Collect press and preserve fall leaves. If you love the colors that fall brings, learn how to preserve leaves to keep them around longer! Preserved autumn leaves make a great art and craft supply that can be used to make nature art and leaf nature craft projects of all kinds!
Learn how to preserve leaves to make fall arts and crafts with beautiful autumn colors!
Related: Best Fall Nature Crafts
Collect, Press, and Preserve Leaves for Nature Crafts and Art Projects
Do you like to collect colorful beautiful leaves in the fall? Hunting for gorgeous autumn leaves is one of my favorite things to do with my daughter. Our next favorite thing to do is to create nature crafts and art projects with them.
The problem is that they will turn brown, shrivel up and break into pieces if you aren’t able to use them right away. Today I’m going to share what to do with fall leaves after you collect them so you can use them for nature crafts and art projects when you are ready!
Supplies Needed to Preserve Leaves
You can also use beeswax, glycerin, waxed paper or a laminator to preserve fall leaves. See the resources at the bottom of this page for more information about how to preserve leaves with the other methods listed.
How to Preserve Leaves Step by Step Directions
Step 1 – Collect Fall Leaves
In order to preserve leaves, you first need to get outside to collect them. It’s fun to go on a nature hunt to look for vibrant fresh fallen leaves to bring home to create nature crafts or press and preserve for later. My daughter gets a rush of excitement every time she races for a pretty leaf!
Related: Marbled Clay Autumn Leaves Craft
Step 2 – Press Fall Leaves
After you have collected some leaves it’s time to press them. If the autumn leaves you collect are dirty, rinse and dry them before you press and preserve them. It is important that the leaves are clean and dry before you preserve them or they may grow mold and peel.
Next, place autumn leaves into a leaf press or onto a sheet of paper.
If you are using cardstock to press your autumn leaves, place another sheet of cardstock on top of the leaves. Add as many leaves as you can fit between two sheets of paper, but make sure that the autumn leaves are dry so they do not mold while they are being pressed.
Do your best to make sure they lay flat under the cardstock. If you have a lot of leaves you can place more leaves on top of the second sheet of paper, and then place another sheet of paper on top to press them.
Keep doing this until all of the leaves are between sheets of paper. Then place some large heavy books or binders on top of them and let them sit for 12 – 24 hours. Don’t press the fall leaves for too long, or they can begin to lose their color or grow mold.
Step 3 – Preserve Leaves with Mod Podge
After you have pressed the autumn leaves that you have collected it’s time to preserve them. First, cover a table or other surface large enough to dry the fall leaves you have collected with an old sheet or pieces of newspaper.
Next, get out your pressed fall leaves, Mod Podge, a foam brush, and an old magazine or catalog. If you don’t have Mod Podge use white glue with a little water added to it to make it easy to paint with.
Preserve Leaves with this easy hack!
It is almost impossible to apply Mod Podge to a fall leaf without getting it all over the surrounding area so we have come up with a super easy hack to get it done effortlessly. Use an old magazine or catalog to give yourself a surface to quickly apply the Mod Podge without concern.
Open your old magazine or catalog to the first page and use your foam brush to apply Mod Podge to one side of the fall leaf. After applying Mod Podge to one side of the autumn leaf, lay it down Mod Podge side up on the surface that you have covered to allow your preserved fall leaves dry.
Turn the page of your old catalog or magazine after every few leaves so you have a new clean work surface to work on right in front of you–tada! No muss no fuss! Yes, you will be slowly gluing the pages of your old magazine together as you work, so use an old magazine that you don’t care about.
Mod Podge goes on milky and dries clear. You can see some of our preserved autumn leaves drying below. Once the autumn leaves are dry you can apply Mod Podge to the other side of each fall leaf using the same technique if desired.
How to Use and Care for Preserved Leaves
Preserved fall leaves can curl and/or wrinkle a bit depending on the type of leaf. If you want your preserved autumn leaves to stay flat press them again (when dry) until you are ready to use them.
The preserved fall leaves that we painted with Mod Podge on one side (like the thankful leaf pictured below) retained their color and turned out to be more flexible and better for art projects, while the leaves painted and preserved on both sides are better for sturdy crafts like leaf lacing.
Some of our preserved autumn leaves have become a bit brittle over time, and a few have faded a bit, but we still have lots of red, yellow, and orange preserved leaves to play with!
Update: After a year our leaves from last year are still gorgeous. They have lost some of their flexibility now that they have been stored for a year but they are still surprisingly colorful.
I wrote thankful on a leaf we preserved last year and placed it on our thankful tree this year! We have lots more ready to be added to our Thankful tree this year because we preserved so many gorgeous autumn leaves!
Fun Ways to Use Preserved Fall Leaves: Nature Crafts and Art Ideas
- Fall Leaf Lacing
- How to Make a Thankful Tree for Thanksgiving with Real Fall Leaves
- Watercolor and Fall Leaves Art
- Turkey Leaf Lanterns
- Thanksgiving Turkey Leaf Nature Crafts
- Best Fall Nature Crafts (includes leaf art ideas and nature crafts made with real fall leaves)
- Autumn Leaf Fish in the Sea Art
- Fall Leaf Baby (the picture below was taken when the fall leaves were 2 years old!)
Other Methods to Preserve Autumn Leaves
As mentioned above, There are a few other ways to preserve leaves that you can try. Learn how to preserve leaves with beeswax with Donni over at The Magic Onions, and how to preserve fall leaves with glycerin or wax paper with Chelsey at Buggy and Buddy.
Preserve Leaves and use them for Nature Crafts and Art Projects
Pressing and preserving fall leaves is an easy crafting activity for kids and adults of all ages. Once finished, you can use your preserved leaves to make lacing leaves, nature crafts and nature art projects of all kinds!
You might also enjoy our fall bucket list seasonal guide for the best autumn EVER!
This post is a part of the Get Outside & Connect Series. Click on the link for more information.
Learn more about Rhythms of Play HERE!
If you liked How to Preserve Autumn Leaves, You May Also Like
- Forest School: Outdoor Learning and Nature Activities for Kids
- The Best Fall Art Projects for Kids
- Best Thankful Trees for Thanksgiving
- Real Flower Nature Crafts
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Nell has over 20 years of experience working with children and is the founder of Rhythms of Play. She believes in the wonder of childhood, the power of the imagination, learning through play, and getting outside in all seasons! Learn more…