Today, Friday, April 24, 2020, is Arbor Day! Spring is a great time to celebrate trees because we get to see growth, new life and enjoy watching them leaf out and flower. There is something about watching buds burst open into beautiful flowers or watching baby leaves unfolding out of their tiny buds that I just can’t get enough of!  

Next time you’re out walking, whether it’s in your neighborhood or out at Klehm, take some time to notice the new growth on all of the trees. Are the buds breaking open yet? Does it look like a flower or a leaf is coming out of the bud? What colors do you see? What shapes do you see? 

This is a really simple activity to do with everyone in your family and you might notice things you’ve never noticed before! Some trees flower before they leaf out, such as most magnolias, while some trees leaf out before flowering, such as crabapples. Some tree leaves emerge colored, such as the reddish-purple spring leaves of the Katsura tree, while others begin and stay green. Trees really are remarkable, especially if you notice these fine details. 

While all trees belong to a family (trees with common general characteristics), genus (trees that have fundamental traits in common but differ in lesser characteristics), and species (trees that share the same genetic makeup), each individual tree is unique in how it grows and changes over the years – just like our kids! Celebrate Arbor Day this year with a cute and fun family tree craft that you can repeat every year to see how your little seedling grows year after year! 

Bonus! Want to learn more or teach your kids more about tree classification and identification? Visit the TREE Musketeers website for a great guide: https://www.treemusketeers.net/tree-identification/ 

Here’s how you can try it at home!

Here’s what you’ll need:
  • Paper (cardstock or something thicker works best) or canvas 
  • Paint – brown, green, and optional pink, white or other flower color
  • Paintbrush
Brush brown paint onto your child’s hand and place handprint on paper in the upper portion of the paper. These are your branches! Wipe or wash hand clean.
Use brush (or finger) to paint a tree trunk from the handprint down to the bottom of the paper. Allow this paint to dry.
Use fingers to make fingerprint leaves (and/or flowers) on your tree! This is where kids can get really creative!
Allow to dry and add name to the masterpiece! (Bonus if you want to create a scientific name for your tree – I used last name for the genus and first name/nickname for the specific epithet!)

Variations to This Project:

  • Don’t have paint (or simply don’t want to deal with any paint mess!)? Trace your child’s hand and arm onto construction paper and cut out to make the tree trunk and branches. Attach the tree trunk and branches onto another piece of paper. Then use small pieces of crumpled up tissue paper or pieces of colored paper to attach as the leaves and/or flowers.
  • Even easier and (should be) zero mess option: Use markers (not zero mess with my kids), colored pencils or crayons to trace the hand and armand then have your child color it in and draw on the leaves and/or flowers.
  • Want to create a complete family tree with all the members of the family together (or at least all the kids together)? Layer the handprints on top of each other using varying colors (if using paint this works best on something sturdy like canvas or art paper meant for holding up to paint), starting with the largest handprint. Allow each layer to dry before adding the next one. Have everyone in the family add leaves and/or flowers to create unique and varying sized leaves and flowers! 

Downloadable Instructions:

For a downloadable version of the full instructions, click here.