by Lisa Hanson and Heather Kempskie
Autumn leaves will make beautiful place settings!
On a pleasant autumn day, playmates can gather a variety of fallen leaves. When inside, cut paper grocery bags into eight-inch-by-eleven-inch rectangles for toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children. Children can then glue leaves onto these homemade place mats or lightly paint a leaf and press the imprint onto their paper rectangles. When the finished place mats are dry, cover them with clear contact paper and trim the excess.
As older children make the place mats, make each baby a bib from the same materials. Cut a bib shape from a paper bag. Show the babies some brightly colored leaves and describe their colors: “This leaf is yellow; this leaf is orange.” See if they coo or reach for their favorites. Glue the leaves to the bibs, cover each bib with contact paper, and use ribbon and a hole punch to secure the bib around a baby’s neck. (Babies should wear the bib only under your close supervision.)
Toddlers may enjoy gluing leaves onto the grocery bag with your help, but they may have an easier time creating their place mats if you skip the bag altogether. Instead, tape an eight-inch-by-eleven-inch sheet of clear contact paper sticky side up to the table and encourage them to stick the leaves directly to it. During this process, however, toddlers may discover that the dried leaves will often crumble if they try to pull them off the contact paper or if they press them on too roughly. If this happens, talk about the cause and effect—make sure they have lots of leaves! When they’re done, cover their work with another sheet of contact paper.
At this age, preschoolers have the dexterity to paint one side of a leaf and press it onto their place mat. Encourage them to use different colors of paint and different shapes of leaves to create a design.
For an added art challenge, encourage school-age children to incorporate the leaf imprints into a drawing on their place mats. For instance, they can turn an imprint of a maple leaf into butterfly wings or an imprint of an oak leaf into the flames from a rocket.
© copyright 2013 by Lisa Hanson & Heather Kempskie from The Playdate Busy Book with permission of its publisher, Meadowbrook Press.