Turning the purchase of a Christmas tree into an educational family tradition

Children learn about the science of evergreen trees while being outdoors and selecting the best Christmas tree ever.

December is the month for gathering with friends and family and for family traditions. The Christmas tree is one tradition, which origin dates back to the Middle Ages, when Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. Make this Christmas season a memorable one that might just turn into a new tradition for your family. Bundle up your children and go out to a Christmas tree farm. There are many farms and lots to choose from.

According to Jill O’Donnell, Michigan State University Extension educator, Mich. is the third largest producer of Christmas trees in the Nation, growing about 46,000 acres of trees. Stroll with your children through the rows of trees and point out to them the different species, from the stiffly branched, prickly blue spruce to the soft, long needled white pine and the dark green, fragrant Balsam Fir. Let them touch and feel the branches and needles, compare the cones and smell the different fragrances of the trees. Take a closer look and show your children how the needles of spruce trees are attached on small woody pegs and whorl around the twig, while the needles of fir trees are in two rows and flat attached to the twig with a suction cup like structure.

Include your children when choosing the Christmas tree for your family. When you get home be sure to cut about an inch off the trunk if your tree was a pre-cut tree. To determine the tree’s age, your children can count the tree rings. Then put the tree into a tree stand that holds at least one gallon of water. Have your children help watering the tree and then watch and measure how much water the tree drinks, especially during the first few days. You may want to treat your family with some hot chocolate after spending the time outdoors choosing the best Christmas tree ever and learning some science at the same time.