6 Arbor Day Activities You Can Do With Your Kids

Celebrate Arbor Day by doing more than just planting trees with your kids.

Lauren Wellbank - Author

Apr. 24 2024, Published 2:18 p.m. ET

Child walking towards a tree
Source: Getty Images

Arbor Day takes place the last Friday every April, and has been celebrated that day every year since it was founded on April 10, 1872 by Nebraska's J. Sterling Morton. The former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture hoped the holiday would highlight the importance of having healthy trees around the country while helping to combat deforestation. Morton invited folks to celebrate the holiday by planting trees, and as such, the beloved tradition was born.

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And while Arbor Day is a wonderful tradition to this day, it must be acknowledged that Morton was an open racist throughout his life, which overlapped with the Civil War. The Arbor Day Foundation condemned his beliefs in 2020, writing: "We regret not condemning Morton's racist views earlier and we commit to addressing this issue with transparency moving forward."

But that doesn't mean we can't still use Arbor Day to celebrate trees, especially when it comes to finding Arbor Day activities for kids. Below, there are six really good ways you can get the children in your life to appreciate the role trees play in our environment, and not one of them involves digging out the shovel and planting a tree. Take a look at this list and see if you can find an idea on here that you'd like to try with your kids this Arbor Day.

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Boy planting a tree
Source: Getty Images

Measure trees using other objects.

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When it comes to fun Arbor Day activities that you can do with older kids, this STEM project is a great one for middle schoolers. All you'll need is to get started is a pencil, a measuring device, some trees, a partner, and this free downloadable from the From ABCs to ACTs blog. Not only can it get your kids outside and looking at trees during Arbor Day, but it can also help them appreciate all the different shapes and sizes they come in!

Identify the different parts of a tree.

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Little kids may get a kick out of creating their own unique tree system, and then identifying all the different parts. This activity from Paula's Primary Classroom is an especially good one for Arbor Day, because it helps kids understand that trees have just as much going on under the ground as they do above! This fun project can be adapted depending on what age group you're doing it with, so don't be scared to get your kindergartners and first graders involved, too!

Create your own tree rings.

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Learning about tree rings, how they're used to determine a tree's age, and what the different shapes and colors of those rings can tell us, is an easy way to help visual learners understand the process. For example, NASA's Climate Kids blog says that the colors and size of the rings can be used to figure out what the weather was like during that year of the tree's growth!

Crayola has an awesome activity for kids in grades four through six that helps them understand this process while allowing them to create their own tree stories by drawing and coloring tree rings.

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Serve up a tree-riffic snack.

You don't have to make the kids do the work to celebrate Arbor Day! Instead you can create the perfect snack time activity all your own with this delicious tree made from a banana and some grapes. Check out the CrystalandComp blog for details, and make this yummy (and preschool friendly) afternoon snack. Just remember, whole grapes aren't recommended for younger kids, so you'll need to cut these in half before you serve them to anyone under the age of 5!

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Create paint brushes from tree parts.

Gathering fallen sticks and leaves from trees in your community to create paint brushes can be a great way for your child to learn to identify different trees. You can teach them which leaves make the best "bristles," how they can tell trees apart by looking at their sticks, and then celebrate everything they've learned by combining those things into paint brushes, using this tutorial from the AppleGreen Cottage blog.

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Make jewelry using fallen leaves.

You can teach kids of all ages to appreciate the beauty of the trees in your area by encouraging them to collect different leaves they find on the ground. They can then use them to make bracelets, like the mom at Kids Craft Barn does in her video. All you need is a good collection of leaves, some clear tape, a hole punch, and a bit of twine. Make this more Arbor Day specific by only collecting tree leaves, or open it up to all of the beautify around you by gathering flowers and other items for your bracelets.

As you can see, there's no wrong way to celebrate Arbor Day with your kids, as long as you're getting them to slow down and take some time to really look at the trees around them so that they understand just how important these silent giants are for our environment.

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