Teaching children to appreciate nature is important. The future keepers of our planet, kids can learn to relate to trees and plants by collecting organic objects to use in art projects. Whether your kids use them as stencils, press them into clay or preserve them for posterity, working with leaves can inspire a love of art and nature that can last a lifetime.
Stenciling is a process of applying paint over or around an object to leave a silhouette or predetermined shape on a surface. Leaves can be used as stencils when the edges lay flat and the leaf is intact and well shaped. Stenciling with kids can be done by using autumn leaves and spray paint.
Head outside with a large sheet of lightweight watercolor paper, leaves and spray paint in brown, orange, green and red. Use a small piece of clear tape rolled under a few leaves to keep them in place on the paper and then lightly spray with a coat of colored spray paint. Pull leaves off the paper and move them to other locations to overlap unpainted paper areas. Spray lightly with a different color of paint to create an eye-catching layered look. Continue with at least one more color and allow to dry.
Once the piece is dry you can cut the organically designed paper to use as greeting cards, bookmarkers or cover with clear contact paper and use as place mats for your dinner table.
Kids enjoy working with hand-building clay because it is easily malleable and can be transformed dramatically by imprinting objects into a smooth slab or cutting and assembling clay pieces into something new.
Leaf printing in clay is a quick and versatile way for kids to memorialize the veins and edges of various leaves and plants. Roll out a slab of clay about a half inch thick and then press collected leaves, vein side down, into the clay, applying moderate pressure. Pull the leaves off the clay to see a realistic impression of the leaf. Use a pottery knife or butter knife to follow the edges of the leaf and cut away the extra clay. Fire the leaf slab flat, or lay several clay leaves into a plastic-wrapped bowl and press together gently. Allow drying and fire to make an organically inspired container. Make your finished piece extra special by glazing the leaves using the Raku firing process.
Decoupage is a term used to describe a process in which flat collage materials are applied to a surface using a glue and shellac process. Commonly used to decorate boxes, tabletops and other interior objects, kids can use leaves to decorate stones for a garden or desktop display.
Have your children look for fern leaves, clover petals or small tree leaves as well as smooth medium-sized stones. Once the stones are washed and dried, kids can apply a coat of decoupage medium onto the rock with a small brush. Small hands can lightly press leaves onto the top of the stone and apply another coat or two of decoupage medium. Super-seal the rock with some clear spray shellac to add a high gloss finish to reflect the light on a desk or occasional table. Have your kids make several rocks each and pile the finished product up in a wicker basket to create an attention-getting accessory.