This is a simple activity that can actually be done at any time of year, (using any small, flat objects, e.g. pressed flowers, herbs, petals) but I love autumn leaves, so this is an autumn activity for me!
Suitable for almost any age, provided they have enough fine-motor control to collect the leaves and place them on the paper… The gorgeous model in my photos is ~18 months old, and he seemed to enjoy it. Older kids might get a bit more artistic value or nature-appreciation out of it (but you never know!).
You will need to use an iron, so adult supervision and help will be required for young kids. If your kids are a bit older – hey, what a great way to introduce them to some ironing skills!
You can up the complexity for older kids (or adults?) by making the paper longer, it makes quite a striking-looking piece of decor – I actually used this idea to create autumn themed table runners for my wedding back in April 2012.
Collect your leaves (or flowers, herbs, glitter, paper scraps, whatever your theme is). Try to get fairly flat objects, and bear in mind that fresher leaves are better as the older, crunchy ones crack and break when you iron them.
Discussions on the season are optional – I found 18-month-olds to be somewhat ambivalent to the season, but they had fun finding colourful leaves and putting them in the bag!
(Putting things ‘away’ or in a bag is also a handy skill to cultivate if you want to look at it that way, I suppose…)
Get a roll of wax paper. You can find it near the cling-wrap or foil in the supermarket.
Decide the length your finished project will be, and tear or cut a strip twice that length. (For my table runners we used 2 rolls facing each other, and just kept going til they ran out!)
On this occasion, I tore off a strip long enough that when folded in half it was a square ~60cm.
*TIP* You want the 2 pieces or halves to line up as closely as possible, for neatness when ironing. I’d recommend cutting the paper unless you can tear it fairly straight. Mine was messy…
Lay the paper wax-side up.
Arrange the leaves or other objects on the paper. Try to spread them out flat, with gaps of ~2-3cm between them, and/or at least 4cm clear space around the edges – this is to give the wax enough space to seal the leaves in.
You may need to provide some guidance for the younger ones to ensure there’s enough space around/between the leaves…and also some dissuasion if (when) they try to eat the paper or the leaves!
Fold or place the top layer of paper over the leaves. You want the two waxed surfaces facing each other with the leaves in the middle.
Try to ensure the edges are all lined up.
Using an ironing board (or folded up old towel to protect the table), iron the paper.
This will melt the wax, and when it re-sets, it will stick the 2 sheets of of paper together with the leaves held inside. You won’t need a very high heat setting on the iron. Take care not to burn anything by keeping the iron moving, slowly and gently. Don’t burn any hands or fingers!
Be careful around the edges – if the paper is overhanging or not even, you might melt one layer of wax onto the iron, or onto the towel. It will wipe off the iron while it’s still hot if you use a tissue or paper towel. It’s not a very thick coating of wax, so it should come off the towel in a hot wash if needed.
Ensure you seal the edges to keep all the goodies in. Try to avoid going over the same areas again, as this will just re-melt the wax and you’ll need to let it set again.
Take a picture of your art!
(18-month-olds need no encouragement here!)
The waxed paper gives a slightly opaque finish, a sweet rustic/vintage look (compared to using clear contact as in this similar activity).
You could write your/their name on it, and stick it on the fridge, window, dresser, table…etc.
You could make one each season, or for a memento of a holiday, or make one each autumn and compare the leaves you find over the years.
Additional tips for longer pieces:
As I mentioned, we set up a bit of a production line for the wedding table runners. I wish we’d gotten some photos at the time!
We had the base paper rolled out across the ironing board. The bag of leaves was on an adjacent table within arms reach. As I laid the leaves out on the base paper, then rolled the top paper over the top, my Mum ironed the paper. Then we carefully rolled each section along off the end of the ironing board, where my fiance (now husband) held it out to cool and then slowly rolled it up. You need to be sure you give it time to cool and set the wax before rolling it up or the heat will build up and melt all the wax in the parts you’ve already done! Also be sure to roll it loosely so you don’t bend and crunch the leaves (or whatever other items you’ve used).