Name That Leaf

Fall foliage is incredible where we live in the Hudson River Valley and there’s a term for people who travel to come see this spectacular nature show…Peepers. As a family, we also join the Northeast exodus and head further north to the Berkshires for the peak Foliage Peep during Columbus Day weekend. During fall we also do some local hiking, with the crunch of leaves underfoot in the brisk air.  These are sensorial reminders to start planning Halloween costumes and make our family Thanksgiving plans.  Are you craving Pumpkin Spice yet?

A leaf ID Chart by

For a recent playdate, I wanted to take my son Wilton, his friend Cosmo, and highly entertaining little brother Indie, on a hike. In my experience, suggesting hiking can be met with a groan, so I had to sell it in advance. I took to Pinterest, as usual for inspiration, and created a version of a foliage matching game I found (Wilton LOVES memory matching games and beats us all hands down, seriously). Before we set off, I gave them instructions to look for different shapes of colorful leaves and to collect 20 of them. With bags for collecting and a leaf ID chart on hand for reference, we embarked with purpose, in sweaters, and no groaning!

Indie on the leaf hunt.

I must admit that on our nature hike, as we gathered our fodder and compared our leaves to the chart, I had been mistaken about some of the leaf shapes, mixing up oak and maple leaves.  This leaf tutorial was even good for momma!  Indie liked finding different colors and the older boys liked deciphering the shapes. We stopped at a rock to lay out our finds thus far and make sure we were gathering a good variety of leaves.

The boys take a hike break and compare leaves. Maple and elm leaves, according to our chart.

We reached our goal of 20 leaves each, and guess what, the boys wanted to keep on hiking. I held onto the bags and happily trekked along feeling “mission accomplished”.

Cosmo models his favorite Oak leaf.

At home, we categorized the leaves into piles, then chose the best set of two of a kind, and put them aside for the matching game.  Wilton wrote the correct name on ONE leaf in the set and left the other for me to write on.  I wrote an incorrect name on the alternate leaf.  Here’s how you play:

Labeling leaves for the matching game.

Name that Leaf Matching Game

  • Gather a bunch of leaves and select two of each kind to play with
  • Write on one of the set, with a sharpie, the RIGHT name of the leaf and on the other leaf, a WRONG name
  • Mix them up and lay out the sets on the table.
  • A player will turn over two leaves that look the same
  • Only one will be labeled correctly
  • Make your guess
  • Compare to the chart
  • If the player guesses correctly, he/she will get to keep the pair. If the player is wrong, return the leaves to the table.
  • Player with the most pairs at the end of the game wins!

Playing the matching game.

As you know, everyone “wins” playing this game. What do our winners want as a prize?  Pumpkin spice donuts, all the hiking made them hungry!