Teach Gratitude with a Thanksgiving Tree
November is just a few short weeks away. And that means it’s time for me to ramble around in the depths of my basement and pull out the holiday tree. No, not that tree: The Christmas tree won’t make an appearance around here until the turkey and stuffing have filled my tummy and the leftovers are stowed away in the fridge.
The tree I pull out each year in late October is our family Thanksgiving tree. It’s a fun little tradition I started several years ago, when my kids were quite little and my days were full of board books, car seats, and toys that make way too much noise.
(Seriously. Why does the toy have to sound like the animal or car? Aren’t our kids supposed to develop genius by making their own animal/car sounds? But I digress.)
I started the Thanksgiving tree tradition as a way to teach my kids about gratitude and give a visual picture of our family’s many blessings. Though my kids are now approaching the eye-rolling years of adolescence, I still go through the same spiel every year, explaining the meaning behind our Thanksgiving tree and why we practice this little tradition:
The Meaning of the Thanksgiving Tree
The Bare Tree: “See this bare tree, guys? Doesn’t it look kind of harsh and ugly without any leaves on it? That’s what a life looks like without any gratitude in it. When we don’t take time to remember how God’s blessed us, our hearts start to look like this tree. They can become ugly with greed and selfishness.”
The Leaves: “See all these colorful leaves? They represent all the wonderful little things God puts in our lives to bless us. Every day, God has provided enough to get us through another day. And he gives us so much more than just our basic needs: He’s filled our lives with special people, helpful things, and fun experiences that fill our life with joy.”
Hanging the Leaves: “Let’s write down some of the things we’re thankful for on these leaves and hang them on the tree. Notice how the tree looks more and more colorful and beautiful as we fill it up with the leaves? That’s what happens to us when we take time to thank God for our blessings. Gratitude makes our lives more beautiful and bright.”
“Gratitude makes our lives more beautiful and bright. It fills our hearts with color.”
After this little explanation, which I usually give at the beginning of November, each person writes down something they’re thankful for on a leaf and hangs it on the Thanksgiving tree. We continue to write down blessings and add leaves to the tree every day throughout the month.
It’s been such a sweet tradition to carry on through the years. As my kids grew, we shifted from Mom and Dad writing down thanksgivings for them to seeing their own blocky handwriting filling upthe leaves. It’s been fun to see which blessings make an annual appearance (I always add a leaf for “popcorn” and “books”) and which new blessings have “sprouted” along the way (“dance class” for my daughter, “Nintendo” for my son.)
And much as I love the evergreen wonders and holiday music of Christmas–I think this little Thanksgiving tradition might be my family favorite.
Would you like to start a tradition of gratitude in your own family?
Or maybe you’d like to bring the idea to your office, school, or church. Try creating a Thanksgiving tree of your own this year! I’m including simple instructions for how I made my tree below. Just remember: It doesn’t have to be anything fancy–you can even use a few branches from the back yard and simple circles of colorful paper to get started.
I hope your family has a wonderful time filling your home with the beautiful colors of gratitude this Thanksgiving season!
- branches (real or fake)
- vase or flower pot
- florist foam
- autumn colored scrapbook papers
- leaf-shaped punch (*If you don’t have a punch, you can cut small circles or buy pre-cut leaves)
- glue/glue stick
- spanish moss (optional)
How to Make:
1: Cut the florist foam to fit the bottom of your vase/flowerpot. Place the foam snugly inside the vase and add the branches. (I reinforced my branches with some wadded paper around the edges. Super high-tech, I know. But it made the branches more stable in the vase.) Cover the top of the pot with spanish moss if desired.
2: Use the leaf punch to cut out leaves of various colors. *Alternative: If you don’t have a leaf punch on hand, you can cut simple circles instead. Another option is to purchase pre-punched paper or foam leaves at your local craft store.
3: Cut 4″ lengths of twine. Attach to the base of each leaf using a glue stick.
4: Start jotting down the things you’re thankful for and hang them on the tree!
Happy Thanksgiving Friends. I hope we all find quiet moments to truly soak in God’s grace this holiday season and remember the many ways He’s been faithful to us during the past year.
I love this idea! What a beautiful visual and a great way to get my kids thinking gratefully instead of “I want”. I’m not crafty at all so thanks for the instructions!
Glad you like it! It’s a pretty simple project. . . I just recommend buying some pre-cut leaves if you don’t like to fuss with too much busy work. With pre-cut leaves, it’s super quick to throw together. 🙂
Beautiful Idea! Can’t wait to do this with my littles:) I love your page and thank God he is using you for people like me:)
Thanks for such sweet encouragement. I hope you enjoy your thanksgiving tree. 🙂
Love your ideas!
Aw–Thanks! Hope you can put them to good use in your home. 🙂
Thank you for sharing this sensational idea. I cant wait to start our thanksgiving tree this week. What a perfect time because I’ve been teaching my kiddos about gratitude.
[…] Thanksgiving Tree by More like Grace- Not only does she show you what the tree looks like with step by step instructions but she goes through the meaning of one. Amy explains what gratitude is and why we should be teaching it to our kids.DIY Gratitude Tree Craft by Go Grow Go- This gratitude tree is done inside a frame which means you can keep it up and add to it all year long. […]
This is a great idea. So simple and yet it reminds us of the importance in our holiday activities to be thankful. thanks
I wish I had seen this a few weeks ago!! What a wonderful family tradition and I’ll use it next year! Now it’s time to start filling our manger by doing kind deeds-to give baby Jesus the gift of a warm bed. Thank you so much!
I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!
[…] A Thankfulness Tree […]
I am so going to do this with my grandkids!!! Love it!
[…] Start a Thankful Tree. […]
Hey! I just came accross this beautiful Idea! I’m French but I began to celebrate Thanksgiving for having a special day to remember our blessings and show gratitude. As we have family in Canada and friends in the US, I even can last this beautiful tradition for a month 😜
Thanks for this ! I will definitely begin this new tradition with my kids!
I love that you’re building a tradition of gratitude with your kids. So beautiful!