Family Activity: Tree Cookies

Tree cross sectionOne way to learn about tree growth is to look at annual rings. Tree rings show patterns of change in a tree’s life as well as changes in the area where it grows.

In this activity, you can trace environmental and historical changes using a cross section of a tree, or “tree cookie.”

Doing the Activity

Have you ever counted tree rings?

Every growth season, a tree adds a new layer of wood to its trunk and limbs. This means you can determine the age of a tree by counting its layers, or rings.

Have children learn more about a tree’s life by examining a tree cookie and asking:

  • How old was this part of the tree when the tree cookie was cut?
  • Can you see different markings? Evidence of scars or narrow, misshapen rings?
  • What might have happened to the tree to cause these different markings?

Tree cross section labelUse a hand lens to get a closer look at the tree cookie’s texture.

Can you see any holes or channels that might allow water and nutrients to travel up the tree?

Finally, ask children to draw a tree cookie the same age as themselves.

What can they do to show when important events in their lives took place?


  • Outside and Inside Trees by Sandra Markel, ISBN: 0027623130
    A children’s book that describes the various parts of trees and their functions.


Download this Activity

Descarga la actividad en español: Galletas de árbol


Get the Full Activity

This family activity is adapted from Project Learning Tree’s Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide and our PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide which can be obtained from PLT’s Shop or in conjunction with an in-person professional development workshop or online course.

All PLT activities are copyright protected. Please remember to reproduce responsibly. 
Click here for our Content Reprint and Adaptation Policy.