child doing crafts

Falling for campsite crafting

Today, Content Development Specialist Andrea Coulter takes us through some family friendly fall crafts. 

Last fall, my kids and I joined my parents on a three-generation camping trip to Canisbay Lake Campground at Algonquin Provincial Park.

We spent our days going for bike rides, hiking, and visiting around the campfire, but my kids’ creative bug was definitely itching. I was glad I had prepared some activities for around the campsite!

child doing crafts

With just a few simple supplies, we had an afternoon of creating and learning with some great memories and keepsakes to bring home.

Tip: if you want to add an educational component, download the iNaturalist app! This will allow you to take pictures of the bark and leaves and identify them so your kids can write the type of tree on their paper rubbings and clay impressions. 

The simple magic of leaf and bark rubbings


  • leaves
  • paper (tracing paper recommended)
  • crayons

The first activity included gathering a few leaves from our campsite (which we returned after our activity) and doing very simple leaf rubbings.

wax rubbing of leaves

All you need is tracing paper and crayons. Encourage the kids to find as many different leaves as they can on your campsite (or backyard if you are doing this at home).

  1. Place the leaves face down on a flat, hard surface so that the veiny side of the leaf is facing up.
  2. For best results, cover with a piece of tracing paper (although regular paper will do).
  3. Take the wrapper off of a crayon and use the long edge of the crayon to rub over the paper. Kids can create a pattern using many types and shapes of leaves on one sheet of paper. For a bit of fun, a pair of googly eyes instantly turns a leaf rubbing into a character they can name: Mr. Maple, Poppy Poplar, Dr. Dogwood…
  4. If you know the species, or are using the iNaturalist app, you may want to help your kids label their rubbings. (So maybe Mr. Maple is actually Mr. Striped Maple!)

child rubbing imprint of tree bark

After we completed a variety of leaf rubbings, we moved on to creating bark rubbings.

These rubbings can bring out really cool qualities in the bark.

  1. Place the paper over the bark on the tree. Young kids may need help holding the paper to the tree while they do the rubbing with the crayon.
  2. Again, using the long side of a crayon with the wrapper removed, rub the paper with the crayon until you get a decent rubbing from the bark.
  3. If you know the species, or are using the iNaturalist app, this is a good time to encourage your kids to label their rubbings.

“Leafing” a good impression in clay


  • clay
  • leaves
  • roller (a smooth-sided bottle will work)
  • a tool to punch through clay (we used a straw)
  • string

This activity was a bit messier… but it was the kids’ favourite! You can buy clay at most craft supply stores.

  1. Soften clay by working it on your surface. Use a roller if you have one (we used an empty bottle) to roll small balls of clay into flat rounds.
  2. Choose a leaf of a similar size to your clay rounds and use the roller to press the leaf into the clay by rolling over the leaf.
  3. Carefully remove the leaf, pulling slowly and gently.clay decoration on tree
  4. We used a straw to punch a whole in the top of each impression so that when they dried, we could lace a string through it.
  5. Clean up the edges to keep smooth and put somewhere to dry. We dried ours over the campfire and these pieces retained the magical smell of campfire for months and months! We also wrote the trip details “Canisbay Campground, fall 2019” so  they would be a great keepsake of our trip.
  6. After it dries, you can put string or cording through and hang anywhere. We gave some as Christmas tree ornaments and I kept one to hang in my office to remember that special trip with my kids and parents.

At the end of the crafting, after we washed any clay residue from the leaves, returned them to the forest, and talked about how the leaves would decompose and might even provide nesting for animals in the forest.

This was followed by my kids shouting “byeeeeeeeeee leaves!!!!”