Tu Bishvat is sometimes called the Jewish Earth Day or the Birthday of the Trees. This family-friendly holiday is a great opportunity to teach your children to care for the environment and to connect with nature. As a holiday with no theology or ritual requirements, it’s accessible for people of all backgrounds, ages and beliefs, and is a perfect time for interfaith families to connect to both Judaism and the environment. Tu Bishvat can be celebrated in any way that works for you, and here are a few ideas to get you started!
Grow plants from scratch! Choose something green and leafy, such as parsley, romaine or arugula. All you need is a little dirt, a cup, seeds and a sunny spot. Watch them grow through the rest of winter and early spring, and if all goes well with the parsley, you’ll have your very own bitter herb in time to put on your seder plate for Passover.
…for the trees! Bake these kid-friendly Tu Bishvat Everything Cookies together. Create gifts made out of recycled materials to give to family and friends. Play “pin the branch on the tree” or do mad libs with Tu Bishvat-themed answers. Walk around your neighborhood and sing happy birthday to every tree you pass. Read The Lorax by Dr. Seuss—“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.” You can also do a little digging (plant joke!) into birthday traditions and tree traditions in other cultures.
Who’s in your family tree? Embrace and celebrate your kids’ diverse roots and create your one-of-a-kind family tree.Do you have family members who hail from faraway places? Take this opportunity to educate your kids about all the branches on their family tree. Have your kids call their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins to fill in the details about where their relatives are from and what makes your family unique. Here are some printable templates you can use.
Paper comes from trees, but how? Do a little research and make your own recycled paper. Take some scrap paper, cut it into small pieces and soak it in water for several hours. Put the soggy paper in a blender until it’s pulpy, then drain with a screen or cheesecloth fitted into a frame. Press flat to squeeze out extra water, then leave to dry. Get the full instructions here.
Your child become their own restauranteur by creating a Tu Bishvat menu that celebrates your family’s food traditions while honoring trees and the fruit that grows on them. If you need inspiration, try your hand at an apple pie or pear tart, or make your own almond butter with just nuts and a blender. The Torah names seven special fruits, often called the seven species: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Experiment with fig bars or an olive bread. Put grapes in a zip-top bag and stomp on them for homemade grape juice. Find out more here about how to have a Tu Bishvat seder.
Using your handmade paper or other recycled materials, kids can make cards for people in the community who are protecting the Earth. Send a note of thanks to farmers, sanitation workers and firefighters (especially in areas prone to wildfires). Kids can also write to local lawmakers encouraging them to create bike lanes, support recycling programs and protect clean water. Bonus: Use your homemade recycled paper!
PJ Library provides families with Jewish-themed books once a month, and their Tu Bishvat selections have something for everyone. Babies and toddlers will enjoy It’s Tu B’Shevat by Edie Stoltz Zolkower and Thank you, Trees!, by Gail Langer Karwoski and Marilyn Gootman. Pre-K kids and older will like, Netta and her Plant, by Ellie B. Gellman and Sadie’s Snowy Tu B’Shevat by Jamie Korngold.
Or read any books that celebrate nature and trees. We love this new one, I Am the Tree of Life: My Jewish Yoga Book, by Mychal Copeland.