Preschool Leaf Science Observing Autumn Leaves

Colorful autumn leaves are easy to collect on a nature walk and are perfect for nature-themed activities about the changing seasons. Observe a few leaves indoors for a few days with this simple science activity.

Leaf science - Preschool Toolkit

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Hands-on science activities are a great source of fun and learning for kids. 

Exploring natural materials supports learning about the environment hands-on. Kids can observe weather conditions, animal habitats and signs of the seasons.

The changing colors of leaves on trees and plants are a visible indication of the fall season.

This experiment helps kids observe and document changes as they learn more about their environment.

We used red and yellow maple leaves in this activity but you can use any leaves available in your area.


Leaf science - Preschool Toolkit 

We are fortunate to live near a wooded area, which means we have a great supply of leaves! The trees are especially beautiful as the leaves change color in the fall.

These large maple leaves are perfect for this indoor experiment.


Instructions for science activity with autumn leaves

For this activity you will need a few leaves of similar size and type, to make it easier to observe changes. We gathered pairs of leaves - two yellow and two red - for this experiment.

You will also need a couple heavy books, and white paper for charting results.

Leaf science - Preschool Toolkit

Conduct the experiment:

Day 1

1. Place two leaves between the books. 

2. Place two leaves on a table or shelf in open air.

Allow the leaves to remain in place overnight.

3. Make a simple chart similar to the one in the photo to observe results. Record the date or Day 1, the type of leaf used in the experiment, and the location of the leaves.



Leaf science - Preschool Toolkit


Day 2

5. On the second day, remove the leaves from between the books and place on the paper chart.

Compare these leaves with the ones left in the open air overnight.

6. Return the two leaves to their place between the books.

7. Continue to observe the leaves for another day or two, placing the same leaves between two books overnight while the other leaves remain uncovered.

Leaf science - Preschool Toolkit

Make observations:
  • shape
  • color
  • texture
  • smell

1. Observe how the weight of the book prevented some leaves from curling up.

2. What would happen if you left the pressed leaves uncovered overnight?

3. Can the curled leaves be flattened if placed between two books?

4. Did the leaves curl because they were brought inside?


Understanding the properties of autumn leaves
Here is a brief summary of some tree and leaf facts:

You can find lots of information online explaining why leaves change color and fall off the branches. Provide information and activities to your child, or the participants in your early learning program, according to interest and skill level.

The important outcome for this activity is experiencing nature, and learning to explore, observe, and discover!

1. Chemicals called pigments in the leaves of the trees give them their color.
                Chlorophyll gives leaves a green color.
                Carotenoids make leaves red, yellow and brown.

2. While leaves are green they make food for the tree, but when leaves receive less warmth from the sun as the weather cools, the chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down. Food becomes stored in the tree instead of in the leaves.

3. When there is not as much chlorophyll present in the leaves, the other colors, which have been there all along, now become more visible.

4. The tree creates a seal between itself and the leaf so the leaf can fall to the ground, sometimes with the help of wind and rain.

5. Since the tree is now storing food all winter, it will be stronger in the spring to grow new leaves.

6. When leaves fall off the tree, they crumble and mix with other plants and sun and water to become mulch to fertilize the ground around the tree.


The autumn colors, smells and textures make leaf exploration a fun sensory learning experience for kids. The crunch of dried leaves, the weight of heavy books, and the amazing results of the experiment all stack up to make this a fun fall activity!


Observe any changes in appearance of the leaves.
1. Did either leaf change its shape or color?
2. Does either leaf feel or smell different?


What may have caused any changes in appearance?
Possible answers include:

1. The weight of the book flattened the leaf and prevented it from curling up.

2. The open air leaf dried up when its water evaporated.

3. Did the leaf curl because it was brought inside? Observe leaves outside, on the tree and on the ground.

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