Changing Colors: Fall Leaves with Children

Child wearing fall leaf wreath

Are your children curious about the leaves changing color? Harvest time is ripe for a little science and a lot of crafts with fall leaves.

All this week, we’re going to post about changing colors—not just leaves changing but other colors as well.

The Science of Fall Leaves for Children

“Why are the leaves turning yellow, Mommy?”

Are you ready to answer? Here is a simple version for the youngest children.

Starting when trees grow new leaves in the spring, a tree makes food from the energy of the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, and water from the earth. This process of making food is called photosynthesis. The sun’s energy is absorbed by a chemical called chlorophyll. Leaves get their green color from chlorophyll.

As the days get shorter and cooler in the fall, trees stop making food and the green chlorophyll breaks down. The leaves change color as the green goes away and leaves yellow, orange, and brown.

For an older child, you could explain that the leaves were always yellow and that the green, the chlorophyll, was just the dominant color until the tree stopped making it.

Children’s Crafts with Fall Leaves

It’s always fun to use natural materials to create season-specific decorations. As you are surrounded by fall leaves, you have an abundance of colorful craft materials.

We create strings of leaves as a garland to celebrate fall. Bring bouquets of leaves into the house and put them in a vase. Create a wreath. Use different leaf colors to create a collage. Press particularly beautiful leaves in paper.

And, whatever you do, rake all of the leaves in your yard into a pile and JUMP IN THEM! This is perfect fun for a child (and a parent).

The Funny Part

Fall leaf garland

When I planned this post, it was cold during the days, and I expected it would just get colder every day. Then, today arrived and it was 89 degrees Fahrenheit, and we couldn’t find enough color changed leaves to make a garland.

Fall? Hot leaf garland

The version of the mini leaf garland without cropping context shows my outdoor thermometer. In the direct sun this afternoon, it claimed to be 120 degrees (which it was not). It will probably snow next week.


Education World has a great collection of explanations of photosynthesis just for children. They include fun fall leaf activities as well.

Wreath image © Olga Vasina |

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