s chill.  We talked about light and how we can have light in the coming darkness–we can turn on the lights in our house, we can switch on a flashlight, we can burn a candle, we can light a lantern, we can build a fire.  And then we discussed how we can shine our own lights by doing kind deeds to others.  I told the children the ancient tale of Saint Martin, a Roman soldier who came across a beggar, shivering in the winter’s cold.  Saint Martin sliced his cloak in half and gave half to the beggar so that he could warm himself.  That night Martin had a dream in which Jesus was wearing the half-cloak, and he heard Jesus say, “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clothed me.”  Martin was later baptized into the Catholic church and became a monk. Legend has it, that he was a kind man who lived a quiet and simple life.  He was known as a friend to the children and as a patron of the poor.  We talked about how we, like Saint Martin, can do things that are kind and loving for others and thus keep the world warm and light in these cold and dark times.  I then told them the following story that I found on the Joyful Toddlers website:

A Story of Autumn Light
Once upon a time there was a little boy who lived with his mother and his father and his baby sister. He played all summer long in his shorts and bare-feet, feeling the hot sun on his face. Then, one day, the ground started to get cold, and he had to put on shoes. Then the wind started to blow! He was chilly! He had to put on a sweater to keep warm. The leaves started to turn colors and fall off of the trees. “What’s happening?” he asked his mother. “Autumn is here,” said his mother, “and soon Winter will be on its way. Do you see how the squirrels are collecting nuts for the winter? And the mice are collecting seeds. And our dog is growing a nice, thick coat to keep himself warm.” The little boy thought about this for a few days, and he did notice the squirrel collecting nuts. And when he petted his dog, he noticed that his coat was getting thick and bushy. A few more days went by, and the boy said, “Mother, it seems like the world used to be full of sunshine, but now it is getting dark. Will it keep getting darker and darker?” And he mother replied, “Yes, it will get darker and darker each evening until the deep winter. The world is getting ready to sleep.” The boy thought about this for a few more days, and he said, “Mother, will we be dark and cold, too?” “No,” said his mother, “We will stay warm, but it won’t be the sun that warms us as much. During these dark, cold months, we will have to find our own lights!” “How can we do that?” the boy asked. “We can do that by lighting fires in the fireplace, by lighting candles all around, by wearing warm clothes and even by making lanterns to take our light with us outside in the dark! And we can keep ourselves and others warm by doing acts of kindness, to warm our hearts.” That little boy and his mother and father made lanterns to bring their lights outside, and when they were done, they took their lanterns out and sang sweet songs, and knocked on their neighbors’ doors to take them some fresh-baked banana bread, to keep them warm as well. And the boy and his family kept their lights lit and their hearts warm all through the Autumn, and through the Winter as well.

Art Projects:

1.Leaf Lanterns:  One of the festivals that is celebrated in Waldorf schools is that of Martinmas.  This festival marks the midpoint between Michaelmas and Christmas.  The light of Martinmas will strengthen our souls for the darkness of winter and prepare us for the light of Christmas.  Martinmas is celebrated on November 11th and as a part of that celebration, many Waldorf schools hold lantern walks in the evening.  The glow of the lantern’s light symbolizes the light that each of us embodies when we act in thoughtfulness and good will toward others.

The lantern that the littlest littles made was a tin can lantern.  I spray painted tin cans with Rustoleum Metallic Flat Chestnut.  I filled the cans with water and then put them into the freezer until the water was frozen solid.  Then on two sides of the can, I hammered nail holes into the shape of a leaf.   I hammered a hole on either side of the can and attached a piece wire to make a handle.  I gave the littlest littles glue that I had watered down with a bit of water and let them glue leaves that they had collected on our nature walk onto their cans.  I cautioned them to be careful not to cover the holes that had been nailed into the cans with the leaves that they were gluing onto the cans.  The lanterns were darling.

I should have made the same type of lanterns with the Littles, but I didn’t!  I attempted papier mache lanterns.  This is not a good plan if you have seven littles and one of you.  I have now tried papier mache in three different ways: with flour, with starch and this time, with glue.  Each time, no matter how prepared I am, the project has required more “hands on” help from me in order for the Littles to complete it than I am able to give in a class period.  So, I end up finishing the projects for the children after school.  Therefore, this is the last time that I am going to attempt papier mache with a large group of preschoolers and one of me!  If you are doing this one-on-one with your four year-old, then this will be a delightful project to do.  Or, if you are working with older children, they should be fully capable of doing this on their own.

The idea for these lanterns came from two different websites, Kleas and My Kids’ Adventures.  First I had the children collect colorful autumn leaves that were soft and supple, not dry and brittle.  I showed them the kinds of leaves that would work for this project.  Then I gave each child a balloon that I had blown up and a bowl of glue that I had watered down until it was thin enough to spread with a brush.  I helped them to glue a coffee filter onto the balloon to reinforce the base.   Each child was given a pile of orange, yellow, green and polka-dotted tissue paper that I had cut into large strips.  The idea was for them to glue on a layer of tissues paper to cover the balloon.  They were next supposed to glue on a design of leaves and then glue another layer of tissue paper.  It was just too much for them to do on their own.  I let them do the best that they could and then we called it quits.  I spent 2 1/2 hours after school finishing their lanterns!  I hung them onto wire hangers with clothespins to let them dry for a couple of days.  Then I punched holes on either side of the lanterns and tied a twine handle.  A battery operated candle dropped into the bottom of the lanterns completed them.  They were darling–and several of the moms told me that the lanterns were their child’s favorite finished art project.  But, as far as an art project that a preschooler can accomplish on their own, this is not the one!  Expect to give a lot of assistance if you are going to do this project with your preschooler!

2.  Leaf Threading:  This project was a lot of fun.  The idea of leaf threading is all over the internet.  This is a great way to use all of those autumn leaves that you collect with your child on a leaf gathering expedition!  I have plastic needles for the children to use.  I bought these at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts over in the section where they have their yarn and embroidery supplies.  I gave each child a needle that I had threaded with orange yarn.  At the end I had tied a wooden bead.  I also tied a knot in the yarn by the eye of the needle so that the needle would not come unthreaded.  I gave each child a bowl of wooden beads.  The little ones strung their leaves and beads onto the yarn to make an autumn leaf decoration to hang in the window.  Most of the children really loved this project and spent quite a bit of time and put a lot of thought into the design of these.

3.  Hammered leaf nature capes:  I made simple capes out of muslin fabric ahead of time.  I cut a piece of muslin about 23 by 25 inches.  I hemmed the sides and the bottom with about a 1/4 inch hem. At the top I made about a 3/4 inch casing.  I inserted about a 14-inch piece of 1/2 inch elastic.  I sewed the ends of the elastic together so that the child can just pull the cape on over their head.

I let the children collect leaves and flower petals from my yard and garden.  They laid their capes over pieces of wood and arranged their petals and leaves however they chose.  And then they hammered.  And hammered.  And hammered!  They loved it!  And I think that the capes are simply lovely!

4.  Leaf rubbings:  A classic autumn activity!  I gathered large and small maple leaves from a tree in my yard.  I taped one large and one small leaf onto the children’s art mats.  Then a placed a piece of white drawing paper over the leaves and taped the paper in place with a small piece of painters tape on the top and bottom of the paper.  We used Stockmar block crayons to make the rubbings.  These work wonderfully well for this type of activity.  You can also use stick crayons with the paper taken off so that you can use the side to make the leaf rubbings.  Here is a link to a good article by Sarah Baldwin about Block Crayons versus Stick Crayons.

Unstructured Outdoor Play:

Some Books About Leaves That We Enjoyed:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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