Earth Day is this week, and we have been reading books about the rainforest and all things nature this month. Therefore, I wanted to put together a mini-unit for all our favorite Earth Day rainforest activities and books that we have loved using for play and learning simultaneously.
Giant Paper Tree Word Wall Earth Day Activity
I use to create a giant tree out of paper every year with my students in my classroom. They would add their artwork to the tree throughout the year. It was always my favorite part of the classroom. I didn’t realize how much I missed my classroom until I started making this tree with my children this month. This tree reaches from the floor to almost ceiling in our playroom. But can easily be made to whatever size space you have available. This has become our favorite place to read in our playroom now. We will continue to add to this corner for another two weeks worth of Earth Day rainforest activities and books.
Materials Needed for Giant Paper Tree Word Wall
- Green and yellow paper
- Painters paper (I get the giant roll from Sherwin Williams)
- Glue sticks
The Process to Create a Giant Paper Tree
The first step to make this tree is to cut painter’s paper into 12-24 inch strips. After that, make a large pile of cut paper and slowly start twisting the paper, so they look like vines and tree branches.
Then cut one long strip of paper for the trunk and root of the tree. Our tree trunk was about four feet long. For an even easier way to make this tree, try using brown packing paper that is already crumpled for you!
After crumpling the tree trunk paper, attach this tree trunk to the wall. Then make the roots of the tree by cutting about ten vertical slits about 6-8 inches long. Twist these roots and attach them each individually to the wall with tape.
Lastly, attach the smaller strips of paper as branches connecting to the left and right sides of the tree.
Next, make the leaves by cutting paper into desired leaf shapes. (I stacked and cut 4-6 sheets of paper at time). For the larger leaves, start by just making an oval shape that covers almost the entire paper. Then go back and cut three curved cuts on the left and right side of the large leaves.
Next, use tape to attach the larger leaves throughout the branches of the tree. I make loops with the tape to hide the adhesive behind the leaf. I use glue sticks to attach smaller leaves.
While reading or working with your child, write down words on leaves you want them to practice. I used sight words, letter of the day practice words, and Spanish words we have been learning this month onto leaves so far. I attached these smaller leaves throughout the tree using a glue stick.
Add paper craft animals. We have made flowers, butterflies, and chameleons so far. For additional animals, we will be going back through The Great Kapok Tree for ideas.
Our Evolution of the Giant Paper Tree Word Wall
Our word wall tree started as a follow-up book activity after reading Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor to my kids a few weeks ago.
Then we added some painted chameleons and other rainbow creatures to the tree after reading The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric Carle, A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni, and Invisible Lizard by Kurt Cyrus.
Today we finally started turning this tree into a rainforest after reading The Great Kapok Tree. I’m excited to see how this tree looks by the end of the week as we add more animals and plants.
Additional Ideas for adding to the Word Wall Tree
- Create paper rainforest animals from read-aloud books and add them to the tree.
- Make plants found in the different layers in the rainforest, using The Great Kapok Tree map page for inspiration to help sort animals and plants to other parts of the rainforest layers.
- Camouflage scrap paper collage; using leftover paper from activities, have your child make a camouflage papercraft. The book Masters of Disguise Camouflage & Magnificent Mimics would be ideal for a read-aloud with this activity.
I’ll update this post as we finish these activities.
Earth Day Rainforest Sensory Activities
The set-up and clean-up for these sensory activities took less than five minutes and my kids played for days with these bins. They loved mixing the colors and transforming the paper added into new things. If you need a quick Earth Day-themed activity, this is a great go-to, especially after reading the below books.
Materials Needed for Sensory Activity for Earth Day & Rainforest Themed Play
- Green painted lentils, chickpeas, and/or steel-cut oats
- Glass gems (optional)
- Rainforest animal figurines
- Sensory bins or tuff tray
- Fake succulent plants (Michaels 40% off!)
- Read aloud books to use with the sensory play (see the below list for book ideas)
I wanted to keep this activity as straightforward as possible since we have been crafting so much lately. I set up a sensory activity using only painted lentils, chickpeas, and rainforest figurines. It turned into a great activity to help my son build his vocabulary and my daughter for math practice work.
Process for Creating the Rainforest Sensory Play
Gather the materials and bins you will be using. I used the FLISAT table and TROFAST bins for this activity.
For one bin, I dumped the steel-cut oats and chickpeas into a container and added rainforest toys.
I formed a Kapok tree shape with the other bin using natural lentils that were not painted green. Surrounding the tree shape, I added green painted lentils and chickpeas.
My kids used various tools for this bin that we regularly use such as; scoops, cups, sifter, and different size containers.
Later we reread The Great Kapok Tree and Invisible Lizard after playing with these trays as well.
Play Ideas with this Rainforest Sensory Activity
- Try counting practice, such as counting by 5’s using the chickpeas and glass gems.
- Another activity is to let children practice capacity by filling up cups and containers and counting the scoops needed for each capacity.
- Let children enjoy imaginary play with various animals in the sensory bins. Write down words you discussed with your child on leaf shapes for the word wall.
- Create a story together from imaginary play with the bins. Please write down your child’s story for extra fun and let them illustrate their story with crayons and markers.
The Great Kapok Tree Sensory Book Play Activity
I made a tuff tray sensory play activity using recycled strips of brown paper and the same base material as the previous sensory bins.
Materials Needed for this book activity include
- Green painted chickpeas, steel-cut oats, lentils
- Rainforest animal figurines
- Brown paper strips (recycled leftover paper from word wall project)
- Leftover colored chickpeas rice or oats (whoever you have that are bright tropical colors will work)
Process for The Great Kapok Tree Sensory Book Play Activity
First, gather sensory bin or tuff tray, brown paper strips, green base filler material (I used steel-cut oats).
Next, place the brown paper strips around the left side of the tray to form roots and a trunk of the Kapok tree.
Then scoop green filler material such as green lentils to cover the rest of the bin.
Add colorful patches around the container using leftover materials such as painted chickpeas. Try using reds, oranges, and blue colors to mimic flower colors in the rainforest.
Add animal figurines in the book The Great Kapok Tree; tapir, monkeys, snakes, butterflies, frogs, jaguar, birds, and sloths.
Set up any additional tools your children would like to use while playing. I added extra animals and some cups and scoops.
Lastly, have fun playing.
Play Ideas with this The Great Kapok Tree Sensory Book Play Activity
- One play idea is to turn the brown strips of paper into vines from the tree by twisting the paper tightly until the paper curls like tree vines. Children can pretend to have animals and birds swing from the branches.
- Try giving children open ended imaginary play time, allowing them to pretend they are an animal in the rainforest.
Earth Day Rainforest Plant Craft
We loved the book, The Shaman’s Apprentice: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest by Lynne Cherry and Mark J. Plotkin. This book had the most incredible illustrations to show what the rainforest looks like for children. My kids were able to identify the similarities and differences in the characters, plants, and animals found in this book to The Great Kapok Tree. After reading the book, I came up with another Earth Day project using a cereal box, paints, scissors. We used leftover sensory materials from the day before’s tuff tray activity.
Materials Needed to make an Earth Day Rainforest Plant Craft
- Cereal box
- Paint & paint brushes
- Painting trays
- Paint containers
- Drying rack/ recycled paper for drying projects
Process for Making this Earth Day Rainforest Plant Craft
Open the cereal box completely; this way, it is flat. Then draw leaves in different size shapes throughout the entire cereal box.
Then cut out your shapes. Do not throw away the remaining cardboard. For the scrapes, Use your scissors and shape the remaining pieces into plant roots and stems.
Then prepare painting trays with different bright colors found in the rainforest. I let my daughter pick out colors as she went back through the books to look for ideas.
Painting Rainforest Plants
My kids loved painting different colors using scraps of cardboard and sponge paintbrushes. They mixed the colors, and we layered their finished art on scrap paper to dry. As we finished painting, we noticed the leaves started twisting from being painted; we painted both sides for some leaves as a result.
The kids loved going back through the books while we waited for the paint to dry. When everything was dry, we were finally ready to add them to our tuff tray and play!
Finished Earth Day Rainforest Plant Craft
I used the leftover tuff tray materials from the day before and let the kids use our newly painted plant shapes to build any designs of their choice. Then, of course, they turned this into another scooping project to see how many containers they can fill with their given materials.
Read Aloud Books for Earth Day Rainforest Themed Unit
I love watching children’s eyes light up reading a great book. In the classroom, read-aloud time held my favorite memories; this is the same at home with my children now. Below are our favorite books we have read about the Rainforest lately. Some books we read before we started this unit, but we use to compare and contrast animals found in the wild.
For more activities with some of these books please see my post about Camouflage Animal Activities.
The Books from this Unit on Amazon
On this site you will find affiliate links, I earn from qualifying purchases an an Amazon Associate. Also, I just love these books and have them at home and read them often to my children.
Please see more posts from Live Learn Literacy for more literacy based activities to use with your children or students.
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