Fun With Leaves

Children will explore and sort leaves, and make leaf rubbings.


Lesson Objective

Children will explore different types of leaves, including those we eat; sort leaves; and make leaf rubbings.


What You'll Need

  • Trays – 1 per table, plus 2 for demonstration
  • Magnifying glasses – 1 per child
  • Different types of lettuce leaves such as red leaf, green leaf, iceberg, romaine, or Boston
  • Crayons (a variety of colors) with the paper removed – at least 1 per child
  • Thin white paper – several sheets per child
  • Edible leafy greens such as spinach leaves, arugula, bok choy, or cabbage
  • Several leaves from different types of trees, such as maple, oak, elm, dogwood, elder, sassafras, birch, apple, cherry, sycamore, locust, or any other trees native to your area

What To Do

Note: Prior to beginning this lesson, place an assortment of collected leaves on a tray for each table, plus an additional tray for demonstration. Place the lettuce and edible leaves on a separate tray – keep this tray just for discussing and, later, for taste testing.

  1. Display a tray of leaves and the tray of vegetable leaves. Ask the children to describe what they see (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  2. Discuss the different types of leaves, noting the similarities in the structure of both the tree leaves and the vegetable leaves (see Did You Know?).
  3. Explain that some types of leaves are vegetables and are edible (see Did You Know?).
  4. Distribute the magnifying glasses and place the trays of leaves on the tables.
  5. Have each child choose a leaf. Allow a few minutes for them to examine the leaf and then share observations.
  6. Have the children brainstorm ways to sort the leaves, and let the sorting begin.
  7. When finished, have the different tables explain how they sorted the leaves (by size, color, or shape).
  8. Tell the children to choose a leaf to make a leaf rubbing.
  9. Distribute crayons and paper.
  10. Demonstrate how to place the leaf on the table with the paper covering it. Use the side of a crayon to rub over the paper with the leaf underneath. Remove the paper, and display the leaf rubbing.
  11. Allow children to trade leaves and make rubbings of several different leaves.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me what you see on the trays.
  • Describe how the leaves are the same/different.
  • Describe your leaf – how does it look, feel, and smell?
  • How does the top of the leaf compare with the bottom of the leaf – do they look and feel the same?
  • Explain how you sorted your leaves.
  • Describe your leaf rubbing; what caused the lines to appear?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Allow the children to help wash and then sample the lettuce and leafy greens. You could have a taste testing or have the children help chop up the greens with plastic utensils to make a salad for snack time.
  • Place additional leaves and magnifying glasses in the science center for further examining and sorting.
  • Make leaf prints by mixing paint with a little dish soap. Have the children paint their leaves and press the painted side on white construction paper. The print will show all the lines in the leaves.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children understand that the edible lettuce and leafy greens are also leaves?
  • Could children explain the differences in the leaves?
  • Could children use their senses to describe the leaves?
  • Could children sort the leaves by size, color, or shape?
  • Could children explain how the veins in the leaves made lines appear in their leaf rubbings?


Did You Know?

A leaf is the flat part of a plant that uses the sun to make food for the plant. Leaves grow on trees, bushes, and plants. Leaf shapes, sizes, and colors differ from one kind of plant to another. Most plant leaves are broad and flat. However, some plants, like a cactus, have thick, juicy leaves. Leaves keep their shape with the help of the lines on the underside of the leaf. These lines on a leaf are called veins. Veins also help the leaf to carry food and water. The veins on a leaf are slightly raised, giving the leaf some texture. They can form interesting designs.

Many types of leaves are edible and are eaten raw; these are mostly leaves from vegetable plants. There are many varieties of leafy vegetables, including lettuces, spinach, and cabbages. Most leafy vegetables have tender stems that make them easier to chew. Tree leaves usually have thicker stems that are harder and do not bend as easily as vegetable stems. Some leaves are seasonal and change colors in the fall. These leaves come from trees and bushes. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • leaves – the flat growths from the stem or branch of a tree or plant; leaves are usually green.
  • lettuce – the large leaves of a certain type of green plant that are eaten as a vegetable.
  • edible – able to be eaten as food.
  • sort – kind or type.
  • rubbing – the act of pushing back and forth across something using pressure.
  • vein – a small tube in a leaf that carries food and water.

Lesson Tips

  • You can either collect the leaves yourself or take the children on a nature walk outside. Give them bags to use for collecting leaves to use in this lesson. Caution the children to gather leaves from the ground instead of pulling them off trees and bushes.
  • Be sure to gather enough leaves in each variety to provide plenty of leaves for the children to sort.
  • Use broken crayons for this activity; it is an excellent way to put them to good use.


  • Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
  • Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
  • Leaves byVijaya Khisty Bodach
  • Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Zy Lois Ehlert

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS