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"Tree-mendous" Ideas for Young Children

Being outside allows young children to move around and sharpen their senses. It is important to find safe places outside where your child can see, smell, touch and move around.

Sharing the outdoors with your child can be started with a look at trees. Trees can be easily found, and offer a simple way of discovering the wonders of nature. A tree runs on sun energy, makes its own food out of water and the air we breathe out, is a natural humidifier for us and actually cleans the air that we breathe.

Here are several "tree-mendous" ideas to try with your child:

  • Take a piece of paper and put it against the bark on the trunk of the tree. Have your child rub the flat side of a crayon against the paper. Look at the tree rubbing. Talk about it with your child. Tell your child that the part of the tree that holds it up is the trunk. The part that your child is rubbing is the bark. What does the crayon rubbing look like? Does it look like the tree? Try another kind of tree. Compare what each of them looks like.
  • The branches of the tree can make great natural "paint brushes." Take branches that have fallen off a tree and find the thickest part. Flatten it with a hammer, or with something hard to fan out the bottom. Use it as a paint brush, allowing your child to dip the branch in the paint (or water) and put it on paper. If you find another branch, try it without flattening it and see what kind of lines it will paint. You don't always have to "buy" things to help children create wonderful things. Talk about the twigs and how they help the leaves get sunlight.
  • Use the leaves of the tree to create color. Leaves contain chlorophyll, a natural green coloring. Have your child take a leaf and roll it up or crush it, then rub it on white paper. It will make a green color. Your child can create a picture, or just enjoy the process of creating "green" from a tree.
Getting in touch with nature helps children to look around and learn from their surroundings.

Prepared by Marsha Hawley, Extension Educator, Family Life, and Robert Argent, Extension Educator, Urban Forestry.