Have you ever wondered about how leaves get their color? You can easily set up an experiment to find the hidden pigments in the leaves in your backyard! This leaf chromatography experiment is perfect for exploring the hidden colors of leaves. Take a walk through the backyard and see what leaves you can collect for this simple science experiment.


Have you ever wondered about the color of leaves? You can easily set up an experiment to find the hidden pigments in the leaves in your backyard! This leaf chromatography science experiment is perfect for exploring the hidden colors of leaves. Take a walk through the backyard and see what you leaves you can collect for this simple science and STEM activity. LEAF CHROMATOGRAPHY SCIENCE EXPERIMENT FOR KIDS


One of the things that I love most about this activity is getting the kids outdoors on a nature walk or backyard hunt to collect the leaves for this simple science experiment! There’s nothing quite like exploring nature or the science of nature. This activity can be enjoyed year-round too!


Learn a little about photosynthesis which is the ability to convert light energy from the sun into chemical food energy. The process of photosynthesis starts with the bright green chlorophyll inside leaves.

The plant absorbs sunlight, carbon dioxide, water, and minerals to produce the energy needed to grow. Of course, this gives us the oxygen in our air.

During the leaf growing season, you will mostly see the blue-green chlorophyll and yellow-green chlorophyll but as leaves begin to change colors {and the chlorophyll breaks down as the leaves die}, you will be able to see more yellow and orange pigments come through.

It would be fun to compare the results of leaf chromatography between summer and fall!

How does chromatography work? Chromatography is the process of separating a mixture by passing it through another medium like coffee filters.

ALSO CHECK OUT: Marker Chromatography

Here we are making a mixture of leaves and rubbing alcohol, and using coffee filters to separate the plant pigment from the mixture.

The most soluble substances from the pigments will travel the farthest up your paper filter strip. Different parts of your mixture will travel up the strip at different rates.

What colors will you find when you complete the chromatography experiment below?

Click here to get your free printable Fall STEM cards


Apply the scientific method by using a different liquid like water for another batch and compare the results to the alcohol.

Alternatively, compare the pigments you find in different types of leaves or different colored leaves. Lead your kids through the scientific process which we outline here.


  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Coffee filters
  • Mason jars
  • Craft sticks
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Leaves
  • Something to mash the leaves with like a mortar and pestle {or just get creative}


STEP 1: Get outside and collect leaves! Try to find different types of leaves and colors!

STEP 2: Cut the leaves into small pieces or tear them!

STEP 3: Put one color of a leaf into each jar.

STEP 4: {optional} Find a way to grind up the leaves in the jar either before or after transferring them to the jar to help release the pigments.

This will really help make this chromatography activity have even more awesome results. Just try to mash and grind as much as you can if you choose to do this step.

STEP 5: Cover your leaves with rubbing alcohol.

STEP 6: Bake the mixture at 250 degrees for one hour.  Let it cool completely!

Adults should help and/or highly supervise with this step depending on kids abilities.

STEP 7: While your leaf mixture is cooling, cut strips of coffee filter paper and secure one end around a craft stick.

Place a strip of coffee filter into each jar. The craft stick will help to suspend the paper so it doesn’t fall in but it barely touches the surface!

STEP 8: Wait until the alcohol climbs to the top of the paper and then let dry. Make sure to observe the changes that take place while this process happens.

STEP 9: Once dry, bring your filters out to a clean spot {can place on paper towels} and grab a magnifying glass to inspect the different colors.

What kinds of conclusions can be drawn? Help younger kids with their scientific skills by asking them questions to spark curiosity and observations.

  • What do you see?
  • What changed?
  • Why do you think that happened?

Check out the results and talk about chromatography and photosynthesis with kids!

Easy and fascinating nature science for kids that explores the hidden mysteries of leaves! There is so much to explore in nature. This is a great science activity to get you outside with the kids too.


Looking for more plant lesson plans? Here are few suggestions for fun plant activities that would be perfect for preschoolers and elementary kids.

Learn about the apple life cycle with these fun printable activity sheets!

Use art and craft supplies you have on hand to create your own plant with all the different parts! Learn about the different parts of a plant and the function of each.

Learn the parts of a leaf with our printable coloring page.

Use a few simple supplies you have on hand to grow these cute grass heads in a cup.

Grab some leaves and find out how plants breath with this simple activity.

Use these printable worksheets to learn about the steps of photosynthesis.

Learn about how water moves through the veins in a leaf.

Find out why leaves change color with our printable lapbook project.

Watching flowers grow is an amazing science lesson for kids of all ages. Find out what are easy flowers to grow!


Click on the image below or on the link for more easy science experiments for kids.

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