To keep trees and our planet thriving, it all starts with getting to know them a little better.Whenever kids study some part of the interconnected web of nature, they increase their understanding of how every living thing is essential to sustaining life around it.
Trees are the largest plants in the world, stabilizing the ground with their strong root systems. Animals and humans rely on them for food and shelter. People use trees to produce an endless variety of products like houses, paper, furniture, packaging, and more.
Some spices— and even medicines— come from trees! Trees like the North American witch hazel fight off bacteria and the cinnamon from cinnamon trees tastes great in a bowl of morning oatmeal.
In order to have these valuable resources available, we need to preserve and manage forests and consume material from trees sustainably. Connecting the next generation to trees and nature helps develop their appreciation for taking care of the environment.
Art projects help students express themselves and connect to the world around them. Here you’ll find a great variety of art projects for kids from PreK-2 which involve handprints, mosaics, found objects such as sticks and leaves, repurposed materials such as egg cartons, and more to get students thinking about trees. Many of these experiences (and more!) can be found in PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood guide.
All About Seeds and Flowers
Tree seeds come in some pretty incredible forms.Some trees like oaks, maples, and cherry trees produce colorful and fragrant flowers that attract animals like bees, birds, and bats. The animals assist in pollinating the flowers, which later become fertilized and create seeds.
Conifers are types of trees that protect their seeds inside of pinecones. Seeds found in tree fruit, pods, and nuts can travel great distances when animals carry them off or eat and excrete them in new places.
Project Learning Tree’s Adopt a Tree activity encourages young children to look closely at a tree’s bark, flowers, fruits, leaves, seeds, and twigs. In another classic PLT activity Bursting Buds, children celebrate the coming of spring and explore the growth of twigs, buds, and tree flowers. Find these PLT activities in PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood guide, our new Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide, and our e-unit for grades K-2 Treemendous Science!
Button apple tree
Students can find a box of old buttons and delight in the great art they can create by recycling found objects.
Let students adorn their acorn tree in any way the winds take them using these fun “fairy hats” found in nature. “fairy hats” found in nature. Students can paint the acorn caps. They can also use a collection of sticks to make the trunk.
Mini pinecone tree
Ever notice how pinecones are even shaped like trees? They look so fantastic standing as trees in small terra cotta pots, and the cones and pots can be decorated however your students choose.
Trees and the Animals They Attract
Trees support all kinds of life with the shelter, food, and shade they provide. In PLT’s Trees as Habitats activity, children inventory the plants and animals that live in, on, and around trees and discover how plants and animals depend on trees in many ways. Use the suggestions below to experiment with making animals that live inside, on, or under your tree with whatever materials you like!
Mini forest diorama
There are so many creative ways young learners can put their studies into action with a three-dimensional forest diorama. Experiment with moss and other natural objects, paint, cardboard boxes, animal figurines students find or make, and more.
Create tree silhouettes that feature animals in their natural habitat. Allow students to try out painting with different objects to highlight interesting, bold textures in the background of their painting.This art project is showcased in PLT’s early childhood activity Evergreens in Winter.
A lot of animals come out when humans can’t see them. Bring learning about curious nocturnal creatures to life in a fun, creative way. Students could add owls or other nocturnal animals to the branches of their tree art projects.
Teach students about the importance of the rainforest ecosystem by reading a book like The Rainforest Book orThe Great Kapok Tree(optional) and create your own rainforest scene with frogs and swinging monkeys using recycled paper materials.
Trees Taking Root
There’s a lot more than meets the eye with trees. Underground, tree roots extend far beyond a tree’s trunk to absorb water and nutrients and support the part of the tree that’s above ground.
Paper towel roll tree with roots
Kids can learn about a tree’s unseen roots with this craft involving a paper towel roll, cotton balls, and string.
Celebrate the Four Seasons!
In temperate deciduous forests, trees change their appearance in big ways from season to season. PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood guide has a whole section of activities devoted to experiencing trees through the seasons. Here we’ve gathered a few more art project ideas with this theme.
Wrapped up in the seasons
These yarn-wrapped cardboard trees look so unique yet are pretty easy and fun to make!
Immerse yourself in each season with this stand-up craft made from heavy paper and anything else you’d like to give it a pop—like colored markers, tissue paper, or pom poms.
Experiment with scissors and glue to create these standing, abstract trees made from paper towel rolls, cardstock, and construction paper that show off the beautiful colors of each season.
A seasonal mindset
Deciduous trees look so different from season to season that they can even affect people’s moods. What’syourfavorite season? Get in the spirit of each season with these inspiring projects.
Let spring blossom
Who knew a paper bag could look so beautiful? Give your students an appreciation for sculpting and using their hands to mold a simple object into a work of spring beauty.
Summer egg carton tree
Egg carton leaves? It totally works! Stick to the basics or add a couple of birds for extra flair.
Summer pom pom tree
This interactive art project is very whimsical and also helps young learners practice fine motor skills. These materials can be reused from other projects or you can find them at a local dollar store.
Practice gratitude with fall leaves
Create custom trees and attach leaves onto it with tree products and outdoor experiences that students are grateful for. Not only will students get a lesson in trees and gratitude, at the same time, they will get to know each other’s perspectives on a deeper level.
A very handprinted tree
It’s like the classic handprint painting, but with a twist! This tree stands up in 3D using cardstock and a paper plate. Add whatever materials desired like twigs and pinecones at the base of the tree for a natural effect.
Snowy winter twig tree
You can’t go wrong with capturing winter’s beauty using simple materials like twigs or evergreen needles and a bit of paint.
Common Trees from Around the World
Trees and forests provide many benefits to people and communities all over the world.PLT’s activity Three Cheers for Trees suggests ways children can explore the many products and benefits that trees provide. Download for free a simplified version of this activity in English, Spanish, or French.
Many of the trees common to your area may not exist in other parts of the world, and vice versa. Experience just how different trees can look around the world by making one that’s not found in your region.
Be sure to show students where on the globe their tree can be found.
Maple tree in a jar
A beautiful, innovative way to capture a North American sugar maple with its vibrant leaves.
Pine tree origami
Origami folding can lead to all kinds of interesting miniatures like this evergreen pine, which can be found throughout the Northern hemisphere.
Paper towel roll palm tree
Paper towel rolls are great for making these tall, tropical palm trees complete with fronds and coconuts made from pom poms or whatever circular objects you can find.
Baobab tree mosaic
Students can use colored paper to create stunning, unique mosaic sky backdrops for their gigantic baobab tree, which is found in Africa and Southern Asia.
Like what you see here? Visit this Pinterest board to find all of these ideas for tree art projects plus many more.
Rebecca Reynandez is a Marketing and Communications Consultant and Principal of Spring Media Strategies, LLC. She has worked with nonprofits for the past 10 years and currently focuses on working with environmental organizations. She is based in Minneapolis, MN.