Planting a tree for kids is a way to teach them about nature and the beauty of growing something that will be around long after they are gone. Growing a tree can teach a child to appreciate life and nature. This is an excellent activity for adults and kids to do together. You can help a child learn to love the outdoors and have a feeling of accomplishment from watching each phase of the tree's growth cycle.
Purchase a bare-root tree with the child. A bare-root tree is more economical than a containerized tree. A bare-root tree is dug and stored with no soil around the roots. Plant your tree immediately. Allow the child to pick out the tree he likes that is appropriate for your growing area. Explain to him about the benefits of trees, and how they provide oxygen and shade. Describe how some trees provide fruit for food and the branches provide a habitat for animals. Pick out a tree from your local nursery that has healthy branches and no sign of disease, such as knots or fungus.
Unpack the roots of the tree with the child. Explain how the packaging keeps the roots safe from injury. Place the tree into a container with water and allow the tree to soak for approximately three to six hours. This will prevent the roots from drying out and give the tree a better chance of survival.
Dig the hole for the tree. Allow the child to help you dig the hole. The hole should be approximately twice as wide as the root ball and deep enough to completely cover the root ball. Let the child explore the insects and rocks that you unearth. Allow the child to feel the soil and explain to her the nutrients in the soil that will allow the tree to grow.
Test the soil’s pH. According to the University of Minnesota’s extension office, most trees thrive on a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Explain that the nutrients can either be acidic, which increase the pH; or non-acidic, which lower the pH. If the soil’s pH is too low, you will need to add lime to the soil. If the soil’s pH is too high, you will need to add sulfur. Allow the child to use the soil kit to take another sample of the soil to retest. Show the child how to read the test kit.
Place the tree into the hole and hold it in an upright position. Have the child shovel the dirt back into the hole. Allow him to pack down the dirt by stepping on it. The dirt should be firmly packed.
Water the plant with 2 to 3 inches of water. Allow the child to use a garden hose to water the plant. Take the time to teach her that although the tree is planted it will require care for several years until it has established itself.
Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch in a circle that is approximately 3 feet in diameter around the base of the tree. This will help keep moisture in and weeds out. It will also help protect the tree against lawn mowers. Do not place the mulch right up next to the tree trunk as this can cause rot. Wood chips or bark make an excellent mulch.
Dedicate the tree. Allow the child to name the tree or dedicate it to the child. A small plaque can be made out of a stepping stone to tell the date the tree was planted and the name of the child. You can also place a small bench under the tree as it grows so the child has a place to sit and enjoy his planting skills.