From the process of planting a young tree, kids can learn many lessons about plants, people and the world around them. By planting a tree with you, kids can learn not only about propagation of plants, but also about teamwork and following directions. People learn more from doing than they do from watching someone else do, so the first rule in teaching kids to plant a young tree is to let them do as much as possible themselves.
Decide where you want to plant your tree. Allow the child to take part by discussing the type of tree and its cultural requirements, and asking him to suggest locations that might meet those needs. Talk about how big that type of tree grows and make sure that it is planted where it has plenty of room to grow, both above and below ground.
Dig a hole with a hand trowel, slightly deeper than the roots of your seedling. Your child can do this himself and feel a sense of accomplishment as you praise him for a job well done.
Mix a handful of compost into the soil that was removed from the hole. Discuss plant nutrients needed for growth and how the tree gets those nutrients from the soil.
Place the seedling gently into the hole. Hold the sapling gently by the stem and try not to handle the roots. The child should be able to do this himself as seedlings are the right size for small hands. Use this as an opportunity to talk about the different parts of the tree and their functions.
Hold the tree upright with two fingers as the mixed soil is pushed back into the hole. Tug gently on the seedling; just enough to straighten the roots in the soil. This is a good step to work together on, with you holding the seedling and the child filling the hole. Discuss how this step would be more difficult for just one person and why it's important to help others.
Pat the soil gently to firm it around the seedling. Do not pack the soil too tightly around the roots. Discuss how the seedling will have to be cared for and give your child a part of the responsibility for its care, perhaps watering the seedling.
Water the seedling until soil is thoroughly saturated to allow for deep rooting. Discuss trees and other things that need water and why. In this way your child can learn about his environment and other life around him.
Watch together as your seedling grows into a strong, sturdy tree. You can measure the seedling when you plant it, then measure it monthly or yearly to see how much it has grown.