Capturing the Colours of Autumn: Leaf Mandalas (September 2013)

This is a wonderful autumn project for all ages (even adults!). It worked well for my under-threes and was enjoyed just as much by the six year olds in my Art Club.

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The word ‘mandala’ means ‘circle’ in the Indian language of Sanskrit, and mandala designs – comprising patterns and images in a circular format – are thought to represent cosmic infinity and the wholeness of life. The sun, moon and earth are all circular, and mandalas also make reference to the concept of a circle of friends or family.  Mandala patterns have been used in many religious traditions and appear in the art of the Navajo Indians of America, the ancient Aztecs, Taoists in Asia and the monks of Tibet.

leaf hunt

Any good autumn project should begin with a good autumn treasure hunt! All children love to pick up, kick, throw and stomp through crispy autumn leaves, but the challenge for this particular task was to find leaves that were not too dry and crumbly. The ones we were looking for were freshly fallen leaves with pretty shapes and bright colours, a range of sizes but not too big, and not too curled up! We took our hoard inside and left them to air-dry for an hour or so before starting work on our designs.

I prepared each child’s workspace with a circle of white paper, marked with black lines dividing the circle into 8 segments (like a cake). A circle of sticky back plastic (contact paper), sticky side up, was placed over the top and fixed to the table top with masking tape. The purpose of the paper template was to help the children locate the centre of their circle and organise their leaves in a circular formation.

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Then the children selected leaves in a range of sizes, colours and shapes, and laid them onto the sticky surface to create their own mandala design. The four to six year olds tried to create regular, repeating patterns around their circles.

DSCF6804Once complete, each child carefully removed the masking tape from their design, and placed it inside a laminating pouch ready to be sealed in the laminating machine.

The children were excited to see the leaves reappear, encapsulated within glossy plastic that made the colours even brighter!

blog DSCF6827To display them, I trimmed the A4 plastic to a square format and punched holes in the top corners. Using parcel string I suspended each design from a twig and added an extra length of string for hanging.

The mandalas look beautiful displayed in a bright, sunny window, glowing red, orange, yellow and brown as light passes through the leaves.

Hopefully the laminating process will preserve the beautiful autumn colours long after the trees have gone bare and winter has arrived.

To view the autumn leaf mandalas at a larger size, please click on one of the images below and scroll through the gallery.



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