Tree of Life

Tree of Life

I love engaging in learning experiences that inspire great conversations and encourage new insights. The girls are at a point developmentally where they are starting to take an interest in history, which opens up a whole new exciting avenue for exploration and discovery!

A good starting point is to encourage children to research their own personal histories. Through this process they are able to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and how they have changed over time. There are a variety of ways that children can develop their own personal timelines. I thought I would revisit a project that I did when I was teaching first grade as part of a year long tree study.

We started by exploring a cross section of a tree trunk. We talked about what the rings tell us about the life of that particular tree. Next, I asked the girls, “If you were a tree what would your rings say about your life?”

Immediately, they got busy drawing a ring for each year of their lives. They used permanent black pens on watercolor paper and then painted over the top with watercolor paints.

For the early years we talked about developmental milestones they had both reached such as when they first crawled, spoke their first words, and took their first steps. For each year the girls used a combination of words and drawings to tell their stories. It was really fun reminiscing about all of the “firsts” in their lives…

As they worked their way out towards more recent years, the girls began to remember and record significant events and developments on their own. The conversation became very interesting as they started to consider their own growth over time—comparing what they were like from one year to the next. My oldest daughter took a metacognitive approach as she filled in her current year. She wrote things like, “feel grown up”, “getting to know myself”, “more centered” and “giving myself more positive thoughts.” It was amazing to hear about how both of them see themselves at this point in their lives.

This is definitely a project that would be fun to revisit each year. After having completed it, my advice would be to use a much larger piece of paper or canvas board. That way each year, children can add on a new outer ring. I have a feeling I will begin seeing these pop up over and over again—just like I continue to discover heart maps!

Tree RingsPersonal TimelineArtistic Timelines



With over 10 years of EDU experience and a growing family, Mariah started Playful Learning in 2008 as a resource for parents and teachers. In 2010 Playful Learning received the Parent’s Choice Gold Medal, and in August of 2011, Shambhala Publications released her first book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder. Mariah has an M.S. Ed in Elementary Education and was that girl sitting in the back of class thinking about what she would do differently if she was the teacher. Now she is happily working with a team of gifted educators to bring life-changing lessons to children, families, and schools around the world. In her free time she can be found taking long walks, enjoying a cup of tea, or swimming in the Atlantic with her husband and two daughters.



Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. I did the heart maps activity with my third grade class last year on the first day of school…I suspect I will be doing this activity on the first day of fourth grade this year!

Sign up for Our Newsletter!