The Art & Science of Leaf Rubbings - Edventures with Kids

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The Art & Science of Leaf Rubbings

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I have always loved to do leaf rubbings!

Ever since I was a child, I was fascinated by the instant 'picture' that was created just by covering a leaf with paper and running a crayon over the top.

As I grew to become a nature lover, I realized that a leaf print is much more than just a pretty picture -- it's also a peek into the science of trees.


Learning Art & Science with Leaf Prints |Edventures with Kids

The Art & Science of Leaf Rubbings

Leaf rubbings are one of those crafts that almost every child tries as Autumn approaches.  We see so many beautiful leaves covering the ground that we are drawn to capture both their shape and hue on paper.

Since we've always done traditional leaf rubbings, I thought we'd venture out this year and experiment with the artform by using materials that are slightly different than the standard white paper and crayon technique.  I've also included some science terms for discussion during the activity along with affiliate links to a few books and items we used to create our prints.


A Fun Twist on traditional Leaf Rubbings


Here's what you'll need to get started:

Feel free to mix and match your papers and drawing supplies in any way you'd like to for the project.  For example, you might use oil pastels with all three types of paper to examine how the leaf print looks different based on the type of paper.  Or you could use all three drawing tools (crayons, oil pastels and colored pencils) on one paper to create a more textured leaf print.


Creating Leaf Art

My daughter chose a different color for each of her drawing supplies and we created leaf prints for all four types of coverings.  We placed the leaf and paper on a clipboard to hold them both in place as we created our prints.


Leaf Print with oil pastel on wax paper | Edventures with Kids

First we used an orange oil pastel on the wax paper.  Wax paper has a glossy surface and the oil pastel compliments it nicely.  It really looks like a 'wet' print when you're finished.


Leaf Print with colored pencil on tracing paper | Edventures with Kids

On our tracing paper, she chose to use a yellow colored pencil.  With pencils, you only need to apply light pressure as you rub the side of the tip across the paper.  If you push too hard, the pencil will rip the paper.


Leaf Print with crayon on parchment paper | Edventures with Kids

We used red crayon to create a leaf print on the parchment paper.  This was my favorite as I think it captured the most detail in the leaf. 

But I will warn you, parchment paper in it's nature is a non-stick material -- which also means that most tape and glue won't work with it if you are hoping to display the print.  We did find out that you can tape the edges of the print to a window but it would not adhere to other pieces of paper.


Leaf Print with tin foil | Edventures with Kids

When we used the aluminum foil, we just ran the side of a pencile over the leaf.  Our goal was to create a raised leaf print instead of a colored print.  It was a nice change-up since you can feel the maze of veins from the leaf.  This is really for more science exploration than art.


Leaf Print Art | Edventures with Kids

Here's all three prints displayed with our leaf.


The Science of Leaves

As you create the leaf prints, talk to the kids about the various parts and functions of a leaf. 


The Science of Leaf Prints | Edventures with Kids

The broad flat part of the leaf is called it's blade. The lines that run through the blade are the leaf's veins.  Veins carry food and water to the tree.  The stalk of the leaf is called a petiole. 

Kids will usually ask--


Why is a leaf green?

Leaves contain chlorophyll, which has a green pigment.  Chlorophyll is the substance that absorbs sunlight to use in photosynthesis (the process of turning carbon dioxide and water into food for the tree).


Why do leaves change colors?

In Autumn, when the days get shorter and colder, the tree knows that winter is coming.  Since there is not enough sunlight and water available during winter, the tree goes into a resting period where it will stop producing food.  When chlorophyll stops being made, the green color fades and we see the other colors that have always been in the leaf.


And if you're looking for a few great book to go along with this activity, I would recommend the following:


Why Do Leaves Change Color? (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science, Stage 2) - easy science for young kids!  This is a great series that explores many science and nature areas.


Autumn Leaves shares an up close look at 13 different trees and leaves in a manner that's appealing to kids.


Awesome Autumn is one of my favorite Fall reads!  The pictures are beautiful and there are so many fun facts in this book (even I learned a few new things!)


Leaf Print Experiment |Edventures with Kids

Hang your leaf prints on a window and let the kids get a good look at them.  You might want to have them look at the leaf itself and then the print so they can compare what they see.  Plus, it's adds a touch of Fall to any room!


Want to receive more Freebies & seasonal activities to do with the kids?




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  • Guest
    Sue Lively September 10

    Some great ideas here. Have never thought of using tin foil over a leaf - what an interesting twist! Thanks for sharing with the Love to Learn Linky! Best, Sue

  • Guest
    Rebekah September 14

    This looks like a great way to take a classic art project to another level. I love the incorporation of science into this project. :)

  • Guest
    Joy @ JoyfullyGreen October 24

    Hi Jacquie!
    Happy to discover your site through Pinterest! I included this post on leaf rubbings in my round-up of "Joyful Reads for the Weekend", the autumn crafts edition. The link to it is here, if you'd like to take a look:

    I wasn't quite sure whether your site is called Edventures or KC Edventures, so I used the former. If you'd prefer something different, just let me know and I'll change it on my blog post. Thanks, Jacquie!

    Looking forward to learning more creative ideas from you!


  • Guest
    Sangeetha menon July 08

    When I was a kid ,I used to do this DIY. Simply love the patterns that are formed by rubbing different types of leafs

  • Guest

    So pretty! And a thoughtful post about the science behind leaves too. :)

    Thanks for stopping by Free and Fun Friday! Next week (or even still this week!) I would love for you to link up one of your free printable... that way I will be able to tweet and pin your post to the party board as well. Hope to see you again really soon!!

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