March 24, 2021
In Trees We Trust
By Dr Kathy Weston
For many, it is the last week of school before the Easter stint at home, but this time it’s different. It is springtime; a time of the year where nature nudges us into thinking about renewal, rebirth and how life is full of little green shoots. Last weekend, I went on a terribly exciting tree-shopping excursion with my husband. It made me stop and consider the diversity of trees out there, their beauty and also how undervalued their role is in our lives.
We live in a home called “Tall Trees” and being surrounded by them affects us daily. There is plenty of research which supports this observation. When we place our palms on their trunks, we can feel grounded and reassured. If we climb them, we gain new perspectives and when we plant them, we feel like we are nourishing the whole world. Trees mark time; if we are lucky enough to see the concentric circles (annual growth circles) on the interior of a tree trunk, we are immediately reminded of their resilience over the ages.
Trees are irresistible to children and you can understand why. They lure them in with the possibility of quick progression and stay still while they vigorously explore. They remain familiar, stable and unchanging anchors in our landscape, when the world around us can feel chaotic. Everyone has a favourite tree that they enjoy returning to. It awaits us, in the garden of our old family home, at our favourite local park or in the street where we grew up.
Now that trips abroad seem like a distant hope, perhaps our time might be well spent exploring the trees around us.
As a family, take a look at the Ancient Tree Inventory, run by the Woodland Trust, and see if any tree treasures exist in your local area. Remember that trees aren’t just for climbing; they can also enhance learning and teaching in family life. Have you ever considered how much maths can be found in leaves and branches? Check out this utterly inspiring list of maths activities that we can pick and choose from, for our primary-age children. If literature is more your thing, perhaps reflect with your family about forests and the role they may have had in your favourite childhood books or stories. Older teens studying Shakespeare might be interested in scholarly texts that examine the role and literary function of forests throughout his great works.
If you fancy a bit of parental self-care this Easter break, why not partake in Japanese ‘forest-bathing’ or take some time to read the Sunday Times bestselling Hidden Life of Trees on a nice blanket, under your favourite canopy.
It is time to give something back, by taking care of trees around us and paying attention to the value that they bring to our lives. I haven’t mentioned the simple benefit to the world of planting trees and this should really be an activity that takes centre stage in homes, communities and schools.
Planting a tree not only teaches children about the difference that they personally can make to the environment, it can also help to provide a sense of belonging and rootedness; as they grow, so does their tree. And, if you plant a fruiting tree, not only do your children get to watch it grow, one day they will also get to eat its produce!
There are a range of schemes that organise tree planting, which schools can connect with. One Tree Per Child is a charity which works in conjunction with local councils and primary schools, aiming to enable every child to plant a tree. The Tree Council also offers grants to communities and schools for tree planting. The best time for tree planting is November to March, so you have plenty of time to get an application in for next winter.
This will be my last Wednesday Wisdom until we return from the Easter holiday. I wish you and your families a lovely break.
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Keeping active has been a challenge for many young people over the recent lockdown. In fact, research by Sport England this year shows that almost ⅓ of children were ‘inactive’ whilst schools were closed. These children were not even getting 30 minutes of exercise per day (the minimum recommendation is 1 hour of activity). Now that the weather is warming up, it’s the perfect time to encourage our children to get outdoors, climb trees, enjoy the fresh air and run around. For children of all ages, play is crucial to their mental health and development, especially adventurous or ‘risky’ play, like climbing trees. Find out why in our video.
We have a number of resources in the Tooled Up library about physical activity. There is an article explaining the importance of physical activity to mental wellbeing, and we have plenty of tips for engaging teens, especially girls, in exercise, including a podcast with Dr Michaela James and a video filled with suggestions. If you are stuck for inspiration regarding how to get your child up and moving over the holidays, we have some great ideas for keeping active in the Tooled Up library. For children of all ages, play is crucial to their mental health and development, especially adventurous or ‘risky’ play, like climbing trees. Find out why in our video!
As we slowly return to some level of normality, now is a great time for us all to set personal goals, whether they are physical challenges, or not. Our 100 Acts of Kindness activity could provide the perfect Easter project for the whole family. How many kind things can your family do at home, in the community or online over the break?