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Autumn Leaf Absorption Experiment

Autumn brings beautiful and vibrant fall colors to our neighborhoods. Want to bring autumn into your home with a few simple materials? Then look no further! This activity allows children to see colors change in real-time.

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Watch the colors blend into the leaves!

This activity is a great way to teach children about absorption using a few simple materials found around the house. Each leaf will be unique in color and the color combinations are endless! Grab a few coffee filters, markers, water, and get experimenting! 

📚Better with a Book: Grab a book on fall leaves to start the discussion on how leaves change colors. “Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf” by Lois Ehlert is a great resource! 

🍁Changing Seasons: Temperature and number of daylight hours affect the colors of the leaves. This is why we notice them turn yellow, orange, and red before summer is over!

🌸 Flower Power: Want to explore other shapes? Try this activity with a flower shape!


For this activity you will need:

Coffee filters



Clear glass 


(optional) Outline of leaf shapes to trace

Learning Outcomes






Linking new experiences with words they know


Step 1:

You can start off this activity by going for a walk outside or reading a book about the changing fall leaf colors. What colors are outside and in the book?

Step 2:

Next, take your coffee filters and lay them flat. Using hand over hand technique, trace the outline of a leaf onto the coffee filter in the middle.

Step 3:

Have your child draw a thick circle in the middle of the leaf shape leaving the middle of the circle empty (similar to a donut shape).

Step 4: 

Fold the leaf 3 times (in half, and half again) making a point in the middle of the white circle.

Step 5:

Have your child dip the point of their white circle in the glass of water so only the white tip touches the water. The water should begin to travel up the filter spreading the water and color around.

Step 6:

Once the color has traveled up the coffee filter, unfold the leaf, and let it dry. Create a colorful leaf collage using multiple colorful leaves! 

⬆️ For older preschoolers:  Older children can experiment with the absorption of different papers- tissue paper, paper towel, printer paper etc. Does it make a difference in color absorption? 

⬇️ For younger toddlers: Younger children may need an adult or older child to help keep their focus when the water is “walking” up the coffee filter. Try using your camera to create a time-lapse so they can see the color move faster!

Playful Questions

Why is the water moving up the coffee filter?

What would happen if we colored a smaller circle on the leaf? 

How can we make a tie-dye leaf?

What would happen if we tried this with vinegar instead of water?

How would you describe how the water is moving up the coffee filter?

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