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Leaf Hunt 101 – New Twists on a Classic Tradition

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This post was originally published October 21, 2021. It was updated August 23, 2022.

I love many fall traditions — visiting an apple orchard, carving pumpkins, the start of a new school year. But my very favorite is going on a leaf hunt with the kids.

We find leaves in as many hues from as many different kinds of trees as possible. (Some year I’d like to actually start identifying specific leaves — this guide looks like a great starting point!)

Then we bring the leaves home, ooh and ah as we sort them by color, and put them on display on the fireplace mantle.

Well, okay, somewhere in there the “we” becomes “I.” And that’s why this year I got to thinking how I might hold their attention a bit longer.

Adding Rhymes and Actions to the Leaf Hunt

To take my leaf hunt game to the next level, I decided I needed to prep for different scenarios. Enter rhyming chants!

A bit of background: during my older two sons’ preschool years, the late fall and winter were often tough months. We do live in Minnesota, after all.

We’d find ourselves cooped up and cranky and desperately needing to get out of the house, but it was too cold for the playground, riding bikes, etc.

I’d thus propose going for a walk. And despite feeling stir-crazy, my kids were never very enthused by that idea. Who walks just for the sake of walking?!? (Answer: adults.)

I thus discovered a few ways to turn walks into more interactive experiences. One derives from the classic children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

Have you ever reenacted that story with your kids? Like you come to a grassy field and say, “Oh no! Grass! Long, wavy grass! We can’t go over it! We can’t go under it! We’ve gotta go through it! Swishy swashy swishy swashy!”

There’s a reason that book is still in wide circulation despite being published 25 years ago — pairing rhythmic words with body actions is always a hit with kids.

So back to this year! To get some additional mileage (or at least a few blocks), I decided to add some rhyming chants and actions to our walk.

I had a blast thinking through the different scenarios one might come across taking kids on a leaf hunt. Let’s go through them one by one.

Leaf Hunt Chant 1 – You Find Beautiful Leaves

You’re walking along and come across, say, a beautiful maple (in my neck of the woods, maples always seem to be the most gorgeous). Yay! Ideal situation!

Chant the following:

We’re looking for some fall leaves—
Yellow, orange, and red.
Do you see what I see?
Gorgeous ones ahead!

Proceed to collect leaves and enjoy this downright idyllic moment.

Leaf Hunt Chant 2 – You Find Past-Peak Leaves

You’re walking along and come across a stretch of empty trees. It’s past-peak, so there are lots of leaves on the ground and the colors are fading.

But all is not lost!

Chant the following:

We’re looking for some fall leaves—
Yellow, orange, and red.
And if we just find brown ones,
We’ll crunch them up instead!

Lead your kids in marching along in an exaggerated type of way, crunching leaves underfoot. Very satisfying.

Leaf Hunt Chant 3 – When Your Kids Start Losing Interest

You’ve found some beautiful leaves and are loving life. The kids, however, are starting to lose interest.

But all is not lost!

Chant the following:

We’re looking for some fall leaves—
Yellow, orange, and red.
Scoop some leaves, lift them up,
and rain them on our heads!

As you recite the rhyme, gather armfuls of leaves and toss them into the air. It’s a great way to shake things up and get everyone laughing.

Leaf Hunt Chant 4 – When Your Kids Complain They’re Tired

You’ve been walking for a little while. The kids are starting to complain their legs hurt. They’re asking about going home.

But all is not lost!

Chant the following:

We’re looking for some fall leaves—
Yellow, orange, and red.
Searching makes us tired,
so here’s a leafy bed!

Plop down in a nice big pile of leaves. Curl up with your kiddos. Add in some fake snoring if that will get them giggling.

Leaf Hunt Chant 5 – Heading Home

Things are winding down. Hopefully you’ve all had a lot of fun!

When you’ve gathered a ton of leaves, exhausted your ways to keep the kids engaged, and/or encountered uncooperative weather, it’s time to head home.

I find it a bittersweet moment because admiring fall foliage and gathering up some beautiful leaves is just so magical.

But all is not lost!

Chant the following:

We found a lot of fall leaves–
Yellow, orange, and red.
But we’re not done! We’ll have more fun
in autumn days ahead!

This is a way to end on an upbeat note. The “more fun” can refer to doing a fun art project with your leaves or a different kind of fall activity, like visiting a pumpkin patch or picking out Halloween costumes.

Related: Preserving Fall Leaves with Mod Podge

The Report-Out…

You can see how ready I was to make this year’s leaf hunt epic.

I had every situation covered. We were going to be out there leaf hunting for hours!

But I’m going to give it to you straight: our leaf hunt was kind-of a disaster.

Maybe we timed it too close to lunch. Maybe we stopped to chat with neighbors for a little too long. Maybe the kids simply weren’t in the mood.

Regardless, we had about ten minutes of enjoyment before things started to go south.

Then phrases like, “He’s making EVERYTHING unfun!” and “I’m soooo hungry!” began floating through the autumn air.

The caregivers of this girl were smart because #snacks. (Though let’s not get carried away…I’m thinking more along the lines of Goldfish and applesauce pouches.)

I pivoted. And I pivoted again.

But none of my scenarios took into account the fact that I hadn’t brought snacks–gah, always pack snacks!–or that I might need to abandon my leaf gathering to serve as soccer goalie.

I’m committed to authenticity as I write this blog. That means when I have a sweet little leaf walk planned and the execution is a complete flop, I’m going to tell you that.

We as parents do each other a disservice when we pretend life is picture-perfect and that our kids are always compliant, loving little angels.

Making memories as a family sometimes means recalling the complete meltdown one of your children had when accusing the other of making everything unfun.

And you’ll laugh, because no one was hurt, and the stakes were low, and sometimes kids’ fits are just ridiculous.

Plus, the lack of snacks did inspire me to add one more rhyme to the leaf hunt repertoire. While it requires straying from the -ed rhyming word pattern, it’s hopefully one you won’t need — i.e. your kids either won’t want snacks or they’ll ask for them without also asking to go home! — so I decided good enough.

We’re looking for some fall leaves.
But we want to go back!
We’re getting really hungry…
Oh, yay! It’s time for snack!

At least we found a couple beauties….

Your turn!

Despite the disaster, I’m happy to have some rhymes to pull out for next year’s leaf walk.

Here’s wishing your family a more successful leaf hunt than ours!

And if the first one’s a disaster, you can always attempt it a few days later. OR, just wait until next year.

All is not lost!

Here’s one last chant to fit those circumstances. If this one unfortunately becomes appropriate, perhaps recite it just to yourself. 🙂

We tried to find some fall leaves–
Yellow, gold, and red.
Kids are hungry, kids are cranky.
We’ll try next week/year instead.

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