Watching the news last week, I saw a segment on something called The Tree Charter. It’s apparently about how people and society can benefit from trees and should be protecting them. There are ten principles in the Charter, but the one that grabbed me was Recover health, hope and wellbeing with the help of trees. Particularly the point about giving children a a daily dose of trees. I love that recommendation, because kids need trees.
childhood and trees
When I think of my childhood, trees played a big part. The trees in our garden were the houses, shops and school of our make believe games. We used to one-up each other to see who could climb the highest…and then shout for dad to come and get us out. We’d leave the house in the morning and, like the old cliche goes, not go home until dinner time because we were too busy playing in the woods. Hide and seek, dens, counting the rings in fallen trunks, peeling the bark off sticks and prising open beech nuts. Coming home smelling of the outdoors, with leaves in our hair and dirt all over our jeans. Kids needs trees to be their playground. Trees bring out their imagination and their adventurousness, more than any toy or play park equipment ever could.
And it isn’t just some nostalgic thing, either. My boys love trees. Oldest son has inherited his uncle’s fearlessness and monkey-like skill for climbing to the very top of the nauseatingly tall ones. Middle son is drawn to them, collecting fallen leaves or picking up sticks to add to the pile he keeps at our front door. Even our youngest, at just four months old, is happiest lying in his carry cot with the hood down, watching the branches pass overhead as I push the pram. Kids need trees to spark their curiosity. Textures, smells, colours and the wonders of nature are things that all children love to explore.
Trees are amazing. Just try taking a cranky kid for a walk through the woods, and watch their mood transform. There’s a reason why you see far fewer kids having tantrums in woodland than in shopping centres. Anything that can save my sanity like that is magic. When Middle son is climbing the walls and making the rest of us want to chuck ourselves out the nearest window, all we need to do is ask if he wants to go for a walk. Suddenly the beast is tamed, too busy pulling on his wellies to remember what he was moaning about. Kids need trees…and so do parents!
As a mum who has battled depression throughout my adult life, I know that getting out in nature can be an incredible mental health pick-me-up (you can read my tips for boosting mental health here). Whether it’s letting the kids burn off energy so that they aren’t trying your nerves, or finding somewhere peaceful to help clear your mind, being with trees is one of nature’s best therapies. Fresh air, beautiful surroundings and getting away from housework, job stress and technology can really help you hit reset.
make trees fun
At this time of year, we can all get a touch of cabin fever. So if you or your kids need trees, here’s a list of my boys’ favourite things about trees, in case you’re looking for inspiration!
- conkers Who didn’t love trying to find the biggest, strongest conker as a kid? We never get as far as actually playing with them, as the collecting seems to be the bit my kids are interested in, but all you need to know about playing conkers (including the rules and how to make a tough contender) can be found on the BBC website.
- pine cones We love these so much that we used them in my wedding bouquet and our table centrepieces! The way they open and close fascinates the kids. The boys collect so many that we use them as decoration around the house.
- sycamore seeds Or to give them their proper name, helicopters. I’ve got fond memories of both my older boys getting so excited, throwing these up and watching them twirl to the ground.
- take a rubbing A bit of an old school one this! But you can create some really beautiful patterns. Just hold a piece of paper against the bark of a tree, and rub a crayon across it.
- go for a walk in the woods Exploring the woods can spark a kid’s imagination. It’s pretty cool to see what weird and wonderful questions about nature they can throw out (though you might need to wait until you’re back home to find the answers on Google!)
- kick up leaves What is it about kids and piles of crunchy, autumn leaves? It must appeal to their mess-making instincts.
- look at the roots You can often find a fallen tree in the woods, with all the roots pulled up. My kids are always fascinated by the roots, and all the creepy crawlies that live in them.
- build or find a den It can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Nature may have already created a ready-made one for you, or you can use other materials to make your own.
- climbing Of course! Problem solving, physical activity and a bit of daredevil thrillseeking all rolled into one. The National Trust has some great tips to do it safely. If you get palpitations thinking about your wee one doing their monkey impression, you could always seek out an aerial adventure course. These use safety gear and trained professionals for tree fun!
If you’re looking for more tree-based fun, Fantastic Fun and Learning has a great round up of activities and crafts.
sign the charter
A tree will be planted for every signature that the Charter receives. Technically, that means you can have a tree planted in your honour! If that isn’t worth a couple of seconds of your time, I don’t know what is. If I’ve convinced you that kids need trees, you can sign the Tree Charter here.
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