Leaf Explorations, Nature Lessons

Exploring Leaves

by Therusticfive-

Leaf Exploration

This summer we explored leaves using our homemade play-doh. The children at my home-based nature nursery school including my own daughter love playdough, so adding the loose parts play with the leaves added extra fun for them.

Let me begin by explaining that my philosophy of education is that it should be child-led, interest and play based in order to create a love of lifelong learning. None of the Explorations I add to my website are teacher-directed or worksheet based. This is why I call them Explorations instead of lesson plans.

This Exploration is simple to put together. We began by going outside to our outdoor classroom to collect leaves. We looked on the ground first before we picked any off of the tree. This activity allowed us to count our leaves, talk about colors including different shades of green, and which leaves were the biggest and smallest. We were also identifying the type of leaf for each one which helped us build our vocabulary and language. 

Next, we went back inside because we don’t have an outdoor table at the moment. Otherwise, we would have stayed outside for the remainder. We got out our homemade playdough and began using the leaves in our playdough Explorations. Many of the kids were noticing the leaf imprints and how each one was different. This added to our language building and wonderings. It also helped to boost our fine motor skills which will eventually help them with their future writing. 

Over all, the children loved this Exploration. It kept them excited and learning through their play. We “accomplished” a lot in the time they played with the leaves and playdough. 


Playdough (I prefer to use our homemade version)


Children with a playful spirit


Toddlers and up 


Fine motor, gross motor, vocabulary/language, color identification, number sense, shortest/tallest, knowledge of local trees

Useful for:

Daycares, preschools, family Explorations, homeschool, elementary, middle school or any one else who enjoys playdough and leaves

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I’m Melissa Dow, M.ED. I am a wife, mama of 2 and a bonus mama of 1. A former public school educator with 7 years of experience in both special education and general education who is on a new journey to help parents guide their children to uncover their true passions in order to find their life purpose. I love spending time out in nature whether hiking, running, camping, canoeing or just playing in our backyard (aka our outdoor classroom). I also enjoy reading, learning new things, organic gardening and creating our a simple life.

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  1. KIm

    My kids would love this – now if it wasn’t freezing outside! But, I am saving it to do when the weather gets a bit warmer!

    20 . 12 . 2016
  2. Therusticfive

    It’s definitely something you want to do when it’s a little warmer out. We did it this summer and the kiddos loved it.

    20 . 12 . 2016
  3. Ash @ Spit Up and Sit Ups

    This is a pretty fun idea for kids! You could probably try different items for different seasons!

    20 . 12 . 2016
  4. Vicki @ Babies to Bookworms

    This is such a great sensory activity and a great way to use play dough! I will have to pin this so I remember to use it with our next play dough batch!

    20 . 12 . 2016
  5. Dearlyndsey

    I love this idea. I will this to our outdoor learning when spring comes around. My kids would love to do this we did tracing leaves last year.

    20 . 12 . 2016
  6. Therusticfive

    Tracing leaves sounds fun as well. What a great way for them to work on fine motor skills.

    20 . 12 . 2016
  7. Tabitha Blue

    Fun! My littles would love this!!

    20 . 12 . 2016
  8. Kathy

    I love everything about this. From collecting the leaves outside to exploring them together at a later time. Great idea!

    20 . 12 . 2016
  9. workingmommagic

    My daughter would love this, she is obsessed with play doh!

    20 . 12 . 2016
  10. Bridget Riepl

    this is sooooo fun!

    21 . 12 . 2016
  11. The Sanity Plan

    Most of the leaves around here are soggy about now, but I do have some pine cones 🙂

    21 . 12 . 2016
  12. Jessica Kromer

    This is such a good idea for an activity for a toddler that gets us outside. Thanks for sharing!

    21 . 12 . 2016

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