Using “Breathing With a Tree” Activities

If you are in an environment where air quality prohibits you from doing this activity, bring a potted tree or large plant indoors to do it.

Because air cannot be seen, it can be difficult for children to understand. Helping them realize how it feels in and on their bodies will make it real to them.

Helping children tune into how their bodies are feeling is a foundational part of this activity and something people of all ages can benefit from. With heightened awareness comes appreciation for and curiosity about the air that surrounds us. This air is a key renewable energy source.

This is a good activity to do on a regular basis. Children will experience it differently depending on weather, mood, and location. Adding plants as air cleaners is a simple activity even very young children can help with. 

Breathing With a Tree (part one)

We are all bathed in air all the time but we don’t think about it much. Let’s go outside and sit near a tree.

Try breathing in and blowing out in deep slow breaths. You are part of a team.

The leaves of trees and plants breathe in what you are breathing out. Plants breathe out (give off) the healthy air that people and animals breathe in.

While you breathe, think about how you and the tree are helping each other. Does it make you smile?

Try this fun way to notice your breath and learn to control it. Try making your body into a Tree Yoga Pose. Stand up straight and lift your arms above your head like you are making a “Y”, reach high into the sky like a tree.

Think about how good your body feels as you are breathing in the clean air from the tree. As you gently, slowly breathe out, you are giving the tree what it needs.

Breathing all the way out is helping you grow strong like the tree.  Now make up your own body pose near your tree partner and practice breathing!

Would you like to draw a picture of yourself in your tree pose? Or…maybe you’d like to draw a picture of your tree partner!

Talk About It

Indoor air quality is often 2-5 times worse than outdoor air quality. Adding plant life to places where you live and play helps produce cleaner, healthier air indoors the way nature does outdoors.

The leaves of plants capture “off gasses” from furnishings, cleaning supplies, and building materials. Two plants per 100 square feet is recommended to improve air quality. Some good plants (or small trees) to consider are lady palm, areca palm, English ivy, golden pathos, and rubber plant, B.C. Wolverton, How to Grow Fresh Air).

Talk with children about how plants or small trees can make the air inside your school fresher and healthier. Ask for their ideas about what kinds of plant(s) or small tree(s) would be good to have at your school.

Once you’ve decided what you’d like to add, bring the potted plant(s) or small tree(s) to your school as “air cleaners!” If possible, involve children in helping to pot the plant or tree. If this is not feasible, then let the children do the watering.

Ask for children’s ideas about how you will take care of the plant(s) or tree(s). Many people find that creating a “helper chart” so children can take turns watering is a great way to foster a sense of stewardship.

Poor air quality impacts children even more than adults. Children are more vulnerable because their lungs are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults.

You can help children become more aware of the air around them and how to care for it. Deep breathing and purposeful movement not only helps children learn about air, it also helps them take good care of themselves.

Proper breathing has profound effects on our health. Over 70% of waste by-products are eliminated through our breathing and our skin.

Good breathing supports muscle growth and energy and fully oxygenates our blood. When blood is heavily oxygenated, it is more difficult for virus and bacteria to grow in our body,

Here are two messages to share with children to help them feel good about their actions:

When we take care of trees or plants, they will help take care of you by cleaning the air you breathe!

When you breathe deeply and enjoy the good air that trees help clean, you are making your body healthier!

Fun Facts About Air Quality

The nose plays an important part in our breathing air in and out. Hairs in your nose help to clean the air we breathe as well as warm it. The highest recorded “sneeze speed” is 99 miles per hour!

Each ton (2000 pounds) of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution!

NASA research on indoor plants has found that living plants are so efficient at absorbing contaminants in the air that some will be launched into space as part of the biological life support system aboard future orbiting space stations.

One research study found that 60% of airborne mold in the room vanished just 6 hours after English Ivy was brought in!

*Content of article adapted from, A toolkit for Early Childhood Programs


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