Northern Michigan Kids: Five ways to turn autumn's abundant leaves into awesome art and craft activities.

Make the beauty of a Northern Michigan autumn last with these awesome art and craft ideas for your kids. Not only will these activities get your kids outside to enjoy Northern Michigan's fresh, crisp air, they will keep them busy as they create their leaf masterpieces!

Stained Glass Materials: wax paper, leaves, iron

We recommend choosing an array of brightly colored, freshly fallen leaves for this project (and adult supervision for the iron). Lay down a sheet of wax paper, cut into 12-inch-by-12-inch square, wax side up. Place the leaves you have collected onto the paper, but get creative! Arrange them in a circle as a wreath, scattered and downwards facing to look like falling leaves, or freestyle your design. Top with a second sheet of wax paper cut to match the first sheet's size, wax side down, and iron until the two sheets meld together. Hold up to the light, and admire your stained glass!

Fossil Rubbings Materials: crayons, paper, leaves

Go outside and collect a variety of leaves—the more shapes and textures, the better. Place your leaves on a hard surface or work table, underneath your sheet of paper. Rub the side of a crayon (you will have to take the paper off) onto the paper over the leaf, applying enough pressure for the shape and veins to appear. Watch as your fossilized leaf comes to life! Experiment with different colored paper and crayons to discover your favorite look.

Gingerbread Leaf Cookies
Last fall, we published an article on how to make gingerbread leaf ornaments. While this is a fun and easy way to make ornaments with leaves, the process of turning the cookies into ornaments made the gingerbread inedible.

For a tasty twist on this great project, trace the leaves you collect onto a piece of clean paper (parchment, wax, etc), then cut out your leaf shape. Now you have your own home-made "cookie cutter!" Place your leaf shapes on rolled out gingerbread dough (also works for sugar cookies), cut out your leaf cookies, then bake according to your recipe. Now when you smell that delicious cookie aroma wafting through the air, you know you'll get to enjoy them! Yum!

Naturalist Notebook Materials: notebook, leaves

This is a fun and super easy way to enjoy those beautiful fall leaves year-round. Collect a small basket's worth of your favorite leaves, choosing different shapes and colors. For added outside enjoyment, turn your collection into a walk through the neighborhood so you can find a better variety of leaves.

Once your collection is complete, place one leaf per page in your notebook, writing down the date collected, type of leaf, and where you found it.  Close the book and place in your bookshelf or under something slightly heavy, so that the pages are pressed tightly. The longer it stays pressed, the more preserved your leaves will become. In a month or so, open your naturalist notebook and admire your collection. Keep your book year-round to remember how beautiful the fall colors are.

Autumn Centerpiece Materials: grape vine, leaves, pine cones

Wind a grape vine (find it in the woods or ask a Northern Michigan winery) into the shape of a wreath, looping it through itself so it is somewhat tight. Collect fresh, vibrantly colored leaves and pine cones from outside, and stick them into the braids and loops of your wreath. Place on the dining room or coffee table around candles or a bowl of something festive (pine cones, miniature gourds, mixed shelled nuts, etc.). In ten minutes you have created a beautiful and unique seasonal centerpiece, for free!

If all else fails (including attention spans), you can always pile the leaves up outside and jump in them for a leaf activity that never gets old!  

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