Coffee Filter Leaves with a Twist of Hope for the New Year

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Our finished display with hopes for the New Year

  • Things you probably have at home:
    • (Optional) Muffin tin
    • Cookie tray
    • Paper towels

See the notes below on how to set this up using the trays!

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Ideal Age Range:

This can be adapted to any age 1 – 9. Smaller kids will mostly make a mess. Older kids will be able to guide their own design.

Mess Factor:

Messy. Water and food coloring and squirting. Cover the table, possibly the floor and have extra paper towels ready.

Prep Time:

10 – 15 minutes of prep. Younger kids require more prep on your part before you start. Older kids will be able to help out and lessen prep time. Cover your table with something water proof. Give each kid a cookie tray, lined with paper towels, to die their leaves.

If you have younger kids, read through everything below first. It will be easier on you to prep the colors and cut out the leaves before the kids get started.

I love this project because it create delicate fall-colored leaves that look beautiful and can be displayed so many ways. It can be as simple as you want it to be.


If you have more time, you can incorporate discussions about science, art and even gratitude into the instructions below as you mix colors, talk about absorption in different materials, and discuss what positive words you want to incorporate into the finished products.

Active Instructions:

  1. Print the leaf templates at the end of this post and cut them out. You can also feel free to create your own (or use real leaves!).
    • Older kids can help with this step. For the little ones, it will be better for you to prep this in advance.
    • PRO TIP: cut several coffee filters at once to save time!
  2. Mix your fall colors. I used a muffin tin to hold the plastic cups (to try and keep things in place). You can create any colors that you would like. We used food coloring, but liquid water colors would also work. We created a yellow, red and orange tone to use.
    • Again, for younger kids, you should prep colors in advance.
    • Older kids can help select the colors that they want and you can work together to experiment with how much water to use based on how vibrant they want the final color.
    • NOTE: I used more water with my toddler (just in case) so the colors were very diluted. For maximum vibrancy, use very little water.
Step 1 – cut out leaves

Step 2 – mix colors using a muffin tin to help contain everything
  1. Place your coffee filter leaves on a cookie tray to corral mess. Using your eye dropper, have your child select their colors and squirt them onto the coffee filter leaves.
    • Young kids will be fast and cover everything without much rhyme or reason. But they’ll have fun! Older kids can be deliberate about where they are placing the colors and they can marble different colors together a bit more.
    • For my toddler, I just placed the leaf right onto the tray and let him squirt. For my older son, I placed a paper towel under the leaf to help soak up excess. (You can compare the different paper types and how the colors look on each when you are done.)
Step 3 – toddler (without paper towel)

Step 3 – 6 year old (with paper towel)

  1. As your children finish coloring the leaves, peel them off of the cookie sheet and move them to another paper towel to dry. (These go pretty quickly).
  2. (Optional) Your kids can also use the excess liquid on the paper towel/ tray to “paint” the coffee filters.
Step 4 – place leaves on a paper towel to dry

Step 5 (optional) paint extra leaves with excess liquid on the tray

The leaves will be dry by the next day (or earlier). At this point you can be finished with the project.

You can tape these leaves up against a window to display, place them on a cabinet (like we did above), or thread them with string to create a garland.

We made these right around Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), which is a time where we have a lot of discussions about our hopes for the coming year. Especially right now, I am finding that it is hard for me to get my 6 year old to talk about any of his hopes for the future. When you ask him what he wants to have happen this year, he says he wants to the Coronavirus to go away. We really wanted to challenge him to think of more “normal” hopes in addition to this (you will see one of our leaves says “Bye Bye Coronavirus.” Simply use a pen to write your wishes and display (markers may bleed on the filter paper, so I found pen was best).

I hope we are able to have this wish come true by next September!

Book Pairing

If you are looking to extend this activity with your little ones, I highly recommend pairing this with fall books about leaves. Leaves is a favorite in our house at this time of year:

Printable Templates

Here are some leaf templates that you can use. Don’t feel like you have to cut every little curve perfectly – the coffee filter paper is very forgiving and will cover up little mistakes. (Cut SEVERAL at once – a whole stack – or you will be cutting filters for a long time!)

We would love to see your wishes for the New Year or thoughts of gratitude. Please tag us @givethekidssomethingtodo!

If you want to pin this project, please use the image below.

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