Today I’m going to show you how to transform an ordinary leaf into an awesome jellyfish!
With just a few simple supplies, you can take something that grew on land and make it look like it washed up on shore with the ocean tide!
This leaf jellyfish project uses just a few basic supplies and works well for a wide range of ages!
To start, you will need to go on a nature-walk and find a special leaf just waiting to undergo a major costume change as a jellyfish! You need a leaf that is large and has some thickness to it. Where I live, we have these amazing sea-grape trees.
The leaves are broad, leathery, and oval-shaped—just right for this project! Of course, my kids and I make an effort to find “perfect” ones that don’t look like they were the Very Hungry Caterpillar’s lunch! You can always cut your leaf into an oval shape later, so just focus on finding a leathery-type leaf that has a nice large size.
I recommend you gather a few extra leaves, because you will be pressing them, which often yields unpredictable results.
If you don’t want to use a real leaf, you can download my sea-grape leaf template and copy it onto any heavy-weight paper.
Otherwise, you will need to bring your real leaf home and sandwich it between two sheets of construction paper and a bunch of heavy books or boards. ( See Project Set-Up Below)
The goal with pressing your leaf is to get it flattened and remove all the moisture. After about a week, you can remove the books and carefully take out your leaf. Don’t worry about the color of your pressed leaves, you will be coloring over most, if not all, of your leaf anyway!
Follow the directions below to create your Leaf Jellyfish!
Preschool: Best at coloring the leaf only
Kindergarten and 1st: Best at coloring the leaf, may need assistance with hole-punching and tying
2nd and up: Can do all steps without assistance
Allow about a week for your leaf to dry in your home-made press.
Depending on the age-level of your child, this project can range anywhere from 1 hour- 3 hours.
Younger children will work quickly, while older children will want to work more carefully and deliberately and spend more time on the project.
Here’s how you can make this Project Artwork at home:
- pressed sea grape leaf, or other large leaf pressed and cut into an oval shape. ( OR download a sea grape leaf template to print onto cardstock or print, cut and trace onto heavyweight paper)
- oil pastels and/or chalk crayons- I LOOOVE these and these by OOLY
- markers, either sharpies or these multi-surface markers
- hole puncher
- raffia, yarn, jute, scrap shoelaces, cord, or other lace-able trim
If using real leaves, press and dry leaves one week in advance. Sandwich leaves between two sheets of construction paper and place between several heavy books or boards.
When ready to start, remove leaves from your press, and place on your work table along with all other supplies.
If using the printable template, cut out your leaf shape. Trace onto a heavier weight paper, if desired. Cut out the heavier-weight leaf shape and you are ready to begin!
Step 1: Color Your Leaf with Markers
You don’t have to use markers at all for this, but if you do, make sure your kiddos use them FIRST. Markers that get used on top of oil pastel get ruined in short order! Get ALL your marker details down first, and then move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Color Your Leaf with Oil Pastels
I just love these Oil Pastel Twisty Sticks and Chalk-O-Rama chalk crayons by OOLY. They are super easy to use and the colors show up so vibrantly on the pressed leaves.
Encourage your child to block in large areas and then add patterns on top. Older children may want to try and make their leaf look like a real jellyfish (you can provide pictures from the internet for visual reference). Others may simply want to explore the process of adding layers of color to the leaf. It’s really important to let your child go with whatever is inspiring them and don’t force them to make it look a certain way.
Step 3: Punch Holes
I just used a standard hole-puncher. Be careful not to punch holes too close together or too close to the edge. I recommend three to four holes on each side, but older kids may want to add more or even add holes all the way around to do the lacing effect seen below.
Step 4: Tie On the “Tentacles”
We looped our jute and raffia through the holes and tied it in place where necessary. Be careful when tying, not to tie it too tight or it will tear the leaf and pull right through your hole!
Some artists chose to lace all the way around the edges of their leaf jellyfish. This was actually QUITE difficult, since the pressed leaves are so fragile, but I did have some older students do it successfully with beautiful results!
Here’s a quick recap to PIN with all the steps to make your leaf jellyfish:
Variations on this project:
*Use this project with a marine-life unit. Have your child research the anatomy and characteristics of a jellyfish.
*Build upon this lesson and turn it into a writing activity as well: have your child write a poem about a jellyfish or a paper comparing and contrasting leaves and jellyfish!
*You don’t HAVE to make your leaf into a jellyfish–just leave off the tentacles!
*It’s also fun to just color your leaf with an interesting design. You can add lacing to the edges or leave it plain. You can also PAINT your leaf with acrylic paint instead of using markers and oil pastels.
I love the henna-inspired leaf, my sweet artist-friend, Kendall did! And even just a simple grey-scale leaf looks fantastic!