Gratitude Tree: Create a New Thanksgiving Tradition

how to simplify your homeschool

Do you have any new Thanksgiving traditions?

Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions, either in your family or in your homeschool?  If you are like me, we have more Christmas traditions rather than Thanksgiving traditions.  But a couple of years ago, I decided to change that!

A Gratitude Tree

I decided I wanted to do a Gratitude Tree (or Thanksgiving Tree, as it’s also called).  We had never done one before, even though I had heard about them for years.  I never could get started on November 1, so I would always say, “Oh, we will just do it next year!”  Sound familiar?  But I finally did it, and it was such a blessing to us.

What is a Gratitude Tree?

A Gratitude Tree is a picture or a physical small tree where you would name things you and your family are grateful for.  Usually you start on November 1, and go through the rest of the month.  You usually put leaf cut-outs on your bare tree with the things you are grateful for written on them.  

How can you make a Gratitude Tree?

I have found several ways Gratitude Trees are made.  There’s 3 main kinds that are super simple to make!

·       A wall tree made of paper

·       Actual small branches off of a real tree

·       A small paper tree inside a picture frame to be a keepsake

Let’s take a look at each of these ways.

#1 Wall Gratitude Tree

This is the way I chose to make ours.  I had some brown bulletin board paper that I had kept for years for a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Alphabet Tree that I never made (see a theme here??).   I unrolled it and freehanded a tree trunk.  Then I cut out some branches and taped them on the wall.  Be sure to use painter’s tape or Mavalus tape which are tapes that won’t take the paint off of your walls.  

Some people take the brown packing paper that comes in packages (or buy a roll of kraft paper) and twist it to make branches for a 3-D effect.  Construction paper cut into long rectangles works great too!

I bought a pack of fall-colored leaf cut-outs off of Amazon.  I could have cut out leaves from construction paper, cardstock, or colored copy paper.  But we were in the middle of building a house, and I needed to save some time.  

So that is how we did it with two children at home at the time.  At the beginning of November, I talked to my children about what gratitude is and how to describe things we are thankful for.  Then every day, I would ask them to name one thing they each were thankful for.  I would put their initial and write what they said, with both answers on the front of the leaf.  My 3 year old would repeat answers she had given on previous days, so I would gently lead her to something different.   On the back, I wrote the year.  Then they would choose a spot to put the leaf!  

At the end of November, we went over all the things we were grateful for.  When I finally took it down, I kept all the leaves and put them in a keepsake box.  

Their answers were so beautiful, funny, and inspiring.  I really wish we had been doing this every year!  But it’s never too late to start a new tradition.

gratitude tree - new Thanksgiving tradition

#2 Branches from a Real Live Tree

This is a really cool idea!  Gather some small thin branches that have fallen from real trees. .  Put them all  in a large clear mason jar, crock, or vase with some pretty stones to weigh it down.   When you (or your kids) fill out the paper leaves, you will hole-punch a hole in the leaf and tie it with a bit of yarn or twine.  Have your kids hang the leaves on the branches.  And there you have it, a “real” Gratitude Tree!

#3 Keepsake Gratitude Tree

I’m definitely doing this idea one year.  This is a papercraft tree that you can frame for a keepsake Gratitude Tree.  It’s not as hard as it sounds, I promise!

How to Make a Keepsake Gratitude Tree

MATERIALS

  • 8 ½ X 11 White Cardstock for background
  • Brown cardstock (just a few pieces, in case you need to redo the tree)
  • Your choice of colors of fall leaves (red, orange, yellow, brown, tan)
  • A good paper glue – I like this one by Tombow.  It has a tiny applicator tip that is perfect for the tiny paper leaves.  You can find it in your local Michael’s craft store or on Amazon.
  • Black pen – I like the ultra-fine Sharpie markers or the Tul gel pens

STEPS

  • Cut out a tree trunk out of the brown cardstock.  You can freehand it!  This isn’t about a “perfect-looking” craft.  This is to have a keepsake of what your family is thankful for.
  • Cut out bare branches out of the brown cardstock.  If you want to, you could cut the branches out along with the tree trunk in one piece.  I’m not talented enough to do that!  You could also make the tree trunk and branches just all in rectangles.  That would give it a more modern style.
  • Glue the tree trunk and branches to the white cardstock.  Put the bottom of the tree trunk a little bit up towards the middle from the bottom edge of the white cardstock.  Don’t put it right along the bottom edge of the cardstock.  Putting it a little above the edge will give it a more artistic flair.
  • Now cut out lots of little fall leaves!  You will need to make them small enough to fit on the tree but big enough to write on.
  • So you can do this one of two ways:  
    • If you have several children, take turns picking one answer from each day and write on the leaves. Put the child’s initials on the answer that you choose.
    • Another option is to have lots of leaves on your tree.  Use a leaf for each answer.  You will eventually run out of room on the tree.  Choose the best from each child, if you do.  Make sure you put the child’s initial on each leaf who gave the answer.
  • After filling out the leaves with a black pen, lay them on the tree and planning where you want them.  
  • Then start gluing them on individually.
  • After it dries completely, make sure you put the year somewhere on the white cardstock or tree.
  • Now you can frame it with an 8 ½” X 11” frame or an 11” X 14” frame with a photo mat!

What’s the easiest way to make the Keepsake Gratitude Tree?

I hear you!  This sounds difficult to be writing and gluing every day in November, doesn’t it?  What I did was this:  after we completed the paper Gratitude Tree on the wall, I kept all the leaves.  Then when I had some free time, I just used the answers on those leaves to make the Keepsake Gratitude Tree.  Very easy to do in just a couple of hours!  

If you don’t have time or can’t do a wall or branch Gratitude Tree this year, just write their daily answers in a notebook!  That is perfectly fine!  Then when you have a free day, make the keepsake tree.  

However you choose to do it is fine.  Just don’t be like me and regret not doing it sooner!

If you do one of these Gratitude Trees this year, let me know in the comments!  I’d love to hear about it!

FREEBIE:

Sign up for this limited free Gratitude Tree Pack!  14 pages to help you get started on your own Thanksgiving tradition of a Gratitude Tree!  You will get the tree and leaves to make the Keepsake Gratitude Tree, fall color leaves to make your Wall Gratitude Tree or to tie on your real Gratitude Tree, as well as black-and-white leaves to let your children color or use as templates for construction paper.  I’ve also included bonus bulletin board letters to spell out “Gratitude Tree” to use wherever you want.  Directions are included!

You can get the Gratitude Tree Printables by leaving your name & email. We’ll zip it on over to your inbox.

Jacquelyn Barrett from Faithfully Teaching at Home is starting her 18th year of homeschooling her 4 children.  She is eager to share advice and encouragement for others on their own homeschooling journeys, no matter where in the journey they are. She’s been married for 27 years to her pastor husband and stays busy with church, their 4 children, and their 4 grandchildren.  In her spare time (what’s that?!), you might catch Jacquelyn reading, scrapbooking, or tending to their mini-farm.  You can find her blogging on her website at Faithfully Teaching at Home and creating printable resources for early learners.  Come say hello on her Instagram account and Facebook page and follow her on Pinterest!



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