How-To: Press and Preserve Leaves

We in the Midwest are very lucky this time of year - we have a canvas of colors appearing among trees and flowers! Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could keep those colors to play with? In this post we'll cover how we preserve leaves for continued use at LEAP. Our leaves visit with over 60 toddlers each week, so we know they're hardy! You may have seen them at the loose parts station being illuminated by our light tables. Investigating these preserved plants is fascinating and fun! And preserving them is super easy!

What you'll need:

  • Leaves - Look for as many different colors as you can. The variety really adds to the activity! Dry, crunchy leaves will not work well, so stick to freshly fallen. This will also help you avoid partially eaten or rotten leaves.
     
  • Heavy Books – We used field guides, but any thick, heavy book will do. Hint: Make sure it’s a book that you don’t mind getting dirty. Sometimes the leaves will leave behind dirt. Try a dictionary!

  • Wax Paper – For easier clean-up!

  • Mod Podge or Clear Acrylic Spray Paint – This is a personal preference. We used Mod Podge since we had it on hand, but spray paint works just as well! Mod Podge is a white, gluey substance that dries clear. Perfect for making sure you’ve covered all spots!

  • Foam Brush – If using Mod Podge.

Steps:

1.    Press the leaves – Place the leaf between the pages of a heavy book. You can place multiple leaves in the same book, but make sure you leave ample pages between leaves. The purpose of pressing is to absorb moisture. Drying the leaves in a flattened position keeps them from curling and distorting, allowing you to appreciate the beauty of the leaves! You’ll want to leave them in the book for a few days – we recommend a minimum of 2 days!

2.    Lay the leaves out on wax paper – This will be their drying spot and the wax lessens the chance of your leaves sticking to the paper when you're ready to remove them.

3.    Cover with preservative – 

MOD PODGE:
  • Using a foam/sponge brush, coat one side of each leaf with a thin layer of Mod Podge
  • Allow leaves to dry completely
  • Flip over and Mod Podge the other side of the leaf
  • Allow to dry thoroughly
CLEAR ACRYLIC SPRAY PAINT:
  • Spray one side of each leaf with a thin coat of spray paint
  • Allow the leaves to dry completely
  • Flip over and spray paint the other side of the leaf
  • Allow to dry thoroughly

When your leaves are dry, they’re ready for play! Pressed and preserved leaves maintain their bright colors and unique shapes, helping your toddler discover new materials. The preservatives help keep the leaves from crumbling in your little one’s hands – so you can play with these leaves over and over! Who knew plants were so playful?

Painting with prairie flowers and grasses is another engaging, sensory activity using plants!

Painting with prairie flowers and grasses is another engaging, sensory activity using plants!

Written by Nicole Filippone