Kid-Tested Ways to Create with Autumn Leaves

leaf craft main
Autumn leaves are like works of art on their own, making them favorite art mediums for crafters during the season. All images by Lisa Kay Tate.

Leaves have always been one of the “go-to” nature craft items during the fall months, but they are more versatile than you might think. Here are some different kid-friendly ways to use these colorful—and plentiful—art supplies you may or may not have known about.

As Folding and Cutting Paper. This works best with leaves that are still pliable. I’ve found if you run your fingers along a branch of leaves that haven’t fallen yet, those that fall off easily, without having to be plucked, are at this stage.

You can make fall “rosebuds” with larger leaves (like maple leaves) by folding the top down to meet the stem and rolling them gently. Then, secure the bottom with chenille stem or raffia (straw ribbon). I learned about this craft when I was looking for a bouquet for a “corpse bride” Halloween costume, but they turned out to be great Thanksgiving accents as well.

Smaller leaves can be folded lengthwise and cut to make hearts, stars, simple paper doll animals, or other designs. You can also use a small cookie cutter as a guide.

fold:cut leaf
Fold and roll a leaf to create autumn “rosebuds” or punch out and cut shapes for colorful, natural tabletop decorations.

As a Canvas. This is one of the most fun uses for younger crafters. Larger leaves that are still fairly flat can be used as canvas for seasonal or rustic images. This is also a great backdrop for little “turkey” hands. Laminate them for safe-keeping or glue them onto construction paper.

Use leaves as a rustic canvas for painting.
Use leaves as a rustic canvas for painting.

As a Stencil. Find leaves of different shapes and sizes that are still relatively flat and arrange them on a piece of paper—any color will do. These can be held in place by placing a small piece of tape on the back of each leaf. Drizzle or sponge acrylic or craft paint over the leaves, careful not to let it seep under the leaves. These final images can be folded for fall place settings or note cards. This works with spray paint as well, for more advanced crafters.

stencil leaf
Gather leaves of various shapes to use as a stencil.

As a “Painting” Medium. This is actually more like a mosaic than paint, but it takes advantage of the different colors of fall leaves to create a collage or add color to nature crafts. The more crinkly and dry a leaf is, the easier this is to do. Crumble different colored leaves over paper plates. Less crumbly leaves can be torn or cut like paper. Then “paint” flat river stones with the leaves by gluing the leaves over the top of the surface and securing them with a layer of decoupage glue.

If you can’t find a suitable stone, make a disc out of polymer clay. Use a popcicle stick or clay tool to draw a simple design in the clay before baking. For a little more color, add some petals from fall flowers.

mos leaf
Crumble or cut up leaves of different colors and flower petals to make river stone collage mosaics.

As a Stamp. As opposed to the other fall leaf uses, this one needs fresh green leaves to work best. However, there are plenty of evergreen and house plants that can be used in the fall. Place a leaf on piece of light-colored paper and cover it with a paper towel. Gently pound over the leaf with a hammer until it is completely smashed. Remove the remainder of the leaf, for a natural stamped image on paper.

stamp leaf
Fresh leaves can be hammered to create natural stamped images.

These techniques can find their way onto note cards, autumn centerpieces, wreaths, gift wrapping, paper weights, or any other creative fall use, so go gather some leaves and gather your ideas.

Lisa Kay Tate is a veteran feature writer with 20 years experience in newspaper, magazine and freelance writing. In addition to serving as Associate Editor for her local arts and entertainment guide, El Paso Scene, she has been a regular contributor to the site and maintains her own blogsite at She and her husband, writer/photographer Rick, live on the edge of "New Texico" where they keep busy raising their two geeklings and sharing space with their dog, Sirius Black, and cat, Loki.