Clay-Pressed Leaves

Claf Leaf projectThough I don’t like to admit it, the change of seasons is here. Fall is wiggling its way in, and summer is moving over to make room for it. Right now, I can only think of two things that help me come to terms with having to say goodbye to warm weather: pumpkin spice coffee creamer and fall leaves. Last Saturday morning, the girls and I set out on an adventure to collect the most beautiful fall leaves we could find. Both girls strapped on their backpacks determined to fill them. It was a great field trip from the house. Riley was quick to point out each color that she saw in the fallen leaves, and Maddie was diligent in returning to her backpack hands full of leaves.

I recently purchased a tub of Crayola air dry clay even though I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. After such fun and careful selection of leaves, I knew we had to use it to preserve them. We rolled out the clay and pressed the leaves in to create small fall leaf tiles. My intent was to hang them on the wall as a fall decoration, but the girls have not since been able to let them go so their use now seems to be fall coasters and toys.

Clay Leaf suppliesWhat you’ll need:

Crayola Air Dry Clay
Clear acrylic sealer

  1. Collect the leaves. Try to find leaves that are whole and have a color pattern that you love.
  2. Make sure your children are wearing clothes you don’t care about getting dirty. This could get messy!
  3. Add a small amount of water to the clay to get it to the perfect consistency for molding. Find a surface that you don’t care about getting dirty and roll the clay out on it. I used a rolling pin covered in aluminum foil, however, you can just use your hands if you’d like.
  4. Use the knife to cut the clay into whatever shape you’d like. It helps to hold the leaf up to the clay to make sure that you cut the appropriate size.
  5. Leaf finished productOnce you have your shape, press the leaf into the clay and ensure that all the edges are stuck in it. Wipe the clay and leaf with a damp napkin to smooth the edges of the clay and clean the leaf of any clay stuck on it. Be sure to wipe the leaf thoroughly. Any clay, even if it is a tiny thin layer that may not be readily visible, will be drawn out by the sealer.
  6. Allow the leaf sculptures to dry 1-2 days, depending on the thickness of the clay. Wipe the leaves clean again.
  7. Outside or in a well-ventilated area, spray the sculptures with the acrylic sealer. Follow the directions on the can.

Note: If you want to hang your creation, be sure to make a hole on the center of the back!

Nurture the Experience:

While you can certainly talk about the changing of the seasons with this activity, it is also a perfect opportunity to learn about fossils. The preserving of the leaves in the clay has a nice correlation to the preserving of animals and plants by fossilization. Fossils are formed when animal remains or plants are pressed in sedimentary rock. Talk to your kids about what fossils are and pretend that while you are pressing the leaves into the clay that you are compressing rock to create a fossil. You and your child can learn more about fossils here, or here.

Recommended Reading:

Fossils Tell StoriesThis is a newer book that has beautiful illustrations to help your young child stay engaged as they learn about fossils. If your kids are like mine, it can be hard to get them to sit still. Pictures always help with that!

Digging Up DinosaursThis is a smaller book that goes into some pretty good detail about how fossils, in this case dinosaur fossils, are formed. It tells the nonfiction story of dinosaurs and uses illustrations to make the information more accessible to kids. For example, it illustrates the stages of a dinosaur turning into a fossil. A good conversation starter!

Red Sings from TreetopsOkay, this book has nothing to do with fossils, but we love it, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share it. This book explores the changing of the seasons through poetry and colors. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the pictures are truly unique.