Leaf Stenciling


The Bay Area has great diversity in its trees — from desert palms, to Japanese maples, to native redwoods and oaks — which makes it a prime place for leaf study. Leaves also make great stenciling projects — art and science at one and the same time!

Collecting Leaves Together – Using Your Senses
Take a bag or a basket out to your yard, neighborhood or local park and collect leaves that have fallen to the ground. As you collect, observe the leaves closely for similarities and differences: shape, size, color and vein patterns. Don’t forget to look a the underside, too. Run your hands over each leaf and ask your child, “How does the leaf feel — smooth, sticky, sharp, papery? How do the leaves smell? When you walk over a patch of leaves on the ground, what sounds do you hear? Which are the most common leaves you find?”


  • Collected leaves
  • Paper
  • Masking tape
  • Washable paint
  • Paint brushes or rollers
  • A tray or newspaper to work on

Parent & Child Together

Step 1 Place a piece of paper on top of a rectangular baking pan or cookie sheet. (You can also line a workspace with newspaper, and put your paper on top of that).

Step 2 Adults can make reverse loops of masking tape and let your child use the tape to hold the leaves in place on the paper, placing them in any arrangement they like.

Step 3 Using paint brushes or rollers, cover the entire paper in paint, painting right over top the leaves! Let the paper dry.

Step 4 After the paint has dried, carefully pull the leaves from the paper.

Step 5 Check out the shapes that are left after you pull off the leaves! Compare the leaves with the shapes left on the paper. This helps young children understand positive and negative space.

More Fun – Stamping and Imprinting
Paint right on top of your leaves, turn them over and stamp them on another blank sheet of paper. Stamping will allow you to see more of the leaves’ details (such as veins, bumps, or holes) while also creating cool patterns on paper! Other natural stamping materials to try: pine cones, acorns, sticks, stones, etc. If you have clay or playdough, you can also imprint the leave patterns by pressing the leaves into the soft clay/dough.