By Erica Loop in Thinking Sustainably on Tom's of Maine online
As a parent who understands what trees do for all of us, you probably also understand the importance of trees for kids. You're all about the great outdoors. You have a healthy respect for Mother Nature and want your kiddos to grow up with an appreciation for her, too.
Teaching kids about trees is a step in an Earth-friendly direction. But before you start barraging the kids with scientific facts, take a look at some of the easiest (and most fun!) ways to teach your child about sustainability and on just how terrific trees are—in an entirely environmentally friendly way.
Understand the Importance
Even though you already appreciate the majesty of trees, understanding the true significance of their contributions is another matter. Yes, they're pretty to look at. And when their leaves go from emerald green to gold, orange, and fiery red, they make a beautiful reminder of nature's changes. But what do trees do for the planet and everyone on it?
If you're not entirely sure where to start teaching kids about trees, pick a few points from this fact list:
- Trees help people to stay healthy. They remove 53 tons of carbon dioxide and 430 pounds of air pollutants annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Trees keep us cool. Trees can cut air conditioning costs by 56 percent, notes the USDA.
- Trees give us food. From apples to oranges, fruiting trees feed people.
- Trees stop erosion. Their root systems slows and stops rain runoff by absorbing excess water. This reduces the amount of soil that's washed into streams and lakes and decreases erosion.
Teaching kids about trees doesn't mean training them to memorize random facts. Sure, you can come to the tree activity table armed with plenty of information. But part of the importance of trees for kids is often their practical benefits. The oxygen that we breathe, the fruit that we eat, and the paper that we write on all come from the forest.
Not only does your child need to understand the practical side of trees, but approaching their benefits in this way can bring the lessons or activities to their level. If your child feels that the information at hand directly affects or applies to them they may be more likely to eagerly accept it. This means you're upping engagement and making the science more accessible.
When it comes to putting lessons into action, try some creative ways to share your tree talking points. The first is to go for a walk in the woods. What trees can you spot together? What animals are living in them? How does your local forest muffle the sound of traffic for birds or clean the air for a nearby playground?
Let's say your crafty kiddo is all about art. They may remember more from drawing a field guide to the trees in your neighborhood or experimenting with colors while learning about how trees soak up water (check out Buggy and Buddy's cool food coloring demo).
If you want to teach your budding scientist about trees and soil erosion, get hands-on and add some sticks and leaves to Inspiration Laboratories' soil experiment. You can also visit an arboretum (explain to the tykes that it's like a zoo for plants or a really big garden) or a forest where tree studies are happening to experience how scientists examine trees' impact on ecosystems and climate change.
You don't have to literally hug trees to teach your child about their awesome impact on the environment. Pick points that will spark interest, get creative, and help the little one in your life to learn about trees in a way that they'll remember.
How are you helping your child to learn about trees? Share your most imaginative environmental activities with us on Twitter!
Image source: Pexels | Pexels | Unsplash
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