Why Do Leaves Change Color?

What You Need:

  • VIDEO: Free School Video: Why Do Leaves Change Color on YouTube

  • Computer or device to view the video

  • Green leaf covering (rub green chalk into sugar or sand on a styrofoam tray or paper plate)

  • Paintbrushes of various sizes 

  • Four to five different colors of real leaves (or craft leaves)

  • Large tray to place leaves and the green leaf covering (alternatively, cover a table with newspaper)

  • One copy of the Blank Bar Graph to graph the fall leaves

  • Find Out Why Leaves Change Color (optional extension activity)

  • Scrap paper

What You Do: 

  1. Prior to the activity, set up a table or tray with the fall leaves spread out. Cover the leaves with the green covering. Place paintbrushes of various sizes on the table.

  2. Bring your child to a comfortable space (e.g., couch) to chat and explain that today they will be learning about why leaves change color.

  3. Ask your child what they notice about the fall leaves. Before fall comes, what color are most of the leaves they see outside? Discuss your ideas as a family. If it’s fall where you live, you can take your child for a quick walk outside to observe.

  4. Watch the Free School Video: Why Do Leaves Change Color?

  5. Pause the video and discuss some things they learned. Once the video finishes, explain to your child that today they are going to do a fun activity to discover the fall colored leaves underneath the chlorophyll of the leaves.

  6. Explain to your child that chlorophyll is the green pigment in the leaves. Point out that today, the green covering you made will be the pretend chlorophyll. Connect to the video by explaining that when the fall comes, the chlorophyll from the leaves gets lighter, so the other colors show up.

  7. Bring your child to the table (or tray) and instruct them to use the paintbrushes to brush away the chlorophyll and find the colorful fall leaves underneath. Encourage your child to experiment with the various sized paintbrushes. Ask questions like: Which paintbrush uncovers the fall leaves the fastest? Why? Which paintbrush do you like the best? Which paintbrush removes the green covering (e.g., chlorophyll) the easiest? Why?

  8.  Once your child has uncovered all of the leaves, engage them in jotting down how many leaves they have in each color on scrap paper. Next, support them in graphing their results on the Blank Bar Graph worksheet. 

  9. Have a conversation about the parts of a graph (e.g., title, x-axis, y-axis, etc.) and support them in completing the graph accurately.

  10. Encourage your child to hang their finished graph proudly on their door or the refrigerator.  

Extend the learning by having your child explain why leaves change color to their family and friends. Discover more about leaves and trees by checking out some of these fall-inspired books at your local library:

  • Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro - Introduce your child to concepts like photosynthesis and the different types of leaves with this engaging text. This book also includes simple activities to do with leaves, like leaf rubbings.

  • Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert - This  playful and whimsical book celebrates the natural world and the rich imaginative life of children.

  • Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak - This book is a gorgeous tribute to the changing seasons that celebrates the best of summer and the start of fall.

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