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We’re Going On A Leaf Hunt

Every leaf speaks bliss to me

Fluttering from the autumn tree.

– Emily Brontë

Written by Steve Metzger and Illustrated by Miki Sakamoto


Join three children on their exciting leaf-finding adventure as they move and play to gather leaves from different types of trees.


After reading the story check below to find a few ideas for play and learning that can be adjusted for multiple ages!


Leaf Sorting

Let’s sort leaves together! This is a super simple, yet incredibly versatile activity wonderful for all ages.

  1. Gather Leaves - Go outside together with a receptacle like a bucket or pouch and gather as many different leaves as you can find together. Each child (and guide!) can have their own bucket or you can work together to fill a larger bowl or bucket.

  2. Explore With the Senses - Once gathered, take a moment to explore the leaves with your explorers. Notice aloud what you see (colors, sizes, veins, holes, tiny friends). Wonder what sounds the leaves can make or which trees they came from. Feel the leaves, crunch and tear some of them.

  3. Choose How to Sort - Now that you’ve gotten to know the leaves a little better, look for similarities in the leaves with your explorers. Wonder if any are the same color, size or shape. Help your explorers to make piles or rows of leaves that share qualities.


This activity can be done in many different ways and explorers will always approach it from different directions as they grow and learn more about their world.

What are we learning?

🔹Cognitive Skills → Grouping objects by color, size or shape is a developmental milestone for cognition (learning, thinking and problem solving.) Sorting and matching helps develop visual perceptual skills, thinking and memory skills.

🔹Divergent Thinking → This is the process of creating multiple, unique ideas or solutions to a problem and is a key component in both creativity and problem solving. Tearing apart leaves as well as sorting leaves in many different ways grows the ability to see one thing in many lights and helps to develop divergent thinking.

🔹Vestibular System → Our vestibular system is centered in our inner ear and triggered when we change the position of our heads. Bending over to pick up leaves and adding them to our buckets helps to activate and hone our vestibular sense which also supports balance and muscle tone.


Obstacle Course

There are so many ways to create an outdoor obstacle course using as many or as few materials as you have on hand! A few ways we’ve enjoyed courses include:

  1. Using physical items we move around or bring to the space - Finding different objects to use such as bean bags or rocks to zig zag or hop between, boards or long sticks to use as balance beams, and ropes or sticks for marking of long leaping spaces.

  2. Using natural items that are stationary or already in our space - Finding tree roots or branches to use as balance beams, sticks or stones to mark spaces for jumping and zig zagging, and trees to run, hop or fly around and through.


Once your course is created, wonder with explorers how a certain animal (like a squirrel) or a leaf might move to complete each obstacle. Then, move through the course together! Explorers may continually work to tackle one obstacle (diving deep) or they may hop from obstacle to obstacle, trying each in different ways (dabbling). Both dabbling and diving deep are valuable ways of learning and we trust explorers to know what their bodies and brains need at the moment.

What are we learning?

🔹Creativity → Moving like different animals, falling and swirling like leaves, and creating new obstacles are all wonder ways of pretend play that foster creativity.

🔹Wellness → Kids who spend more time outdoors are more physically active, and we know that being physically active drives all kinds of positive health outcomes!

🔹Proprioception → This is the hidden sense that relates to our understanding of where our bodies are in space and how much pressure to use when we move or hold our muscles at rest. We develop proprioception anytime we practice hitting up against something with our body and getting feedback from that thing such as jumping, pushing and pulling.


Get To Know A Tree

In our story, we see and names a few different types of trees. Learning the names of natural objects in our greenspaces is one way for us to better get to know, find wonder and fall in love with the natural world. In a past post, we learned a few different ways to get to know a tree and you can check it out here!

Looking for more books about leaves? We love these: Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert, Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson, and Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka.


I’d love to hear which ideas sparked play and joy with your explorers or if you have any other connections for play! Comment below or tag me in your play on Instagram @magnoliaoutoor.


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