Nature Walk-and-Talks

I have always loved the Fall. The change in weather here in California is particularly pleasing to me. We are still able to spend plenty of time outdoors but without quite so much sun and heat. While we don’t have a drastic change in seasonal weather like other places in the world, we do have the gift of bright sunlight shining through stunning fall foliage. The Pistache, Maple, and Ginkgo trees are spectacular this time of year. A simple walk lends itself beautifully to my favorite autumn speech and language activity: fall leaf collecting! Disclaimer: if you have allergies, this might not be the one for you, or at least be prepared to use your camera instead of your hands :).

An afternoon leaf walk can fill up some of those hours when you need time away from screens, might want to get some steps in, or just need a nice break from the house without spending a lot of time and money.

Here’s what I enjoy and recommend for a lovely fall “walk and talk” with your child. Scope out an area beforehand one day that seems to have a variety of trees and leaves. Go slow, and plan to meander. Don’t be in a hurry. Be close to home, or at least as close to your car as little legs can walk.

Bring a ziplock bag, or any small tote that’s easy for little hands to carry. Pick an area that does not have a playground in sight (or you’ll quickly lose your audience) and let your child know that you’re specifically going for a leaf walk. Kids love when something sounds like a special activity.

Enjoy walking around while you point out leaves of different sizes, shapes and colors. If your child is a bit older, and/or you know a lot about trees, look up the types of trees you’re encountering. Talk about the leaves that have hung on to their branches, stubbornly swinging in the breeze, and those that have fallen on the ground. Collect a couple of leaves from each tree, letting your child pick their favorite. You pick one too! Be enthusiastic about how cool your leaf is! Be extra enthusiastic about how cool your child’s leaf is! Put each leaf in your bag and move on to the next area. Be sure to point out other interesting things you see — dogs, people, clouds, dirt, rocks! Talk about all of it.

OR, walk quietly and breathe deeply.

Sometimes a walk can just be beautifully silent as you and your child absorb nature and spend time together. You decide if it’s time for language stimulation or time for calm. Maybe practice whispering about some leaves and talking loud about others. That’s a fabulous language lesson right there! There is no right answer here on the walk. If it’s a quiet walk, that’s a great reason to gather the leaves and take them home like precious prizes – you can do your language lesson later!
This activity can be broken up over several days. One day for walking and leaf collection, one day for talking all about them, and one day for crafting. A lesson will be that much more reinforcing when it’s revisited multiple times in different ways. Think about teachers that have amazing “theme weeks.” Consider devoting a whole week to your leaves by looking at them, and/or hanging up a picture of them, and talking about them each night before dinner. This can be as simple as a ten second reminder to your child: “I really liked collecting leaves with you yesterday.”

When it’s time to talk!

Here are just a few examples to get you started.

Basic concepts:

Color (“This one is green!” “This one is purple!” “This one is yellow with some red spots!”)
Size (“This leaf is so tiny.” “This leaf is HUGE!” “This leaf is medium-sized.”)
Comparisons (“Which leaf is bigger?” “Which leaf is softer?”)
Shapes/descriptors (“This leaf has points.” “This leaf is rounded.” “This leaf looks like a heart.”)
Numbers (“We collected 5 green leaves.” “You have one more leaf than I do.” “I have 4 but you have 5.”)

Receptive language:

“Which leaf is green?”
“Can you give me two leaves?”
“Please hand me the red leaf.”
“How many leaves do you have?”
“Point to the same leaf as I am pointing to.”
“Show Mom the biggest leaf.”

Expressive language:

“Let’s name all the colors of the leaves”
“How can we talk about this leaf? It’s pointy, it’s green, it’s big!”
“I have a green leaf but you have a _______ .”
“I have one leaf. You have ______ leaves.”

For older kids, you can practice describing multiple attributes.
“Leaves grow on trees”
“They are found at the park or in a yard”
“They have lines on them.”
“They have a stem.”
“Some fall on the ground in Autumn.”


If you have even the smallest “crafty” bone in your body, try some fall leaf rubbing! One of my mentors was originally a preschool teacher and she had a million and one ideas. I, being of the non-crafty humans, find this to be a completely acceptable and enjoyable activity.

1. Grab a few crayons of your favorite fall colors and some blank white paper.
2. Place the leaf on a hard surface like a kitchen table or small desk face down with the bumpy spine facing up.
3. Lay your paper over the top with your leaf in the center. Or, if you have a few small leaves you can lay them out together.
4. Remove the wrapping from the crayon. (Terrible, I know! But worth it!)
5. Hold the crayon flat and rub rub rub all over the paper, nice and firm, so that the imprint of your leaf shows through. Magic! Now you can hang your leaf drawings around the house as a fall decoration and talk about them anytime you want!