Laurie Bellet, an art specialist at Oakland Hebrew Day School, loves when Tu Bishvat rolls around. Besides the dried fruits and nuts, she uses this opportunity to fuse crafting and nature.
"Tu Bishvat crafts are a wonderful ways to help kids to get in tune to God and the natural world," says Bellet. "When you look at a tree, it's so easy to form a simplistic mental image of it. But really, there are many individual elements to a tree, leaf or flower. It takes real focus to understand the different components."
Through these Tu Bishvat-inspired crafts, which are suitable for all ages, Bellet expresses to the kids "the exquisite thought" that a leaf isn't just, well, a leaf. Instead, it's a complex design with a sacredness granted from something greater than "ourselves."
In the spirit of the Yiddish phrase, "Every blade of grass has its own angel that whispers, ‘Grow,'" take out your crafting supplies as you celebrate the New Year of the Trees.
Tu Bishvat Floragraphs
"While you take a nature walk to collect items for the collage, appreciate the variety and intricacy of things that grow," says Bellet, who has done this project with kids as young as 18 months.
- Items from nature like leaves, flower petals, seeds, pieces of grass and twigs
- Contact paper
- Fine glitter powder
- Modge Podge, optional
- Place a piece of contact paper in front of you. Peel off the back of the contact paper so the sticky side faces upwards.
- Place the nature items on the sticky side of the contact paper. Older children can create a picture or pattern with the items.
- Sprinkle fine glitter powder to fill in the spaces in between the items.
- Seal the picture by brushing a layer of modge podge on top of the collage.
- When dry, turn the collage over, place in a picture frame or hang on a wall.
"This project helps kids learn the structure of a tree," says Bellet. "A tree's form is made up of a series of ‘Y' letters. Start with the big trunk and work your way outwards as the branches turn into blossoms."
- Construction or craft paper
- Markers, crayons or paints
- Assorted pieces of broken twigs, cinnamon sticks and cloves
- Paint or draw a nature scene. Using markers, crayons or paints, draw the outline of a tree.
- Glue the twig pieces, cinnamon sticks and cloves to fill in the trunk and branches.
- Glue the potpourri to create the leaves and blossoms.
- On top of the picture, write a Jewish saying, like the phrase from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers), "My fathers planted for me and I will plant for my children."
Nut and Seed Bird Feeders
"One of the wonderful things about this project is the simplicity," says Bellet. "It's easier than turning a milk carton into a bird feeder and it's a lot more fun." You can even freeze the bird feeders and take them out as needed.
- Pine cone
- Plastic spoon
- Peanut butter
- Bird seed
- Hanging wire or dental floss
- Use a plastic spoon to help you cover the pine cone with peanut butter.
- Place the bird seeds into a bowl. Roll the pine cone into the bird seeds.
- Affix the hanging wire or the dental floss to the top of the pine cone and hand from a tree.
"This is a great way to give kids the opportunity to study the intricacies of leaves." says Bellet. "Besides the esthetic, which is lovely, students finish this project with an appreciation for the beauty of leaves."
- White construction paper
- Water colors and brushes
- Acrylic paint
- Place a leaf on a piece of white construction paper. Using water colors, brush around the edges of the leaf, to create an outline of it. Repeat all over the paper.
- Paint the rib-side of the leaf with acrylic paint. In the same way you would use a stamp, press the leaf onto the water colored leaf outlines.
- Once the picture is dry, embellish it by drawing or painting blessings or Jewish sayings.
- There are many uses for the leaf print paper. Some ideas include: frame and hang, cut the paper into greeting cards, or laminate and use as placemats.