If you're starting a new homeschool year in September, now is the perfect time to enjoy nature studies and forest schooling activities, along with beautiful fall colors. Use these free fall leaves printables and interesting facts about leaves to turn outdoor family time into a fun lesson. (You'll find them down at the very end of this post.)
Table of contents
- Nature Lessons in Our Homeschool
- Autumn Leaves and Colors
- Interesting Facts About Fall Leaves
- No Fall Leaves Printables?
- Books about Leaves
- Autumn Leaves Games & Activities
- PDF Files and Fall Leaves Printable Activities
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Nature Lessons in Our Homeschool
As you might know, our family homeschools off the grid in the Canadian subarctic. And our girls love anything to do with animals, nature, and outdoor family life.
And I'm been working hard at creating sixth-grade nature printables and third-grade nature printables for my two youngest children.
We start with preschool nature lessons and introduce nature picture books to our young children.
And while we're an outdoor family in all seasons, we especially love the autumn trees and fall leaves of the far north. That's why I created this fall leaves printable post and resources. You'll find the printable set down at the end of this post.
Autumn Leaves and Colors
The first thing many of us notice about the autumn season is the color of fall leaves. Oftentimes before the actual weather changes, trees begin the process of losing their leaves. Around here, we see many different leaves fall in late August and early September!
In some places, autumn leaves put on a remarkable show. But you can find dazzling fall trees almost anywhere if you pay attention.
Whether you live in the country or the city, the fall season is the perfect time to combine outdoor time with lessons. Fall leaves printables are a great way to do this.
Interesting Facts About Fall Leaves
How and why do leaves change their colors?
This blog post includes information for kids of all ages. It has an explanation for parents and older students. It also includes educational materials for little learners. You'll find information and links for fall leaves printables and activities like
- fall art projects
- leaf shapes
- fun crafts
- fall leaf prints
- fall leaves printables activity pack
- free printable leaf template
- coloring sheets
- autumn leaves videos for kids
- autumn leaves books for kindergarten through 8th grade
The Link to Photosynthesis
You probably know all about photosynthesis. It’s the process by which plants create their own food. And chlorophyll plays an important role in this process.
Chlorophyll is a pigment found inside plant cells in an organelle called a chloroplast. Chlorophyll’s job is to absorb (sun)light, which the chloroplast then uses to convert light into energy, or food, for the plant.
When plants (especially trees) come out of dormancy in the spring, they produce a ton of chlorophyll in their growing leaves. This pigment is what gives leaves their green color because it reflects the green wavelengths in white light.
But in the fall, many plants stop producing chlorophyll as the leaves prepare to drop to the ground.
I found a great way for my youngest to learn about photosynthesis with this third-grade plant science slide show.
Other Leaf Pigments
Many plant cells actually produce other pigments besides chlorophyll. But they aren’t produced in the same quantity so they’re “drowned out” by the dominant green pigment.
These other pigments that exist within the leaves are called carotenoids. They are made up of two types: carotenes reflect orange light waves, and xanthophylls, which reflect yellow wavelengths.
When the chlorophyll starts breaking down in the fall, these other pigments become more visible and turn the leaves from green to orange and yellow.
And while carotenoids and xanthophylls already exist in many plant leaves, some plants start producing a completely new pigment in the fall. Anthocyanin turns leaves purple and red.
Not a Pigment
Many plants also produce a compound called tannin. It has a very bitter taste and most plants produce it to protect themselves from predators. When leaves die and if the pigments break down, the tannins are left behind and give the leaves a brown color.
What Causes Leaves to Change Colors?
We’ve explained how leaves change colors. Now here's why!
Lots of factors can cause trees to drop their leaves. Storms, droughts, and extreme temperatures can all affect a tree. But usually, the most important factor is photoperiod. That’s the amount of time that a plant is exposed to sunlight every day.
When the days are getting longer in the spring, the trees take it as a signal to produce more leaves (and chlorophyll) to produce more food and grow. But after the summer solstice - which is the longest day of the year - the days start getting shorter.
This shrinking photoperiod triggers the trees’ response to stop producing chlorophyll in preparation for winter dormancy. And as chlorophyll breaks down, the other pigments become visible.
Deciduous or Evergreen?
Finally, it’s important to know the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees. Not all trees lose their leaves in the fall. Evergreens - such as pines, spruce, and firs - have foliage that stays green and functions for more than one growing season.
They have a waxy coating to protect the leaves and seal in moisture, and many have anti-freezing properties in their biological makeup.
Deciduous trees shed their leaves during specific seasons, usually the fall. Examples include maples, birches, and most oak trees.
These shed leaves aren’t wasted; the leaves that fall around the base of the tree decompose and provide nutrients to the tree’s roots.
No Fall Leaves Printables?
Many years ago, long before I was looking for fall leaves printables for my own kids, my mother showed me how to make leaf rubbings with real leaves.
We'd head out on a leaf hunt and have a great time with this easy fall activity. This is a fun activity for younger children. And it is a good rainy day activity too.
Make Leaf Rubbings Instead
It's easy. On your next nature walk, carefully choose some pretty fall leaves. Look for maple leaves, oak leaves, and leaves of different shapes.
When you get home, lay the leaves on a flat surface. We always put newsprint down to protect our table. It's an easy alternative to hunting down fall leaf printables when you're out of time. (Or printer ink!)
Place a piece of plain white paper on top of the leaf. Then use a pencil crayon (warm colors like yellow, orange, red, brown) and just start coloring gently right over the leaf. The outlines and inner lines of the leaf will show through. This is an easy way to introduce your children to colorful leaves and a good alternative if you don't have fall coloring pages or a leaf stencil around.
Videos about the Changing Colors of Leaves
If you’re looking for some fun videos that explain the changing colors of leaves to children, check out these:
- Why Do Leaves Change Color? | Original Kids Song from Treetop Family (early elementary)
- Why Leaves Change Color: Untamed Science (3rd through 6th)
- Why Do Leaves Change Color in Fall? (3rd through 6th)
- Why Do Leaves Change Color? The Science Of Fall Foliage | Mach | NBC News (6th - 8th)
Books about Leaves
This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Look for a good book with a fall theme that is all about leaves?
Our family LOVES to read. And with a winter season that starts in October and ends in late May, we spend a lot of time with our noses in books! Here are some ideas of books about fall leaves for kids.
For children ages 4 to 8 (includes some easy reader book choices with simple sight words)
- Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins or watch the read aloud version
- Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert - read aloud
- Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro - read aloud
- Trees, Leaves & Bark by Diane Burns
For older children and adults
- The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups by Gina Ingoglia
- National Geographic Field Guide to the Trees of North America: The Essential Identification Guide for Novice and Expert
- The Book of Leaves: A Leaf-by-Leaf Guide to Six Hundred of the World's Great Trees by Allen J. Coombes and Zsolt Debreczy
Autumn Leaves Games & Activities
- Match a Leaf: A Tree Memory Game by Tony Kirkham
- Happy Fall: Color By Numbers Coloring Book For Adults by ZenMaster Coloring Books
- Free Printable Fall Leaves Games & Activities for Kids by Kindergarten Worksheets & Games
PDF Files and Fall Leaves Printable Activities
You'll find the details on how to get the free autumn leaves printable PDFs down at the bottom of this post. ⬇️
Autumn Leaves - Sorting Activity Sheet for PreK through Kindergarten
These simple leaf cards teach and reinforce color recognition.
Get your kids outside on a lovely fall day. Collect a bucket full of leaves. Encourage them to collect different types of leaves of all colors. Afterward, have them sort the leaves by color on the activity sheet. Point to the colors and say the names of each one.
Optional: Instead of using our activity sheet, use construction paper in the following colors: yellow, orange, red, purple, green, and brown.
Autumn Leaves: Categorizing Leaves Activity Sheet
This simple leaf activity sheet suits children at the third grade through fifth grade level. Use it to help develop critical thinking and categorization skills.
Directions: Get your kids outside to collect a bucket full of leaves. Encourage them to collect different types of leaves of all colors. Afterward, have them sort the leaves by the dominant pigment.
Autumn Leaves: Tree & Leaf Categorization Worksheet
This Grade 6 Tree and Leaf Categorization Worksheet best suits homeschoolers could be used with children between the ages of about 10 and 13. Use it to develop research skills while strengthening data completion.
Directions: Have your students research online or in a book the trees that are listed on the worksheet. Then have them fill out the remaining sheet as to whether the tree is evergreen or deciduous, and checkmark the box(es) under the dominant pigment(s) in the leaves’ fall colors.
Autumn is my favorite season, and a wonderful opportunity to introduce your children to nature and outdoor life.
We're adding to our homeschool shop , fall prints for your homeschool, and fall printables every week in September and October.
Grab your free fall leaves printables pack below and sign up for our newsletter for new freebies and discount codes!