This article was inspired by a job I applied for and didn’t get. I always try to make the best of a bad situation and so I thought I wouldn’t waste what I had learned, but instead repurpose it and create something positive!
National Tree Week is a celebration of trees that takes place every year at the start of the Winter tree planting season (Nov-March). Usually the Tree Council run events where communities can come together and plant trees, but I should imagine that many of them are cancelled or postponed due to this year’s Tree Week (28th November – 6th December 2020) falling mostly in ‘Lockdown 2.0’ if you live in England and then probably subject to further Covid restrictions after that anyway!
I’ve written before about how Ecotherapy can be helpful for mental wellbeing and this seems like a good time to make it part of your Home Education activities, or just part of your family time. The main aim of National Tree Week is to plant more trees, but if there are no events running near you, or you just don’t fancy going near other humans right now (or, ever!) then here are some family-friendly ideas of what you could do instead.
Plant A Tree of Your Own:
This seems like the most obvious idea, but might not be practical to many! If you don’t have space for a tree in your own garden, or you don’t have a garden at all, then you could plant one in a pot to give as a gift to someone who would like one in their garden! (Might be a good idea for an eco low-cost Christmas present!)
If you don’t have the money to buy a sapling you can collect seeds from local trees and plant those. We collected some sweet chestnuts and we’ve also planted pips from apples before and grown trees from them. One of the pips I planted when I was pregnant with my eldest actually travelled with us in a pot through 3 house moves before finally being planted in our current garden!
One thing to note though is that the tree that grows from the pip most likely will not be the same type as the apple it came from. Apple varieties/growing is more complicated and involves grafting, the pips will be carrying 50% of the genes from the variety that it came from, but also 50% of whatever the bees pollinated it with! So it’s like apple roulette, you could get anything! However, I don’t believe that should put you off, a tree is a tree is a tree, right? Even if the apples on that tree end up tasting like crap, animals and insects could still enjoy them and the tree will still be a habitat for wildlife and the tree will still process carbon dioxide and oxygen, so that’s why I still plant my pips!
Go for a walk and see how many different trees you can spot:
The Woodland Trust has got some great resources to use with kids about identifying trees from leaves or twigs. There’s scavenger-hunt style sheets to print to tick off the ones you find, or they have something called an ‘i-dial’ which you can assemble and my kids love these (I laminate them in case of rain and mud!). We usually make some spare i-dials for socially-distanced walks with friends so we can hand out a spare and the kids don’t huddle around the same one. (Also the laminating helps if you need to sanitise anything!) We also really enjoy these seasonal Gruffalo activity books which are full of scavenger hunts (with stickers!) and a few other activities in between.
Try a Moment of Mindfulness:
The woods (or park) are a great place to encourage kids to think about their senses. Listen to the leaves rustling in the wind or crunching underfoot. Feel bark, moss, leaves, mud, raindrops. What can they smell? Is it damp, musty, pine-y? There’s so many great shades of green, brown, orange, yellow and red to see too, you could even do a colour scavenger hunt. They, um, probably shouldn’t lick anything though … You could take hot chocolate in a flask! Being present in the moment can help ground and calm us, which might be a good thing if you’re as generally-anxious as I am these days!
Celebrate The Food Trees Give Us:
I like any excuse to celebrate with food! Some seasonal favourites for this time of year in the UK could be things using nuts from trees like hazelnuts and chestnuts, or fruit such as apples, medlars or pears. I love chucking chestnuts in everything at the moment, including dairy-free chocolate chestnut spread, chestnut soup, dairy free chestnut truffles and in mini gluten free pies with ‘bacon’ and mushrooms! Fruit you can obviously enjoy as it is, but who doesn’t love a good crumble? (If you need a gluten-free crumble topping recipe you could use the one in this rhubarb crumble recipe here).
Do A Project On The Importance Of Trees:
Your children might like to find out about why we need trees and why they’re so awesome. They could research what wildlife live in trees and the habitats that trees create, how trees help in the fight against climate change or how they help to prevent soil erosion. They could also find out about the original reason for the start of National Tree Week, which was to plant trees that had been killed by Dutch Elm Disease, you could set your kids the challenge to research this or another tree disease. They could help to raise awareness of the importance of trees by sharing the knowledge they’ve discovered by making a poster to display in your window or by creating a Scratch project/animation to share online. Older children could make a YouTube video, TikTok or design some graphics to share on their social media.
Hopefully you can use some these ideas to get outside and enjoy some trees during National Tree Week, or at least celebrate the awesomeness of trees from the snugglyness of your house! I’ll be sharing what we get up to over in my Instagram Stories.
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