Leaves and seeds

On our way to a playground yesterday morning, we walked past lots of different trees that were starting to lose their leaves. Whilst deep in conversation with the small boy about red buses(!), I had a few ideas about tree-related activities. He already likes collecting acorns, so I asked him to help collect some leaves and things that had fallen off trees and we brought them home.

Whilst he was napping, his baby brother and I collected a few more things from the garden.  I had a quick Google to check what one of the trees which overhangs our garden is, and was surprised as I'd though it was a beech or hornbeam and it turns out to be a hazel (although if you know more about plants than I do and think I've got it wrong from the photo below, then please do tell me!).

I set out some leaves and the corresponding nuts/seeds/fruits from the trees for him to look at and talk about. I started off the activity in the afternoon by picking up the pear and asking where it had come from; he told me it was from the pear tree in the garden.  I then showed him the leaf from the pear tree and asked him where that had come from, but he was only able to muster 'a tree'.  He's spent a lot of time looking at the pears on the tree, but I guess has taken less notice of the shape and size of the leaves.  He was curious though, and wanted to hold it.  I then showed him the other things set out on the table (see photo).

Leaves and seeds; clockwise from top left they are hazel, hawthorn, oak, sycamore, horse chestnut and pear in the middle.
He was drawn to the horse chestnut leaves which he thought looked like a hand, and proceeded to tickle his brother with them... His brother was initially very amused, although less so when the tickling turned into bashing him over the head with the leaves. Sigh.

Once the smaller one had recovered, we had a look at the conker inside its spiky case. He liked the spikes!  I didn't let it go anywhere near his brother though...  He also picked up the acorn and told me it came from an oak tree. With a little prompting he found the oak leaf. He was intrigued by the hazel when he found it shared a name with one of his friends, and liked the soft texture of the leaf.  He wasn't overly impressed by the small hawthorn leaf, although he told me the berry wasn't edible - I've clearly been spending too much time telling him various berries on trees and bushes aren't edible recently after our blackberry picking expedition.  I thought he'd like the sycamore seed as it was like a helicopter rotor and he's keen on helicopters, but he had lost interest by this point and I found myself demonstrating how it spins as it falls to an audience of only the baby.

We came back to the things on the table a little later, and I asked him where the seeds were in the pear and he told me correctly.  We cut the pear open to find the seeds, and he wanted to eat the rest of it, but it wasn't really ripe enough.  I cut the acorn, conker and hawthorn berry open too (tricky and needed a sharp knife, so not really one for toddler assistance) and then we had a look inside.  He was surprised by the large seed inside the hawthorn berry, and tried to reassemble the acorn, but we didn't spend much time on it.

Looking inside to find the seeds
I had a third go at trying to find some interest in the leaves a little later, and suggested putting them under some thin paper and rubbing with a wax crayon.  I hadn't tried this in advance, but it worked nicely if we put the leaves so the underneath was upwards and the veins most prominent.  He watched me try one, and wanted me to do a different leaf.  We briefly talked about how you could tell which one it was from its shape, but he refused to try doing it himself.  Not a successful activity really, but I imagine that some children might enjoy it... maybe one to try another time when he's in a different mood.  I did all the leaves quickly after he'd given up so we have a picture we can possibly talk about another day when the leaves themselves are gone (see below).

Wax crayon rubbings of the leaves
All in all, we didn't spend a lot of time on this despite me thinking it had potential to be interesting for him, but he did point out the hawthorn tree to me later on when we were in the garden, so he learnt something!  We also had a nice game of peekaboo with his baby brother, using the big sycamore leaf to hide behind...


  1. Not directly related, but have you looked at the parasitic bugs that live in between the two sides of horse chestnut leaves andake them go blotchy? On transmission, you can see the bugs.. and then open up the leaf to find them. Maybe one for next year when he's a bit older.. not sure when would be best..

    1. Will have to give this a go in the future, thanks for the suggestion!


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