Never mind the 14 inches of snow on the ground. When I hosted preschool last week, we were enjoying the most beautiful kind of fall weather. And I wanted to take full advantage of it.
I used Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert for inspiration. The book follows a sugar maple tree from seed to mature autumn beauty. I love Lois Ehlert (particularly Eating the Alphabet), but I felt this one was a little abstract at times. I love that it shows a tree in all its various stages, but some of the illustrations zoom in and crop out too much of the big picture. For example, when the tree has grown enough to be purchased and planted in the narrator's yard, the tree's roots are wrapped up in burlap. The picture shows the burlap and part of the skinny trunk, but if you're a child who has never seen a tree in a nursery, it was difficult to tell that it even was a tree. (I guess if it's too confusing, it just instigates more questions and provides other learning opportunities.) Anyway, I really do like the book (I wouldn't have used it for preschool otherwise), but this is just something to be aware of.
We began the day by reading the book. Then we headed into the kitchen to prepare a snack for later in the morning. I wanted something that would relate to leaves, and so we made cornflake clusters and called them "leaf piles." Unfortunately, Aaron has a strong aversion to peanut butter (he's not allergic, but he won't eat it in any form), so I found a peanut butter-less recipe. I do not recommend it. It was so sweet and sugary that just a bite or two made me feel sick.
Anyway, while the too-much sugar was melting on the stove, I explained why the leaves change color in the fall. I'll admit that was probably a little ambitious for four-year-olds, but I found this website that gave a pretty simple explanation of the process. While I talked, I drew a few simple pictures/diagrams to help them visualize what happens (sorry, no photos since my artistic talents are only suitable to be viewed by children).
Then we finished our leaf piles and left them to cool while we went for a walk outside. This was probably the best part of the morning. The weather was perfect and all of the fallen leaves were delightfully crunchy. We collected different types of leaves (and the kids were all excited to find a sugar maple tree since that was the kind that was in the book). We also noticed how the seeds and bark and shape of the leaves varied from tree to tree. But mostly, the kids just loved racing up and down the sidewalk.
When we got back, we made a leaf craft. I saw these little leaf creatures at the beginning of fall and have been dying to make them with the boys ever since. Time of course slipped away from me until fall was almost over (by the looks of it here today, you'd think it already was). So I knew we had to do them as part of preschool. You just glue googly eyes to a leaf, glue the leaf to a cardboard tube, poke in a couple of twigs for arms, and glue on three pebbles for buttons. Aren't they just adorable?
Then we ate the leaf piles (and almost no one could finish theirs because of the extreme sweetness).
Last, we pulled out their little bags of leaves, etc. from the nature walk, and we filled out these little booklets. They did a rubbing over each leaf, and then I helped them fill out the facts.
I had more planned, but we only had ten minutes left, and all of them were desperately wanting to play in the backyard, so I let them.