Leaf Rubbing Placemats

I’ve toyed around with the idea of buying placemats for the girls for quite some time. Dinnertime, or really any meal time, is anything but clean. It would be nice to be able to just take a plastic mat off of the table, dump it in the sink, wipe it down, and be done with it. I’m just not convinced it would work that way. So before making the plunge and getting irritated that it doesn’t work, I decided that having some fun and making them would at least make it worth it in the end. We had lots of leftover leaves from our clay project and with Thanksgiving coming up, we would need something fall-holiday themed, so we decided to make leaf rubbing placemats. Festive!

Before making these, we took a trip to Walmart to buy the clear contact paper that we would need. On the way, we talked about the trees changing color (see Nurture the Experience.). Riley named off each color that we saw and remembered those colors as we chose our crayons for the project. I’m sure there is an early art concept in there somewhere!

Leaf Rubbing PlacematWhat You’ll Need:

Clear contact paper
Crayons
Construction paper
Safety scissors
Leaves


  1. Pick out the fall colors for the leaves. We used red, orange, green, and brown. Remove the wrapper from the crayons. This is going to be hard for perfectionists. Even I found myself trying to get around it, but, really, you need the whole side of the crayon for the rubbing.
  2. Take the leaves and place them under the paper. It works best to have leaves that are still pliable. The ones that are too dry will crack under the pressure of the crayon.
  3. Use the side of the crayon to color over the section of the paper where the leaf is. It will make a perfect indent of the leaf!
  4. Cut two pieces of contact paper long enough to cover the paper and leave a small border. Remove the paper to expose the sticky side and place one on the top and one on the bottom of the leaf-rubbed construction paper.
  5. Cut the excess contact paper off and you’re done!

Nurture the Experience

Why do leaves change colors? And, why are the colors different on each leaf? This is a perfect opportunity to weave in a science lesson. Let’s start with what a leaf does for the plant. The leaves are a lot like our stomachs and sunlight is their food. They take the sunlight and in a process called photosynthesis they turn the sunlight into food. The chemical that helps with this process is called chlorophyll, which has a nice, bright green color. So, that’s what makes the leaves green in the summertime. Lots of sunlight means lots of green chlorophyll. In the fall, when the days become shorter and the sunlight becomes less, the trees begin to prepare for the winter months. Essentially, they hibernate. They’ve stored up the food that they need for the winter so they “turn off” their food-making machines. As the presence of the chlorophyll becomes less and less, we are able to see the yellow and orange colors of the leaf. They were present the whole time! But, they were masked by the green chlorophyll. The red color is produced by a pigment called anthocyanins, which can only be produced by certain trees.

Don’t forget to use the real scientific names with your kids!

Recommended Reading:

Fletcher and the Falling LeavesFletcher is a little fox who has a fondness for one particular tree. It is his favorite. When the seasons begin to change, he watches the leaves turn from green to the reds, oranges, and browns of fall. The wind blows and begins to take with it the leaves. Fletcher tries furiously to keep the leaves on the tree. He doesn’t want it to be alone. After a long day’s battle, he takes the last little leaf with him and makes a home for it in his home. In the morning, he visits the lonely tree to find a magical sight. I love the uncertainty that this book expresses about the changing of the seasons. Letting go of what we loved about summer is tough until you see the magic of fall.

Red Sings from TreetopsI reviewed this book in the Clay-Pressed leaves post, but it fits so well here I can’t help but to use it again. This book uses poetry to describe the colors of each season. The words are woven together beautifully with gorgeous pictures. A great introduction to poetry for children.

There was an old lady who swalled some leavesThis is a super silly book that follows the nursery rhyme “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.” The illustrations in the book are very funny and had my girls giggling. I was confused on why they were choosing certain objects to have the lady swallow, but it all made sense at the end. Very clever!