One thing that keeps me constantly inspired and motivated to come up with new ideas is being a teaching artist. I learn so much from the kids I work with - they are in creative brain all the time - they are so inspiring. Teaching afterschool art programs for the past several years has forced me to constantly invent and re-invent new projects, since at one program I have been lucky enough to work with the same kids over a period of several years now. Here are two Atumnal Leaf projects for fall that are easy to do with kids. I have done them with kids K - 8 - everyone loves them, the pastel project is less messy to do with the youngers but life is short and art is messy - just wear a smock.
By the way - the adult staff at the centers where I teach almost always end up making a project along with the kids and some take them home to frame up and hang - these projects are great for the crafty and those who are not so confident about their artistic ability because they are designed to have fabulous results regardless of the age and skill level of the artist; while still developing an original design style and sense of color through artistic play.
You will need to collect some leaves of any kind, softer less brittle ones are best. I used maple leaves since we are surrounded by giant maples on my small farm in central Connecticut. It's great to start with a nature walk if you have time. In the autumn, I collect as many as I can for my children's classes, and store them in the pages of junk mail catalogs - it keeps them flat and they will last all winter. Kept this way you can use them many, many times over as long they go back between the pages when you are done using them.
This is a really fun technique where you paint a thin coat of white or light colored paint directly onto a leaf and press it firmly onto paper. Here I am using colored scrapbooking paper which is of a good weight and can handle a semi-moist water based paint but any paper of good weight will work. I then have students use small cut pieces of inexpensive kitchen sponge to dab into colored paints and apply paint in any creative way they wish.
To do this project, I started with the heavier weight colored cardstock/scrapbooking paper but you can use any paper for this of a good weight. Using oil pastels, the leaves are traced all around. They can be re-traced in complimentary colors or analgelous colors or any way you like. Backgrounds can be colored to accent the picture. This is also a great watercolor resist project - using water media paper and oil pastel or crayons. Trace the leaves and paint over with watercolors, temperas or watered down acylics. Mix it up!