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Outdoor Autumn Fun: Go On a Leaf Scavenger Hunt

The days are shorter, the temperatures are dropping, and the leaves are starting to change color. The hot days of summer seem like a distant memory as fall takes over with its crisp, chilly air and breathtaking hues. In Michigan we get to enjoy all four seasons, but if you ask most Michiganders, fall is their favorite! We spend our weekends picking apples, making pies, going on hayrides, eating cider and donuts, and raking leaves. And kids spend their weekends jumping in leaf piles.

If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by trees draped in shades of red, yellow, and orange, take your kids outside for a fun fall activity that blends science with nature. Go on a leaf scavenger hunt together and see what you can find. Look high and low for leaves of all shapes, sizes, and colors, and examine them when you get home.

A Leaf Scavenger Hunt and Activity for Younger Kids (ages 3+)

Download this list of leaves, attach it to your child's bag, and check them off as you go. You will use them later to make leaf-rubbing art. Look for these types of leaves:

*Find a yellow leaf

*Find an orange leaf

*Find a red leaf

*Find a green leaf

*Find a leaf with 3 points

*Find a leaf with just 1 point

*Find a big leaf

*Find a tiny leaf

Leaf-Rubbing Art Activity

Now that you have a bag filled with beautiful fall leaves, let’s use them to make leaf-rubbing artwork. For this activity you will need the following materials:

Your collection of leaves

Wax paper

Parchment paper

Tracing paper

Crayons (work best on tracing paper)

Oil pastel sticks (work best on wax paper)

Colored pencils (work best on parchment paper)

A clipboard


Clear tape

    1. Lay a leaf on your clipboard and set a piece of paper (wax/parchment/tracing) on top of it. Secure them to the clipboard so they don’t move around when you’re coloring.

    1. Using the side of your crayon or colored pencil tip, gently rub on top of the leaf so that the pattern of the leaf starts to show through on the paper. Rub lighter or harder depending on how easily the leaf is showing up. Extend out to the tips of the leaf and down the stem so you color the whole leaf.

    1. When you’re finished, cut them out and hang them up for display.

A Leaf Scavenger Hunt & Fill-in-the-Blank for Older Kids (ages 12+)

Head outside and look for these types of leaves. When you find them, put them in a bag so you can bring them home and examine them later.

Sugar maple
Paper birch

White ash


Black walnut

American elm

Eastern cottonwood

White oak

Douglas fir

Red Spruce

How Do Leaves Change Color? Fill-in-the-Blank Activity (download printable version here)

Complete these sentences with words from the word bank. "Green” and “sunlight” are used twice.

Word Bank: chlorophyll, carbon dioxide, water, photosynthesis, sunlight, yellow, pigments, masks, leaf cells, green, orange, autumn, temperature, producing, red, green, carotenoid, anthocyanin, sunlight

Plants make their own food by the process known as ________________. This process uses________________ to convert________________ and________________ into sugar. Photosynthesis feeds the trees shiny ________________ leaves.

In the fall, some leaves change their color. Leaf color comes from ________________. The three types of pigments are ________________ for green leaves, ________________ for yellow, orange, and brown leaves, and ________________ for red leaves. Chlorophyll is the most important of these, as it allows the trees to use ____________________ to make food. While both chlorophyll and carotenoid are present in________________ all year long, the chlorophyll ________________ the carotenoid. This is why leaves in the summer months are ________________, not ________________ or ________________. Most anthocyanins are produced only during ________________. Not all trees can make anthocyanin, and it can only be made under certain weather conditions.

As the ________________ drops and trees are exposed to less and less sunlight in the fall, the trees produce less chlorophyll. Eventually trees stop ________________ chlorophyll all together, allowing the carotenoid in the leaves to show through. The leaves will shine in brilliant shades of yellow and orange. If a fall sees many warm, sunny days and cool (but not freezing) nights, then it’ll be a good year for the reds! The anthocyanins in the leaves create the beautiful ________________ hues and help protect the tree from loss of nutrients that could occur from a warm, sunny fall.

Recommended reading for younger kids:

Why Do Leaves Change Color? by National Geographic Learning

We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

If you go on a leaf scavenger hunt, take some pics of your leaves or leaf rubbings and share them with us on Facebook or Instagram.

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