It’s nearly Tu B’Shevat, the Birthday of the Trees, but you don’t have to be Jewish to celebrate your leafy friends. (See Arbor Day, Earth Day and Every Day.) Here are some activities you might try with your kids, even in January, when the trees are stripped of their finery:
Leaf rubbings: Grab some leaves and crayons. If you can’t find any maple or oak leaves still hanging around, try evergreens. They make great patterns, which in turn make fine covers for letters or notes (you did make a New Year’s resolution about keeping in better touch with friends, right?) Try holding your paper against the tree and make a bark rubbing. Study the differences between different trees.
Plant a tree. I always thought you needed to wait until spring to plant a tree, but when I was doing some research for Happy Birthday, Tree, I learned that it’s okay to plant them while it’s still winter, so long as the ground is soft enough that you can dig a proper hole. (Apparently, when the trees are in their “sleepy” states, they’re less likely to suffer from root shock.) Here are some planting tips from The Tree People.
Be the tree. (Very zen sounding, no?) Hold your arms up to the sky. Bend in the breeze. Ask your child: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
Have a birthday party for your trees. Make a cake (I recommend chocolate, to look more like dirt.) Add a few gummy worms for authenticity. Make newspaper hats, like the ones Joni makes in Happy Birthday, Tree. Some templates are here, from Martha Stewart, no less.
Have a Tu B’Shevat Seder. Or for the secular crowd: eat as many different types of fruits as you can.
Find the strangest fruit you can find. Read about it. Eat it!
Count the trees. How many different kinds do you have in your yard? Do you see anything living in your trees? Count the different ways trees are used in your home. (Wooden tables or floors or chairs? Home for animals? Paper?)
Climb a tree.
And of course: Read about trees.
Hug a tree, and say “thank you” for all your trees offer you, every day.