We are nearing peak foliage in Maine, which means that it’s time for some autumn crafts.
Wait, I hear you saying, don’t you hate crafting?
It’s true. I hate crafting. I especially hate crafting with children. I fully appreciate people who like to make little seasonal things of beauty with children but I…well. I’d rather be doing almost anything other than glue-gunning acorns to a styrofoam frame. The mess, the waste, the melt-downs…it’s all terrible.
But. There are a few ways of enjoying autumn’s beauty that I have stumbled on over the years that don’t make me want to lay down on the floor in exhaustion. Some, in fact, are actually fun. Even for a crafting drop-out like me.
So, if you also don’t find heart-warming joy in covering your entire house with glitter, read on! Of course, if you do like crafting with kids, these will absolutely work for you, too. Just don’t show me what yours look like; I’m sure they will be much nicer than mine.
Leaf Candle Jar
In a moment of insanity, I actually volunteered to do this craft with my son’s entire pre-school class a few years ago. Trust me when I say, that if I could manage that while getting only a minimum of glue in my hair, you can do this at home with your own kids. It’s super easy.
Our candle jar still livens up our table on a regular basis, proof that these things are very pretty, useful, and long-lasting. The clutter of crafts is one reason I dislike them, so making something that we will actually appreciate for more than a day is important to me.
a glass jar of any size (canning jar, old jelly jar, plain glass tea light holders, anything glass with a smooth surface will do)
Mod Podge (available almost everywhere craft goods are sold)
leaves of different shapes and sizes
a paintbrush you don’t mind getting ruined when you forget to wash the glue out before it dries (is that just me?)
- Wipe down the surface of your jar, just to remove any dust.
- Paint on a layer of Mod Podge. If your jar is very large, you may want to do one side at a time to reduce the chances of gluing your fingers together.
- Arrange your leaves on the glue. You can overlap a bit, but paint on a little more glue at the overlap site. Also, be aware that layers may bubble up a bit.
- Paint more Mod Podge over the leaves. It will dry clear, so don’t worry about the opaque look.
- Once everything has been arranged and covered, take one more minute to smooth over the whole thing with your paintbrush. This may be better handled by the adult.
- Let dry thoroughly.
- Drop in your tea light and enjoy.
Told you it was easy.
“Look,” I hear you saying, “arranging a bunch of outside crap is not actual arts and crafts.”
To which I say: Andy Goldsworthy.
Seriously, environmental art has a few wonderful things going for it. It’s free, it gets everyone out into the fresh air, it stimulates creative thinking, and–you knew this was coming–it doesn’t clutter up your house.
If you want to get a little inspiration, I do recommend doing an image search for Andy Goldsworthy with your child. Nils-Udo is another good one. These are awe-inspiring examples, yes, but their main attribute is the sheer creativity brought to every day materials.
Whatever you find: leaves, acorns, pine cones, cool twisty sticks, pretty rocks, feathers, anything that grabs your eye
A smooth place to work
- Get stuff.
- Arrange it.
Seriously, I don’t know how much more complicated to make it. Just settle in and let the ideas flow. Try stuff. Rerrange. Bounce ideas off each other. Scrap it and start again. This is all about process, not about product.
Make sure talk with your kids about how you are exploring the shapes of nature. You can take it any direction you want. If you are ecologically-inclined, you can talk about plant life cycles or seed distribution. If you are artistically-minded, talk about balancing shape and color, and the basics of composition. If you are mathematicians, work out some patterns and repeats.
Do you need permission to just go nuts?
This is me giving you permission to just go nuts.
When you are done, just leave your art where it is and let nature take back its own. If your child is upset about leaving their creation, taking a picture of it to print out (or not!) can often soothe their artistic ego.
Autumn Leaf Bunting
Okay, I’ll admit that we haven’t actually tried this one yet, but I think we will this weekend. I’m sure we all remember ironing leaves between wax paper to preserve their color. It’s a classic kid craft, simple and straightforward, but then what do you do with all those wax paper leaves? You can’t stick them all to the windows.
A while ago, I saw an example of where someone used their wax paper leaves to make a fall bunting or garland. Aha! A perfect solution. Of course, theirs was fancy with glue gun and ribbon. I don’t own either a glue gun or ribbon, but I’ve got a hole punch and garden twine. That should work!
I think we will make some of these to liven up our front porch this fall.
Leaves of different shapes and colors. Try to find ones that are pretty flat.
Some newspaper or thin rags
Scissors or a hole punch
- Cover your ironing board or table with newspaper or rages to protect it from the wax. Turn your iron on high but don’t add any water.
- Spread out your wax paper. I find giving each person their own piece of wax paper is an excellent sibling fight reduction method.
- Lay out your leaves. Because you’ll be cutting this into a bunting shape, you want only a few leaves in a roughly triangular pattern. Spaces between and around the leaves are just fine. While you can certainly do a lot of triangles on a long sheet of wax paper, I think I wouldn’t aim for more than two or three at a time to make ironing and cutting easier.
- Lay another sheet of wax paper on top.
- Put some more newspaper or rags on top and iron. As things begin to melt, you may want to press gently right on top of each leaf triangle.
- Let cool, then cut out your triangles.
- Use your scissors or hole punch to make holes in two sides of your triangles and string your twine through. (Alternately, if you are fancy, use your glue gun to glue them to a ribbon.)
- Hang and enjoy.