New Jersey might be covered in a thin layer of snow, my front hall might be littered with salt-encrusted child sized snow boots, and my kids may or may not be wearing mismatched gloves because losing gloves is our official family sport, but spring is coming. For real. Or at the very least, the holiday that portends the end of winter is coming.
No, not Groundhog Day. I’m talking about the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat, the birthday of the trees—and a birthday is always a good reason to celebrate, especially when it’s cold out and your pantry is stocked with hot chocolate mix and a bag of the good marshmallows. Tu Bishvat begins this Friday night, but in our house, it’s never too early to plan a party.
You can use these very simple ideas to plan a quick Tu Bishvat celebration with your family, or, God help us all, to keep your kids entertained during a series of snow days. (And here’s a free tip from a somewhat seasoned mommy: buy what you need now, before an unexpected storm hits. Shopping for art supplies with a small posse of children during a snowstorm never ends without tears—yours and theirs.
1. Planting Time. So, my spring-time predictions notwithstanding, it’s still winter. (I’m sorry.) The ground is hard and doing some yard work is probably not the best idea right now. But for a quick planting win, even in the middle of the winter, try planting some grass seed in a flower pot or even a plastic cup. Your kids will be amazed at how quickly their grass seeds start sprouting, and if you can’t get your hands on any grass seeds, head over to CVS and pick up a Chia Pet. Don’t be embarrassed. They make a great gift.
2. Art Time. A super simple and fun craft to make with your kids for Tu Bishvat are fruit-themed sun catchers, especially because it’s so cold outside. It’s nice to think about the sun, even if just for a little while. Gather together a black Sharpie, a roll of clear contact paper, several colors of tissue paper, and scissors. Using the Sharpie, draw different fruits (think grapes, oranges, pomegranates) on the front of the contact paper, before taking off the backing. Each fruit should be about 8″x8″ but do the best you can. Cut the tissue paper into 1-inch pieces. Take the backing off the contact paper and carefully stick each piece of tissue paper onto the fruit. No need to be neat or stay in the fruit lines because once your fruit shape is covered in tissue paper, lay a second sheet of contact paper over it, sticky side down, and smooth the contact paper down with your hands to get rid of any air bubbles. Once the tissue paper is safely in between the layers of contact paper, cut out the fruit shapes, punch a hole in the top, add some string, and hang up your fruits. We hang ours from the curtain rods in the living room so the sun can shine through our sun catchers. It helps to open to the curtains first.
3. Dessert Time. Bake up some Tu Bishvat Chocolate Pomegranate Cake Pops for a fun dessert. My kids and I made these for Tu Bishvat last year, and they were very simple. We put together a mash-up of two different recipes and the results were fabulous. We started with these chocolate date balls and dipped them into an outrageously good pomegranate ganache before adding a lollipop stick to each one before eating. I would tell you how long they keep in the fridge, but I can’t. We ate them all. If easier desserts are your thing, pop some grapes into the freezer for a few hours or just eat some almond butter off a spoon. Delicious.
4. Party Time. Grab whatever brown and green materials you have around and start crafting your very own tree. Try using a flattened empty toilet paper rolls, a crunched up paper lunch bag, or even some cardboard as the tree trunk, and play around with some bubble wrap and green paint, green tissue paper, cut up cardboard egg cartons, and green markers, or maybe a bunch of green buttons if you happen to have those laying around. Glue all the pieces of your tree onto a large piece of cardstock and hang your new guest of honor on the wall. For more fun, cut out a few small birthday crowns from colored paper and play “pin the crown on the tree.” Instant birthday party.
5. Snack Time. A fun (and healthy) Tu Bishvat treat is a quick combination of pretzel sticks and grapes. Shape a tree trunk from the pretzel sticks, cut the grapes in half lengthwise, and lay them flat around the top of the pretzel tree trunk as leaves, and hey, look at you! You’re done!
You there, are you rolling your eyes? I know. Planning ahead is a huge pain, so often seems like a time-sink, and is just one more thing added to your to-do list. I feel the same way. But I do it anyway because if I don’t, who will? Celebrating the small stuff—and the often unappreciated parental effort that goes into the planning—is key to creating positive family memories that will last for years.
Here’s to a happy Tu Bishvat and only sanity-filled and few and very far in-between snow days! Also, if you’re making those pomegranate cake pops, let me know. We can have a play date. I can bring my frozen grapes.