This time of year, the calendar seems to pick up speed for busy families. Halloween is over; before you know it, “THE HOLIDAYS” and all their craziness will be upon us. Retailers and advertisers are already pushing their holiday must-haves in the stores and in the media. Before the kid start making their holiday wish lists, let’s help them remember what gratitude is all about! Thanksgiving is the next major holiday on the American calendar, and November 1 is a good time to consciously slow things down and be thankful.
In our family, we’ve had a “Thankful Tree” tradition for at least 10 years now. Super-simple to make, it gives us a focal point for dinner-table discussions about gratitude during the month of November. It’s an easy way to help kids develop the ability to show gratitude, an important skill that can lead to a happier life.
How to make a Thankful Tree
1. Find a flower pot or other container for your Thankful Tree (we used one from a flower arrangement we received).
2. Go outside and collect some fallen tree branches (try to find ones with many forks, to create more spots for hanging the leaves).
3. Arrange the branches in the container. We used a ball of florists foam to anchor the branches, along with some glass flower arranging marbles to weight the bottom and keep it from tipping over. Then we used a fall leaves candle ring (again, something we had) to cover up the foam and make it look a little nicer.
4. Cut out leaves from craft foam or construction paper in fall colors. You can do free-hand leaf shapes, or trace a real leaf. Punch holes in the bottoms of the leaves with a hole-punch.
5. Use yarn, fishing line or raffia to make hanging loops for the leaves. Now you’re ready!
6. Each day, have everyone at the dinner table answer the question “What are you thankful for today?” You can write all the answers on one leaf, or each person can have his or her own leaf. Kids can write their own, or you can write for smaller kids.
7. Hang the leaves on the tree with gratitude. Repeat, each day until Thanksgiving.
A few tips, with gratitude:
– It’s important to let the kids put whatever they want on their leaves, as long as it is sincere and no one’s feelings are hurt. There are no right answers. Your kid at some point will probably feel really grateful for videogames and other material things, and that’s fine. Sometimes the answers get a little silly. In addition to being thankful for good food and a warm house, my kids have also mentioned “Santa Claus,” “the color orange,” and “the potty” over the years.
– Reading all of the leaves aloud is a great activity for Thanksgiving Day.
– Keep your leaves from year to year. You can use both sides, and they are fun to re-read in future years.
– Even though your kids may not say “I’m thankful for you, Mom and Dad,” they probably are…or they will be someday, when they remember that you cared enough to create a family tradition around thankfulness.
If you like this idea, you may want to check out my post on how to make a February Kindness Tree.
Thank YOU for reading this post. I’m grateful to have any readers at all! Have fun with your Thankful Tree. Do you have any ideas to improve upon it, or other traditions that promote Thankfulness? I would love to hear them. Leave me a comment!