Introduction: Making a Tree With Children

I love trees, therefore when I got the job as Artist-in-Residence, my very first project was to make a tree in full collaboration with the kids. I thought it would be easy - I mean it`s just a tree, how hard can it be to make one?
Well, quite frankly, it was a challenge. But definitely worth it!

Materials used:

  • Big flower Pot
  • Wooden stick
  • Paper rolls of different lengths and diameters
  • A few water bottles in which I put sand to stabilize the "trunk" of the tree
  • Some metallic wires
  • Tissues and white glue (for paper mache)
  • gouache tempera paint and brushes
  • white and colored paper for leaves
  • glue to attach the leaves

Below more details about the process.

Step 1: Step 1

Place the highest wooden stick that you have in the middle of your flower pot. Put water bottles filled with sand all around the stick, to give it support. The more to the center the stick it, the better. You can add crumpled newspapers in between water bottles and the wooden stick to stabilize the stick.

Step 2: Step 2

Now, it`s time to use that metallic wire - wrap it around the stick on your way up. Where you think a branch should start, just "mold" a branch by making a loop out of the wire. On each loop you can put on a paper roll. The thicker the wire is, the better the branch will hold.

At the beginning this construction may not resemble a tree, but have patience, we`ll get there.

Once you established a few main branches, use some butcher paper or any old carton to wrap around the wooden stick. Don`t worry for it to be too perfect. Just patch the the tree with scraps of paper all around and stick the whole thing with tape.

At this moment, you should worry about making the whole construction very stable, don`t worry about how it looks.

Step 3: Step 3

Moving on to the most tedious part of the project - paper mache.

I used plain eco tissues cut in 10cmx10cm squares and white glue diluted with water.

For me this worked, but you can totally try the other versions of paper mache for covering the tree.

The principle is simple - put some glue on the paper and glue it to the tree.

Tip: try to overlap the layers for smoother surface.

If you want to involve kids in this process, I advise you to do the trunk of the tree with them, the branches are way too high and tricky to cover for them.

I worked for a few hours a day three days in a row to cover the whole tree.

If you`re in a hurry, can definitely do it in one day by using bigger pieces of paper.

Let the tree dry before next step.

Step 4: Step 4

Time for fun!

Kids loved this part of the project - I gave them brushes of various sizes and white gouache paint.

The rest was as easy as it looks in the pictures.

I was going for a birch tree - just love the birch, therefore, once the white paint dried, with the help of a child I added some black stripes and spots on the tree.


Step 5: Step 5

The tree needed leaves and not just a few, but a good few hundreds of them.

To avoid kids getting bored, I offered them them 3 ways to make leaves:

1. paint by themselves and color

2. dip painting (using pipettes to color)

3. cutting from green paper and folding into leaf shape

I ended up with a lot of leaves!! The only concern was how to glue them on the tree?

They were falling before the glue was setting in.

The trick was to find a glue that actually dries quickly,, that`s all there is to it. I ended up using SiliGlue from some brand, but you can use any glue really, as long as it dries super quick.

Step 6: Step 6

So, this is how our tree turned out.

You can add flowers, birds, squirrels or anything you want really - depends on what you`re going after.

I decided to go further and make some birdhouses out of milk cans together with the children.

Eventually the birdhouses were attached to the tree and the tree itself was moved into the children reading zone.

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

P.S. this art project was created with children of 3-4 years old in Shanghai City, China.