Some people track their children’s growth by marking their height against a door or wall, awarding a new hash every time another quarter inch or so is grown. But what about a more interactive version to not only track how much your child is growing up, but how much the whole family changes and grows as well. Your very own living, breathing tree can serve that purpose. In essence, you can grow your own family tree! While this project might not document your family’s heritage, it WILL chronicle how your family changes throughout the years - and how your landscape does as well. 

The project involves planting a tree and using it as a backdrop for annual family pictures and photos of milestone moments. Eventually you will be able to fill an entire scrapbook with the pictures that mark time and perhaps many years from now, as the tree and your family age together, the next generation of your offspring will appear under the family tree and they will continue the tradition for years to come.

Here’s what you’ll need: a small tree of your choice, a shovel, and mulch

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Plan a family outing to a local nursery or garden center to pick out a small tree. You may want to do some research about which types of trees will fit in well to the ecosystem of your area. This will serve as a great learning opportunity for children about the merits of planting species native to an area and the wide variety of trees that exist. You may also take the opportunity to learn about the tree that is your “state tree.” Many people find it fun to pick a young tree about the height of their child so they can see how much the tree grows in comparison. If you need assistance in selecting a tree, the garden center experts can help.
  • Once you have your tree picked out and ready to be planted at home, pick a nice spot for it in your yard. Avoid planting it anywhere too close to power lines, your house, or anything else that could get in the way because your tree will grow. A lot. 
  • Once you’ve located your tree’s new home, dig a hole just deep enough to fit the roots of the tree, and wide enough to be double the width of the tree roots. If the soil in and around your hole feels hard, break some of it up using your shovel. 
  • You’re all set to move in the newest addition of your family to its home! Take the tree out of its casing and place it into the hole you made. Pat the soil back into the hole to fill it back up and give the tree a nice watering. You may wish to add some mulch to the newly planted area to finish the look. 
  • Give your tree a name! It is part of the family now and needs a name to fit the role. Consider making your new addition a sign with its name. Take a picture to mark the day the tree became a part of your family and create the first entry for your family tree memory book, a tradition that can be carried on for years to come. 
  • Continue to take care of your tree by watering it every day for the first two weeks. After this, you can water it only once a week, ensuring it’s getting about a gallon of water. 

Planting a living family tree is a fun hands-on project that lets kids see their handiwork for years to come. Taking pictures with the tree annually will inevitably invoke laughs and storytelling about the year that has passed, and it will help children begin to develop an appreciation for nature and its important role in our lives.

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