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 is an updated list of activities you might try with your kids, even during winter months when the trees are stripped of their finery:
Leaf rubbings: You can still find some leaves on the ground. Grab some, along with a pack of 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.
Create a wish tree. Use a fallen tree branch (there should be a lot of them in the Northeast after the recent snow). Then, use scrap paper to create leaves and have students write their wishes for the environment, or declare how they’ll protect the environment. Hang them from the tree. You can go small, for a table top, or large, using some rocks and a planter. I have an older blogpost that shows this project in more detail.
Be a 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.