Saturday, 24 May 2014

Playful Uses for Trees

It's the peak of summer's heat wave, and I've finally thrown out the last of our Christmas tree.  
Yep that's my timing.  Sorrynotsorry. 

I thought I'd continue down the road of regression and share how we've used it for play.  
Re-use, right?

We've ordered a real pine tree from S&R for three years now.  A yearly indulgence - I love the smell when I get home from work.  It looks this green for about a month and then it starts to brown.

Discarding the tree in the previous years had been heartbreaking.  It's like saying goodbye to someone who's been part of your family.  This year I decided to rethink about how we could get more creative use out of our tree without needing an excessive amount of effort.  (Hello, Pinterest, I'm talking to you)

And so before we left the tree out for the garbage truck, our handy driver took a saw to it.  This is the hardest part, because the tree wasn't completely dried out yet.

Pine needles would naturally fall so I saved them:

Less than an hour later we had a nice little saved stash of our Christmas tree:

This is our giant play tray made out of two old drawers.  See here for how we made it.

The log stumps are fascinating to touch, smell, study, and count the rings to see how old the tree was (a 9-year old Douglas Fir).  They're a permanent part of the nature corner in Ladybug Girl's room.

If we had a power saw, I would have loved to make building blocks out of the stump like this:
source: The Crafty Crow

The branches got some pretend-play use.  We went camping one lazy Saturday:

She's threading clay "smores" onto the branch.  Great fine motor practice!

The rest of the branches were the logs for the fire

We also made real fire out of the dried branches.  We didn't have a clay pot so we used her play set:

This was so fun but do this outside!  I don't know why I didn't realise there would be smoke.  Take care with fire!

I also left an invitation of mini-logs, branches and sticks to make a fairy house in the giant play tray drawer but it went unnoticed for too long.  I forgot to take a picture before I gave up on the idea.

I thought one of her books would inspire her to make one of her own.  Google fairy house and there's tons of ideas out there - perfect for little girls who love fairies (mine doesn't).  Or even a boy who'd enjoy building!

Lastly of course, is our leave-behind play.  It's what I call intuitive invitations to play with very minimal-to-none supervision from yaya while mom works.  It's my thing.  All over this blog.

I discovered that pine needles (and other small tree leaves) make great filling materials for sensory bins!  They smell great and the texture is unique.    Here are two ideas we tested that worked great:

Everything in this tray is repurposed.  I hid pompoms in the leaves, and she can only use the tongs to fish them out. 

After: the colour-coded wooden cups need no explanation for matching.  

Next one:
More repurposing: hide anything magnetic in the leaves.  They need to find the right amount of treasures as the numbers.

Washers from the hardware store work great for this.

Though we've done this all indoors, the best way to play with trees is still to be in them.

Balancing on roots at La Mesa Eco Park
... and The Farm at San Benito

Frankly it's too hot for out-in-nature play in the summer.  I can't wait for Christmas again because this heat is driving everyone and my electric bill insane.  But Johnson's Baby sales spike in the summer, so sige na nga, bring on the heat!  I'll just bring some nature play inside.

post signature


  1. Lovely way to recycle the old Christmas tree! Makes you more appreciative of nature, especially that part about counting the rings to find out the age. That tree was older than Lady Bug Girl!

    1. It made me feel a little guilty for indirectly cutting it down and so we're giving it a permanent place at home!


Feel free to comment, with good intent!