mother and child walk by trees

They provide us with shade, clean and cool the air, provide fresh drinking water, help reduce greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, provide shelter and food for wildlife— not to mention food, lumber and medicinal products for us. 

Nature’s longest-lived creations are absolutely vital to our health and the health of the planet. 

They might also be the most underappreciated facet of our daily lives. The truth is we don’t pay much attention to trees. And as the most effective models for our children, chances are, neither do they. 

tree

But they should. Besides just keeping us and our planet alive, trees offer so many amazing benefits to us and to kids, with more benefits uncovered all of the time.

Here are 6 amazing ways that trees help kids:

1. Boost mood

And not just when we’re gathered around the holiday tree. A new study found that walking in a leafy public park can make feel as happy as Christmas day (which has been shown to be by far the happiest day each year on Twitter). This first-of-its-kind study from the University of Vermont found that people who visit urban parks use happier words and express less negativity on Twitter than they did before their visit—and this elevated mood lasts for up to four hours afterward. 

2. Reduce antidepressant prescriptions

This is no joke. A researcher in London collected data on the density of street trees and the number of antidepressant prescriptions in London’s 33 boroughs. What they found was that, even after adjusting for factors like unemployment and affluence, the areas that have the most trees along the streets also had fewer prescriptions for antidepressants. With the use of antidepressants among children on the rise, this is particularly important information.  

3. Cool them down

We’ve all sought out the shelter of a shade tree on a hot summer day, so it should come as no surprise that trees can cool off a neighborhood. And a joint study by NPR and the University of Maryland found an association between lack of tree cover and low-income residences. The study revealed that low-income areas in dozens of major U.S. cities are more likely to be hotter than their wealthier counterparts, and those areas are disproportionately communities of color.

4. Provide them with cleaner air

A new report by The Nature Conservancy paired geospatial information on forest cover with air pollution data and population forecasts for 245 cities. The leaves of trees can filter out fine particulate matter (PM)—one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution, generated from burning biomass and fossil fuels. Most of the cooling and filtering effects created by trees are fairly localized, so researchers found that densely populated, polluted cities like Delhi, Karachi and Dhaka tend to see the highest overall return on investment (ROI) from tree plantings.

5. Make them safer

A team of researchers teased apart the relationship between tree canopy and crime in and around Baltimore using aggregated crime data from Spotcrime and high-res satellite imagery to conduct probably the largest analysis of its kind to date. According to the study, a 10 percent increase in trees roughly equaled a 12 percent decrease in crime.

6. Help them do better in school

In one very interesting study, researchers collected data on tree cover density surrounding 624 public high schools in Illinois as well as the academic performance of students attending those schools. The study found that higher tree cover density within half-mile to 1-mile distances around high schools predicts better academic performance for adolescent students. 

lonely tree

We can teach our children to return the favor by helping trees are healthier and more plentiful. 

Here are some actions you and your child can take to help trees:

 

Plant a tree. The US Forest Service found that we lost 36 million trees annually from urban and rural communities over a five-year period from 2009 to 2014. Fight this trend by planting a tree in your backyard, school grounds or community garden (with appropriate permission) or organize a tree-planting day at your school. Check out the UK-based Woodland Trust’s guide to planting trees.

Plan a Tree Planning Event. The National Wildlife Federation provides free native tree seedlings to partners who in turn plant them through local restoration projects or community tree giveaway events. 

Pledge to plant a tree. The Woodland Trust is calling on one million people to pledge to plant a tree to help us fight the climate emergency this Nov 30th.

Be a #TreeChampion. National Tree Week is the UK's largest annual tree celebration, marking the start of the winter tree planting season. This National Tree Week become a Tree Champion and help us ensure a tree-filled future.

Befriend a tree. By becoming a friend to a tree, your child can learn not only about the vital role of trees, but they will develop an appreciation for these dependable but dynamic organisms

Support efforts to plant trees. The Nature Conservancy hopes to plant a billion trees and your donation can help them do it.