Earlier this year Melinda Johnson and I collaborated together to create the Orthodox board book, Saint Ia Rides a Leaf, which was published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. One of the things that we love is sharing the beautiful Orthodox faith with children. We came up with some activities that you can do with your children or your Sunday School classroom that go along with our book. We thought it would be fun to do a whole unit on St. Ia while also studying leaves. This will help your child make connections to the story based their real life experiences with leaves, while teaching them important literacy, math and science concepts. The following activities are for toddlers through early elementary school aged children.
Fine Motor Skills with Play Dough
Have faux leaves for children to make imprints in the dough. Or if doing this at home, you could use real leaves, but you may want to throw away the dough when you’re done. Have some leaf or fall related cookie cutters available. I found this oak leaf cookie cutter online that looks just like the leaf in the book! I drew some lines with a pencil to make the veins. I also poked a hole in it so we can let it dry and then hang it up in our room.
I happened to have some leaf confetti. Hide some leaves like this in the play dough. Give your child plastic tweezers to extract them from the dough. This helps children with the pinching grasp that will help them with skills needed to hold a pencil. And as a bonus, whenever I’ve done similar activities, the kids really spend a lot of time with the activity.
Sensory Bins – Three Options
Having a sensory bin at home or in the classroom is a great way to encourage: language development, fine motor skills, life skills (pouring, dumping, scooping, etc.), pre-math skills, spatial awareness and tactile learning. With the right materials, the bins can also help expand on other concepts learned, such as, the meaning of a book. Below are 3 different kinds of sensory bin options that relate to St. Ia Rides a Leaf.
Learn how I made a sensory bin with storage and tips for keeping the floor clean! https://raisingorthodoxchristians.com/2017/03/15/a-trinity-of-lessons-for-st-patricks-day/
Items to include: faux leaves, colorful feathers, pine cones,
Have different size containers or bowls for kids to sort the objects they explore.
If you are doing this at home, you could let your children explore water. You can cut some leaves out of craft foam. Add other objects that will either sink or float for children to explore. Also have containers for children to fill and pour. If this is outside your comfort zone, you could let your kids play with the leaf boat while they take a bath. Observe how they play with it and encourage them to think about the story.
You can make blue and white rice to represent water. It’s super easy. You just need some rubbing alcohol and kool aid! You can use the leaf boat you made out of the foam and make a Saint Ia peg doll. (Learn how to make a peg doll later on in this lesson).
Peg Doll for Sensory Bin
I love peg dolls for teaching about the lives of Saints. Young children need things to play with where they can make meaning of what they’ve learned. As I mentioned before this goes well with the rice sensory bin. I made this out of a clothes pin, an old shirt and some yarn.
Directions on how to make Saint peg dolls: https://raisingorthodoxchristians.com/2015/09/04/elevation-of-the-cross-peg-dolls/
Ask your child to reenact the story with the leaf and St. Ia. Ask them to recall what happened first, second, third, last. Retelling a story is a great way to reinforce comprehension skills. Depending on the age of the child, you may need to prompt them. Or another early literacy skill is looking back at the book to get information.
Watercolor Fall Leaves
This is one of my favorite activities! I love how colorful these look. If you tape them to a window they almost glow in the sunlight! It’s super easy, too!
Supplies: Wax paper (to cover workspace), paint shirts, liquid watercolors (or you can use water & food dye), eye dropper. On one of the leaves on the left, I drew some veins with a brown crayon. I think it made a nice effect! You can do it too, if you like. 🙂
Skills: Fine motor, Science – mixing colors,
- You will want to use some type of tray for this activity to keep the watercolors contained. You could use a baking tray or a craft tray like I used. Put down some wax paper to protect the tray from stains.
- Flatten out the coffee filter. Trace a leaf onto the coffee filter with a pencil & cut out.
Using red & yellow watercolors, have the child use the eyedropper to drip some paint onto the coffee filter. The pinching action helps them practice fine motor skills. Watch the paint absorb and see the colors blend!
Leave the leaves on the wax paper overnight to dry.
Music – Saint Ia Song by Natalie Wilson
We are super excited to share this beautiful song our friend Natalie Wilson wrote about Saint Ia.
Link to the downloadable recording coming soon! In the meantime you can download and print a copy of the sheet music here!
If you want to hear more songs by Natalie, you can find her at nwcomposing.com or on Instagram @nataliewilsoncomposing.
Here are a couple of other songs we found on youtube that help children to remember to have hope and not to give up when things seem impossible.
Language Arts Activities
Letter of the Week/Letter Recognition, Phonemic Awareness
Talk about the letter “L.” Show the children the letter Ll and make the sound.
- Show the children a leaf and ask what is this? (Leaf)
- Say: “I hear a special sound at the beginning of this word. Listen, luh, luh, luh, leaf. What letter says luh?”
- Let’s look at some things I have that also start with the “luh” sound. Say the word of the object and then do the sound, like I did with the leaf example. (Have some objects that they would be familiar with that start with L. If any student has a name that starts with “L” mention that child.) You say it and then have your child repeat what you said.
Have the child pick out leaves outside. Give them a magnifying glass to see things up close. If using this in the church school classroom, the teacher will already have leaves of different shapes and colors. Make sure the leaves do not have insects, insect eggs or diseases on them. Put them on a tray or on a table. Let the children use the magnifying glasses to make observations. The teacher or parent can then facilitate discussions about what the kids noticed and write their responses on chart paper.
Have leaves of different shapes, sizes and colors. Together with the kids, find ways to sort the leaves. Depending on the age of the child(ren), the teacher may need to prompt them to help them sort.
If doing this activity at home, you could do a “Leaf Hunt” before this activity. Give each child a bag and ask them to pick up some leaves that they like. You can also pick up some leaves to be sure that there are a variety of colors and sizes. Make sure there are not any diseases or bugs on them. 🙂
If this is easy for them, you can challenge them by asking them to sort the leaves by other properties, such as, size, color or shape. If they make an ABAB pattern, like below, have them try a pattern that goes ABBABB (example: red, yellow, yellow, red, yellow, yellow).
Counting or 1 to 1 Correspondence (aka touching each object as you count)
Have fake or real leaves for your child to count. If they are young, they may skip some leaves or recount others. You can count with them one at a time.
If your child is learning to recognize numbers, you can make some counting leaves. With puffy paint make dots on one color leaf. On another colored leaf, write the actual number. Children can count the dots and then match the corresponding number to them. If your child is very young, you may only want to make a set with dots only. With your child you can count the dots together.
Why did we use puffy paint? “Tracing the letter, in the fashion of writing, begins the muscular education which prepares for writing…Touching the letters and looking at them at the same time, fixes the image more quickly through the cooperation of the senses. Later the two facts separate; looking becomes reading; touching becomes writing.” -Maria Montessori (The Montessori Method)
We hope that you’ve enjoyed these activities! If you’ve used them, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you! Saint Ia Rides a Leaf