Play It Forward Therapy

Pressed Leaf Placemat

Pressed Leaf Placement

Q: Why do leaves fall from dogwood trees?

A: They’re afraid of the bark.

Q: How do leaves get from place to place?

A: They use Autumn-obiles.

The season of Fall brings a smile to my face (as do corny jokes and pumpkin spice lattes!).  You’ll enjoy the beauty of Fall all year round with these Pressed Leaf Placemats or Pressed Leaf Bookmark.  Fall is the perfect time of year to go for a nature walk and bring the beauty of the outdoors… indoors. These Pressed Leaf Project ideas address a variety of developmental skills, but first let’s find out how going for a nature walk can be one of the best things you can do during the day. 

The 5 Benefits of Taking a Nature Walk

Being outdoors or going for a nature walk is not only good for your physical health it can do wonders for your mental well-being too!  Whether you take a quick movement break or schedule some outside time into your therapy sessions, you’ll be sure to enjoy these benefits!

#1. Experiencing nature enhances working memory and helps to restore focused attention. OT Activity: Play “I Spy” to work on sustained attention and visual discrimination skills.

#2. An Easy Mood Booster: Research studies have shown that being in nature can improve your mood, emotional well being and decrease stress. OT Activity: Practice deep breathing, inhale for a count of 2-4 seconds. Exhale for a count of 4-6 seconds.

#3. A Rich Sensory Experience: Gathering different types of leaves is a rich sensory experience. Here’s why…

  • 🖐 Feel and notice the different textures of the leaves. Talk about the textures smooth, bumpy, crunchy, dry or wet.

  • 👀 Practice visual scanning with your eyes to pick out the different shapes, colors and sizes of leaves.

  • 👃 Notice the different scents of trees such as the piney smell of evergreen trees or the faint, floral scent of cherry trees.

  • 💪 Build in some heavy work by raking the leaves and jump into your mountain of leaves.

#4. A Natural Way to Practice Fine Motor Skills: Picking up leaves and holding tiny stems improves finger dexterity and fine motor precision.

#5. Enjoy a Free Leisure Activity: Let’s not forget about the importance of setting time aside for leisure activities and self-care! Time spent in nature connects us to the outside world and can inspire feelings of love and empathy for each other.

Trending now… Have you ever heard of “Forest Bathing”? “Shinrin-yoku” also known as “forest bathing” is when you spend time in the forest or a natural atmosphere and focus on sensory engagement to connect with nature. It’s for therapeutic relaxation and self-care and so aligned with Occupational Therapy.

Check out the video tutorial for how to make pretty a Pressed Leaf Placemat or Pressed Leaf Bookmark

Pressed Leaf Placemat or Bookmark


  • Leaves
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Cardstock or construction paper
  • Laminator with laminating sheets or clear contact paper
  • Black permanent pen


  1. Collect a variety of leaves on a nature walk.  Bring along a container to collect your leaves.
  2.  Lay them in between 2 paper towels to dry.  Place a heavy book on top and allow to dry overnight.
  3.  Glue the leaves on the paper.
  4. Cut out rectangles for bookmarks or arrange leaves on a large piece of paper for a placemat.
  5. Laminate or cover with clear contact paper and trim to fit.


  • Play “I Spy” on the nature walk.
  • Practice visual attention, focus and discrimination by trying to find a certain color or type of leaf in the background.
  • Take some deep breaths of fresh air.  Breath in slowly for a count to 3, Hold, then breath out slowly to encourage a calm body and mind.

And for the last joke of the day before you “leave”…

Q:  Why were there so many people hanging out by the tree?

A:  It was a Poplar Tree!