The end of summer doesn’t mean that all of the outdoor fun is over, too! There are still plenty of ways to get outside and enjoy yourself in your local parks, neighborhood and even your own backyard.
Here are three enjoyable and enlightening nature activities that you can do during the fall!
Practice Leaf Pressing
Before trees shed their leaves for winter, they fill our parks with an array of bright colors! A walk through the park reveals a wealth of hues that range from golden yellows to deep ambers to bright scarlets – and various shades that lie somewhere in between.
Though this colorful display is fleeting, you can capture its essence with an easy and enjoyable activity: leaf pressing.
First, you’ll want to go on a “leaf hunt” in your backyard, neighborhood or local park. This is where you’ll select and gather the leaves you want to press.
Before you gather your leaves, be sure to follow this helpful hints:
- Do not pick leaves off of the trees. They’re still in the midst of their life cycle. Choose leaves that have already fallen on the ground.
- Select leaves that are flat and not curling. Curled leaves are more difficult to press. Plus they’re more susceptible to damage during the pressing process.
Inspect the leaves to make sure they are free of insects or mold.
- Avoid selecting leaves that are moist. These leaves are more difficult to press.
- Schedule your leaf hunting for dry days free from rain and lots of moisture.
While it’s ok to take leaves that have fallen in local parks, taking mementos from National Parks is prohibited. Remember: when visiting protected areas leave nothing but footprints.
To make your leaf hunt extra fun and informative, try to identify the various leaves you collect. There are a couple of different ways to do this. Using a field guide is the old school way to identify leaves and trees. However, the more tech-driven approach is to rely on an application to help with leaf identification needs.
Once you’ve gathered your leaves, it’s time to start pressing them.
Here’s what you’ll need to perform proper pressing:
- Multiple sheets of paper (printer paper works well)
- A very heavy book (the bigger and heavier the book the better)
- Additional books or heavy objects for additional weight
Now that you’ve assembled the necessary materials and tools, you can start pressing your leaves:
- Fold a sheet of paper in half
- Arrange your leaves on one side of the folded paper. (Helpful Hint: Be sure not to put too many leaves on the sheet. You don’t want the leaves to touch or fold during pressing).
- Fold the other side of the paper to secure the leaves.
- Place the folded paper with the leaves in the middle of your large, heavy book.
- Add extra books or weights on top of the pressing book.
- Keep your pressing books in a dry area of your home that’s out of the way.
Occasionally check your leaves to make sure they are dying properly.
The entire pressing process varies from leaf-to-leaf. Some leaves only require a few days. Others may require a week or two.
After your dried and pressed leaves are ready, it’s time for you to decide how you wish to display them.
If you’re interested in preserving them for years to come, displaying your leaves in a quality picture frame is the best way to do so.
Still, you may want to be a bit more creative with your pressed leaves.
Here are just a few creative ways you can use your pressed leaves:
- Create an autumn wreath for your door.
- Make a centerpiece for your dining room table or Thanksgiving feast.
- Add leaves to a coffee table with glass inserts
- Fill bowls and baskets with the leaves for subtle fall accents around your home.
- Include them with greeting cards that you mail to family and friends.
- Trace animal shapes over the leaves, cut them out, and create a variety of decor to display in your windows.Once you get the hang of leaf pressing, you’ll want to do it every fall. Not only will you discover more about nature, you’ll also discover new ways to use and display your pressed leaves!
Make a Nature Mandala
What fall activity combines elements of a scavenger hunt with outdoor fun and learning about nature to create a beautiful piece of art?
Making nature mandalas!
If you’re unfamiliar with nature mandalas, they’re pieces of temporary art that incorporate elements of nature to symbolize the circle of life. Inspired by the ancient mandala symbol, these creations are a wonderful way to explain the changing seasons to children and dazzle friends and neighbors with your natural artistic skills.
To make your nature mandala, you’ll need to find the perfect spot to display your final creation. Front yards and backyards are perfect spots around your household. However, if you wish to display your finished nature mandala in a public spot like a local park, be sure to find an area that won’t disrupt the visitors’ enjoyment.
Next, you’ll gather all of the natural materials you wish to include in your design. Since mandalas take the form of a circle composed of repeating patterns, your design requires multiples of the same types of leaves, twigs, pinecones, stones, pebbles, acorns, berries, branches, flowers and other elements you wish to include.
For the middle of the mandala, you need to choose a natural element that represents the unifying center of the design. In other words, it’s the essential element that connects all of the other elements in the design.
Once the center of your mandala is in place, begin to add your other elements around it. Start in the center of the mandala and work your way out. For example, if the center of your mandala is a small tree branch, then the first circular pattern could be composed of several leaves from that tree. Your next, slightly larger circular pattern could be an array of berries found on the tree. You can finish your design with a larger pattern made of pine cones.
Whatever natural elements you wish to include, the result is a piece of organic, temporary art that defines and highlights the beauty of the changing seasons.
Keep a Nature Journal
If you prefer to express yourself with words instead of images and arts, then nature journaling is the perfect fall activity for you!
Like any journal or diary, a nature journal allows you to record your thoughts, observations and feelings about the natural world. Not only is nature journaling a great way to document your interaction with nature, it also helps instill calmness, boost self confidence and improve your cognitive abilities. Best of all, nature journaling encourages you to slow down and enjoy each moment.
Plus, nature journaling is an outdoor activity that you can enjoy all year long.
If you’re eager to start nature journaling you’ll first need a dedicated journal with lots of pages and pencil or pen.
Once you have your journal and pen, take it with you wherever you go. Nature is everyone. Whether you’re walking your dog, raking leaves, visiting the park or just looking out your window, you’ll see something that’s worth writing about.
Use your nature journal to:
- Record what you see, hear, smell or feel during the moment.
- Document the date, time and location of your various observations.
- Include drawings, photos, leaf pressings, tree rubbings and other elements that help tell your story.
- Include lists of the wildlife, trees and plants that you see and encounter along the way.Nature journaling is an enjoyable and illuminating way to connect with nature and yourself!
Learn More About Nature Activities
Leaf pressing, nature mandalas and nature journaling are not the only outdoor activities you can enjoy during the fall – or any time of the year! There are plenty of other activities that incorporate the natural world for you to discover and enjoy – and we often spotlight them right here!
If you’d like to learn more about fun activities like these, simply subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter!