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As soon as summer is over and the cooler air of autumn begins, the leaves on many trees begin to change color. Some trees have leaves that don’t change color at all – not only do they stay green all year round but they also don’t fall off the trees like the other leaves.
As you walk through the woods or park with your kids, you’ll be looking for nature walk ideas. One idea is to talk to your kids about why the color of the autumn leaves change from green to yellow!
How do you explain to a very young child, someone who is 3 to 5 years old, why leaves change colors? How about a child who is 6 to 8 years old?
First, let’s explain why leaves do change colors!
During spring and summer, living trees will have green leaves, because they are full of a pigment called chlorophyll.
There are two types of trees, “coniferous” trees also known as evergreen, and “deciduous” trees also called broadleaf trees. The leaves of coniferous trees (those that have pinecones which is how their seeds are distributed) will always stay green, because they never lose that chlorophyll.
Broadleaf trees lose their chlorophyll with the onset of cool weather. When these trees no longer produce chlorophyll, other pigments in the leaves start to take over. The trees of some types of leaves have red pigment, and others have yellow.
Chemistry of autumn leaves:
So how do you teach the chemistry of autumn leaves to children?
The term chlorophyll will probably be daunting, so stick with the term “pigment.” Start by asking your kids if they’ve seen a rainbow which consists of seven colors, and explain that each of these colors is a different “pigment” that occurs in nature.
Then talk about how the green pigment stops being produced by certain trees during cooler weather and the green color begin to fade away. Leaves begin to change its color: You may see yellow, orange, red and a golden brown. Soon after, the gentle breeze of the wind blows the leaves off the (leaf axils) cells supporting the leaf and all the leaves fall to the ground. This is why we see bare trees in autumn!
The Five Colors of Our Nature Walk can help parents explain the daunting explanation! Parents are encouraged to use our book as a tool to explain the color change, through a child’s eyes. Children may not understand pigment and chlorophyll but they will certainly understand that the orange leaf is the same color as pumpkins. With this book they will also enjoy learning about the leaves changing colors! The Five Colors of Our Nature Walk introduces kids and parent to the joys of nature. Kids will love going outside not only to spend quality time with their parents but also to exercise their imaginations and learn about the world that surrounds them.