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Make a Thankful Tree

Giving thanks plays a prominent role during the fall holidays, but it’s a practice that our children (really, all of us) can benefit from all year. Not only does practicing gratitude make us more thankful, but it has lasting positive effects that can help us weather difficult moments down the road. In this activity we share how you can make a simple tree of thanks together to help kids deepen their awareness of and gratitude for nature, and the people, places and things that hold special significance for your family.

This activity is featured in our November calendar. If you do not yet have your free copy, get it here.

The Guide

Get inspiration from trees!

Trees provide kids with much of the wonder they find in the natural world and can inspire connection and gratitude in kids and grownups alike. Trees drop the acorns and leaves that our children love to collect. They offer the sticks for walking or playing with. And their craggy roots, bark, odd holes and growths inspire awe and curiosity. They also provide food and shelter for so many creatures. Read about why trees are our greatest teachers in this blog post.

Start by taking a walk together to a special tree in your yard, neighborhood or a local park. When you arrive at your tree, let kids know that this is your special friend tree. Invite kids to join you in noticing and appreciating what is special about your tree. Read our My Friend, the Tree DIY for some ideas.

Gather materials for your thankful tree: 

Identify a bucket, can or large vase to use as the base of your tree. Head outdoors and gather stones or gravel to fill and stabilize your base. Gather a handful of sticks from the yard to stick into the weighted bucket and form the branches of your tree. Incorporate other objects to help you create your own, unique tree.

Prepare your thankful leaves: 

Print and cut out these downloadable thankful leaves or create your own by cutting colorful paper into the shape of leaves and petals. Poke holes in your leaves so they can easily slip on your branches. You can also thread twine or string through each leaf to hang them on your branches.

Invite play and share gratitude: 

Talk about your walk to your special tree and share why you are thankful for your tree friend. Wonder, what else are we thankful for?  What are the gifts from nature that you are thankful for? What special objects are you thankful for? Who are the people you are thankful for? What do they do for you that you feel thankful for? Write the ideas you share down on your gratitude leaves. You can also invite kids to draw their ideas on their leaves. 

Build your thankful tree: 

Wonder, “Do you you think we could make a thankful tree to hold all of of our thankful leaves?” Work together to arrange your sticks in your container. Then, invite kids to stick their gratitude leaves onto the branches. Kids can add leaves and other nature treasures to their branches to help decorate it, too.

Share gratitude and add to your tree: 

Choose a spot to display your tree and lay out additional thankful leaves and pens so you can continue to add to your thankful tree. If your children are ready, encourage them to play teacher and explain how the tree works to everyone who will participate in making the tree. Take time to read out the things everyone is grateful for on the tree. If you have a signal for “I agree,” share affirmation for the various things shared, helping kids learn to be active listeners and reinforcing all of the goodness shared on the tree.

Want more ideas for bringing gratitude into your family's routine? Try some of these:

  • Gratitude Pumpkin DIY: Turn a pumpkin into a fall display for all your family is thankful for.
  • Thank the Moon: Try some of these ways to help kids slow down, connect with the moon, and show appreciation for the light that shines above us.
  • Grateful for Earth: Kids can throw a party for the Earth, create a community nature display, take small steps to protect the planet and more!
  • Cooking With Gratitude: Cook a recipe together as a family, taking time to show gratitude for the people, plants and animals that contributed to your food.

Why is this activity great for kids?

Children and adults alike receive a myriad of benefits from practicing gratitude. Taking time to do something special and symbolic together reinforces family values and the importance of connecting and sharing with one another. If this becomes a tradition, the positive effects will persist and grow. Finally, helping kids spend real, quality time with trees helps them feel more grounded and empathetic as people and more prepared to protect both these amazing plants and the planet that supports us all.

If You Like This Activity, Try More!

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