Pick up a leaf, then leaf through a mag!
Oh I do love a bargain! And I love to gather cheap and easy bits’n’pieces to use creatively with children. To my mind the only thing better than a cheap art material, is a free one.
Autumn has long been my very favourite time of year, not only for those misty afternoons of golden light and long shadows, but also for the scatterings of gorgeousness that carpet the ground.
Autumn leaves are gifts! Don’t overlook them. Celebrate their colours when you see them with your kids. Rustle through them as you walk together, gather up handfuls and toss them in the air. Collect them in a bag tucked under your pram and take them home.
Once home, pat dry any wet leaves, then keep them for crafting. An excellent tip for storing leaves is to keep them flat between the pages of a newspaper or magazine. By taking a moment to do this, they’ll stay flat and easy to handle - otherwise they tend to curl up and become brittle. Autumn leaves pressed within magazines can last for months. Plus… those magazines are themselves great for creative projects, as I’ll explore further below.
Here are some of the easiest crafty ways for children to use Autumn leaves:
Place a flat leaf onto a sheet of paper. Brush or roll paint over the top of the leaf, extending the colour past its edges. Lift the leaf to expose its shape silhouetted onto the page. If you don’t want to use paint try soft oil pastels, but may need some blu-tak under the leaf to hold it steady as you mark around its edges.
This activity pairs perfectly with stenciling. Lift the leaf that you’ve just rolled paint onto, and flip it down onto the page so its wet and ‘painty’ side is now in contact with the paper. Press firmly onto the back of the leaf with your palm, a clean roller or a rolling pin. Peel and lift off to show a print of the leaf and, if you’re lucky, its details and veins.
Introduce some flat Autumn leaves into your collage box, along with scraps of paper and magazine pics. Enable children to attach them to a sheet of paper with a glue stick or pieces of washi tape, and see what artful creation emerges.
As mentioned, magazines are another handy craft resource to have around, and can inspire a whole host of creative opportunities. While new glossy magazines tend to be pricey it’s often possible to pick up used mags cheaply at op shops, or from friends who’ve finished reading them. For crafting purposes the type of magazine isn’t especially important, even a catalogue will do. The handiest mags are colorful, with a good mix of photos and text.
Here are some easy and quirky ways to use magazines creatively with your children:
Tear out a few pages and take a couple of minutes to identify some areas of colour within photos. Cut out sections of colour and then work with your child to sort those pieces into groups of similar colours. Chat together about colour names, and glue the colourful assemblages onto the page with a glue stick.
Find some photos of faces, then cut their features out into separate pieces - i.e. eyes, mouth, nose, ears etc. Mix and match these to arrange features into funny faces, chatting as you go: How many eyes do we have? What are ears for? Is this a smiling mouth? Glue the pieces onto the page, and then encourage your child to draw in any extra details they like.
Spend a few minutes chopping out some letters from magazine pages, especially large letters from headings. Littlies will find the shapes and forms interesting and begin to find them familiar. Preschoolers may start to know the letter’s names. Can your child group examples of the same letters together? Can they find the letters of their name? Can they arrange an alphabet? Can they match upper and lower case letters? With the addition of a glue stick you’ll have an cool collage, and can keep any leftover letters in an envelope or ziplock bag.