Basket of leaves beside a canvas of colourful leaf prints


Grab Those Fall Leaves For These Colourful Painted Prints

Sep 19, 2018

Making painted leaf prints is a great way for kids to get arty outdoors and to experiment with printmaking. It’s also a fun way for young children to learn to identify the trees and plants that grow in their yard, and to examine the different shapes and intricacies of their leaves.

A table with paints, brushes and leaves being printed on a piece of paper

Fall is in the air, and soon our trees and garden plants will be losing their leaves. Now is a great time to spend some time outdoors with your children, exploring and examining the foliage that surrounds you while the gardens are still so lush.

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We’ve done many creative leaf crafts and activities over the years, and making leaf prints has always been a favourite here in my daycare. There are a number of ways that you can make prints and impressions with leaves. You can do leaf rubbings with paper and crayons, or you can make prints by pressing leaves on an ink pad and then on a piece of paper, but today we’re making our leaf prints with paint. And instead of making our prints on paper, we’ve used a dollar store canvas. This way, we’ll have a quality piece of artwork to hang on the wall in our playroom.

This activity is packed with lots of opportunities for learning and it’s also a great way for young children to experiment with scissors and to develop fine motor skills.

What you'll need:

  • safety scissors
  • basket for collecting leaves
  • dollar store canvas
  • paint
  • paint brushes
  • paint pallette

Head out to your yard with a basket and some safety scissors. This is one of our favourite things to do in the backyard. The hooligans love to wander around snipping and collecting leaves from the bushes, plants and shrubs in our yard, and they’ll stay at it for ages.

It’s a wonderful activity to help young children learn how to use scissors, and a fun way for them to practice this skill. Cutting small leaves from the stem of a plant is much easier than manipulating a pair of scissors and a piece of paper.

A girl using scissors to cut a leaf

While your children are collecting their leaves, there’s a great opportunity to talk to them about the species of plants in your garden and to teach them how to identify them.

Tell your child the name of the plants and trees that they’re gathering their leaves from. Point out the shapes of the leaves and their markings. Have your child make observations about the texture and colour of the different leaves. You can help to expand your child’s vocabulary by using new words to describe the leaves (e.g., variegated, glossy, leathery, downy).

A boy outside picking leaves

If you have herbs in your garden, be sure to gather a few of those leaves, too. Have your child crush some to release their aroma. This is always a delightful sensory experience, and your child may already be able to identify some based on their scent. My little guy recognized the smell of mint immediately.

When you’ve gathered a variety of leaves, place the basket on your work surface along with your canvas. Fill a paint pallet with a variety of colours and have the children paint the surface of their leaves.

A child pressing a leaf down on the canvas with paint

Then flip the leaf over and press it to the canvas. This part of the activity will challenge your child’s fine motor skills. They’ll need to carefully lay the leaf on the canvas, and they may need to fiddle with the edges of the leaves to ensure the full shape of the leaf is in contact with the canvas. Then they can press the leaf with the palm of their hand and gently rub around the edges to make the imprint.

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When the entire leaf has been pressed to the canvas, they’ll carefully pinch the stem of the leaf and lift it away from the canvas to reveal their print. If a second coat of paint is needed to make a darker impression, they can add more of the same colour, or an entirely new colour, to their leaf.

A canvas with many colourful leaf prints

Repeat the process with as many leaves as it takes to fill the canvas.

Don’t restrict your child to using just one colour of paint per leaf. Blending several colours together on a leaf adds depth and dimension to the print, and will make for a more interesting piece of art.

And don’t feel you have to use fall colours for your leaf prints either. Allow your child to choose their favourite colours, or even to co-ordinate the colours of the prints to match their bedroom decor.

A basket of leaves beside a canvas with leaf prints

We used a mix of blue, yellow, orange, green, brown and purple paint for our prints, but any colour combination would be striking for this fun fall art activity.

Article Author Jackie Currie
Jackie Currie

Read more from Jackie here.

Jackie Currie is a mother, daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind the blog Happy Hooligans. A self-proclaimed glitterphobe, she specializes in easy, affordable arts & crafts and good, old-fashioned play.

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