What Do Different Cultures Say About The Tree of Life?

Tu Bishvat, also called Tu B’Shevat and The New Year of the Trees, is coming up on February 9, 2020! And I wish I had a whole tree unit done already, but for now I have this super fun freebie that I think is equally perfect for this holiday. You see, this Jewish tradition involves planting trees. So, what better time than now to learn about how they grow and what they symbolize to different people!

The tree of life story seems like a tale as old as time, reaching across countless cultures, which makes it a great tool for comparing cultures. Plus, it’s chock full of symbolism and often comes with stories of great adventure and struggle to reach it, much like the Holy Grail. And if you know me, you might know I love these two things a lot – ancient symbols, and stories that apply them. My family spent a lot of time this month enjoying all these different tales we could find and created this freebie for you!

I hate to string you out and say that you’ll have to wait for my tree unit to finish before I can pull my thoughts together on how each culture views the tree of life differently, but I can say that the thing that stays the same is that the tree of life is always viewed as a type of paradise and rest. And that’s what I tried to capture most in my coloring page.

The coloring page is full of different symbols that I thought represented some of my favorite parts of each story we read in some way or another. Some of those symbols include:

  • 7 branches. In Hebrew, 7 represents something being perfect or whole.
  • 10 fruit. Multiple accounts talk about the fruit being “most desirable” and compare the fruit to blessings. In Hebrew, 10 can just mean a lot, or even numberless. Like numberless blessings coming from the tree.
  • The tree of life in many accounts is near a body of water, but in some interpretations, the flow of water seems to come from the tree itself.
  • The tree is associated with a higher power.
  • The Baobab tree is considered the tree of life in Africa, and I read that elephants are one of its only natural predators. The way elephants can sense the water in the trees is amazing and, I thought, symbolic.
  • The flowers drawn on the trunk are structured like the Kabbalah representation of the tree of life.

I also included a very brief summary of each of the traditions that we read from. Our favorite story though, was The Legend of the First Baobab Tree. So I made it into an easy, printable coloring book for you to enjoy with your littles!

Enjoy this look into the book and then subscribe below to get your own copy!

Follow along on social media this week to learn more about these with fun story-tellings and videos!

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An Easy Chinese Feast Your Kids Can Help Cook

Tips for Kids in the Kitchen

Cooking in the kitchen is probably one of the first intense, hands-on science experiments your kids will encounter. And they don’t have to be very old at all to do it! My two year old LOVES cooking, and with practice we have established a safe routine. Well. usually a safe routine. Never underestimate what a curious toddler can be distracted by in the kitchen. The safest plan is to keep them right next to you and do everything at their speed.

Every child is different and you know your kid best, of course. For example, many parents let their children crack eggs but I’m not mentally prepared to deal with that mess. Instead, I let my son do any and all measurements. If its a teaspoon or Tablespoon, I do the pouring while he holds the utensil and then dumps it in our mixture. He’s also been practicing cutting things with dull knives (usually just butter knives). He is also our Master Mixer and does pretty well stirring food on and off the stove without emptying out the contents of whatever dish the food is in.

While making big meals that have lots of things cooking at once, it’s usually easiest to just give him a butter knife and let him chop at whatever vegetables will be used. Remember, the vegetables don’t actually have to be a certain shape as long as they can be cooked. So it’s okay to let your kid cut them up all “wrong”. (Trust me, I’m writing that reminder for me, not you.)

So here’s one fun feast we cooked recently for our family! The egg rolls were so good that I later let my two year old invite all his friends over to cook up a “Chinese New Year lunch” for them!

Chicken Fried Rice

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of rice (brown or jasmine)
  • 1/2 boneless/skinless chicken, cut into strips
  • 3 Tbsp butter (divided)
  • 1 bag frozen peas and carrots, OR 1.5 cups frozen peas and 1.5 cups frozen carrots
  • 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
  • 1 bunch of green onions (chopped)
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 4 eggs
  • 3.5 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat a large skillet or wok and add 1 Tbs of butter to melt.
  2. Add the chicken with salt and pepper to your liking (I recommend a generous amount) and cook through. This should take about 7 minutes.
  3. Set the chicken aside and carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel.
  4. Add another Tbsp of butter to the pan with the onions, frozen carrots, and peas. If you have steamable/microwavable bags of veggies, then pour them frozen into the pan and cook until they’re tender. If you have separate bags for peas and carrots, then consider saving the excess in a Tupperware for a snack or side later.
  5. Add the garlic and cook for a minute longer.
  6. Cook the eggs on the side of the pan, or use a separate pan.
  7. Put the last Tbsp of butter in the pan and mix in all of the ingredients now (rice, chicken, veggies). Add the green onions and soy sauce at this point.
  8. Let it sit while the rice “fries” and gets just a little crispy.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the sesame oil. Serve hot!

Beef and Broccoli Entree

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lbs stir fry or flank steak (thinly sliced)
  • 2 Tbsp oil (divided)
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli florets (the more the merrier, I say!)
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat one Tbsp of oil in a pan, adding the frozen broccoli directly to the pan. Cook until tender (5-7 minutes)
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
  3. Remove the broccoli from the pan into a covered bowl, and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel.
  4. Add a Tbsp of oil to the pan.
  5. Make sure the steak strips are separated from one another (especially if pre-cut) before adding them to the pan with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes on each side or until browned through. (I did this in two quick batches.)
  6. Mix everything together in a large wok or other pan now, including oyster sauce, beef broth, sugar, sesame oil, and soy sauce.
  7. Boil until the sauce begins to thicken (about 5 minutes), or add cornstarch, if needed.

Chicken and Broccoli Slaw Egg Rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb boneless/skinless chicken
  • 1 bag of broccoli slaw (I found mine in the produce section at Walmart Supercenter)
  • Egg Rolls
  • Vegetable Oil

Instructions:

  1. Cook the chicken with salt and pepper to taste for about 4 minutes on each side and then shred or dice it.
  2. Heat a Tbsp of vegetable oil in a small pan and cook the broccoli slaw until it is limp. This should take about five minutes.
  3. Mix the chicken and slaw together. Place a large spoonful of mixture into each eggroll wrapper. Fold the wrapper and rub a little water or oil on the last corner so it sticks closed.
  4. Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil again in your pan.
  5. Place 2 or 3 egg rolls at a time in the oil. Let them cook for up to 30 seconds on each side, turning them four times, until the entire egg roll is crispy and golden brown.
  6. Set the finished egg rolls on a plate with paper towels.
  7. Serve hot! Enjoy!

3 Easy-Setup Toddler Activities for Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year is here again! And if you didn’t know, it’s on January 25, 2020. So what do you need to celebrate this Lunar New Year event? Not much, actually. Just some food, friends, family, games and hong bao! And though I can’t control the friends and family for you, I can help give some suggestions for the other areas.

In this post I’ll offer three easy and so inexpensive activity ideas that you can do, along with resources I’ve made myself for a couple of them!

NOTE: any purchases are made through PayPal and the download will arrive in your email within a day.

Chinese Food

There are so many delicious chinese foods! The most popular for celebrating Chinese New Year is dumplings, according to my VIPKID students! But of course, it depends on what region of China you find yourself. The most important thing is just to feast with family in the spirit of moving forward into a new, prosperous year.

My 2-year-old son’s favorite Chinese food at the moment is egg rolls, and so that is what we will be eating this weekend alongside some homemade orange chicken!

When it comes to fried food, I have a strict perimeter the kids have to maintain in the kitchen so that nobody gets hurt. But leading up to the frying part, egg rolls are a super fun and the easiest food for little hands to practice folding and wrapping! It’s seriously such a simple side dish! Maybe I’m late to this knowledge, but here’s a tip from our favorite way to make egg rolls – use some broccoli slaw instead of normal coleslaw! YUM!


The Chinese Zodiac

Legend tells of a time long ago when a loud fight broke out among the animals over what to call each of the years. To solve the problem, the Jade Emperor of Heaven commanded each animal to race for a position to have the years named after them. The first twelve animals to cross the finish line would be given the honor of having a year named after them.

This year, 2020, is the year of the rat, which happens to also mark the beginning of another zodiac cycle! Spoiler Alert: the rat wins in the traditional great animal race story. And though this game I’ve created is skewed to help the clever rat win, it’s not a guarantee.

In this fun game, learn about the 12 animals that won the race, what characteristics helped them win, and then lead your own race to see who wins in a rematch! Purchase it here and receive to have it emailed directly to your inbox!

The Great Animal Race Game

Playing board, 12 animal pieces, spinner, game rules, and a short version of the great race story to read! (a total of 5 pages) This is all so easy to print and put together that makes for a lot of fun! Ages 3+

$3.00


Hong Bao

Hong = red , bao = package. More than any other tradition, this is what my Chinese students show off to me after their month-long New Year vacation. The red package that comes stuffed with money from moms, dads, grandparents, and even aunts and uncles. It represents good fortune for the upcoming year, as most red things do in the Chinese culture.

An example of hong bao that is so easy to do at home!

You can purchase this fun printable I made to be emailed to you to make your own hong bao and surprise your children this weekend!

Hong Bao

Just print, cut, fold, glue, and then stuff your hong bao with notes of love and/or money! Three different styles vary from somewhat traditional to a fun one for the year of the rat.

$1.00

If you want to learn more about Chinese New Year, its legends and traditions, then check out this post from last year: C is for China Celebrates!