DIY · Thanksgiving Tree { Free Printable » Blank Leaf Template & Scripture Leaves }

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Our previous post on encouraging gratitude reminds us that the Thanksgiving holiday is a time to focus our hearts on gratitude and recognize all that we have to be thankful for, making this time of year a natural opportunity to direct our children in developing grateful hearts.

famiily_leafOne of our favorite activities for getting children to think thankfully is a making a Thanksgiving tree.

This post explains just what a Thanksgiving tree is, lists several ideas for creating your own Thanksgiving tree in a variety of formats, and provides you with a free printable resource to use for leaves.


» What is a Thanksgiving Tree?

leafturkeyEssentially, a Thanksgiving tree is a tabletop display in the form of a tree (more or less) on which family members hang paper leaves on which they have written what they are thankful for.

To the casual observer, a Thanksgiving tree is a motley conglomeration of backyard branches, paper leaves, and string. But to the trained eye, this botanical wonder is ripe with meaning.

Part craft, part decor, a Thanksgiving tree is a visual reminder of all the things we have to be thankful for.

Because each leaf represents a person/place/thing/idea that a family member considers a blessing and because making the tree itself was a family endeavor, a Thanksgiving tree deserves a place of prominence in the house. Consider using the Thanksgiving tree as a centerpiece for your kitchen table, mantle, or  entrance of your home.

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» Making the Tree

Most of our Thanksgiving trees are of a homespun variety and consist of sticks and branches gathered from the backyard, but a Thanksgiving tree can take many forms and can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish.

Gathering the base materials for the tree can be as simple as walking around the backyard or going traipsing through the woods. Go outside and gather appropriate-sized branches (or sticks) from the yard or a nearby park, trail, or other outdoor space.

Here are a few ideas for making the tree:

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Moss and stones in the bottom of a clear glass container make it easier for branches to stand vertically supported and add visual interest to the display through color and texture.

• Place a single branch in a rinsed-out glass jar or bottle.

• Gather a large bunch of branches to fill a vase, using moss and stones to fill in the bottom space of the container.

• Use a bud vase for a collection of branches.

• Lay branches horizontally in a tray.

• Use a metal tree, such as a jewelry tree, ornament tree, or other decorative tree.

• Replace outdoor branches with battery-operated lighted branches or artificial stems of leaves, flowers, or even cotton.


» Alternate Tree Ideas

Of course, there’s no rule about what shape this craft has to take, so a Thanksgiving tree does not even have to be a tree! Be creative about how to make this visual reminder work best for your family.

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Here are some examples to get you thinking outside the box:

• Place leaves in a large bowl, tray, or dish. Fish out a leaf of thanks as you see fit!

Use magnets to create a display of thanks (maybe even in tree-shape) on your refrigerator or other metal surface (a door? the washing machine?).

• Designate a corkboard for the Thanksgiving tree and use pushpins to secure the leaves. A tree trunk form could be cut from construction paper and stapled to the corkboard, and every day each family member could add a new leaf of thanks.

Create a garland of leaves to decorate a mantle or doorway or bookshelf or bedframe or, oh, anywhere! Use clothespins to attach leaves or just string the leaves directly onto the garland.

• Slide leaves around the rim of a mirror.

• Insert leaves as garnish for a wreath.

Create a booklet by punching holes in the leaves then fastening the booklet together using a pipe cleaner (or string or wire or hinged ring).

• Set up individual Thanksgiving trees (in your preferred format) in each family member’s bedroom or in different rooms in the house.


» Adding the { Free Printable } Leaves

Once you have the tree set up, you are ready to add the leaves–and that’s where we can help!

Click the link below for a free downloadable pdf of printable leaves in 3 varieties: blank leaves with single outline in grayscale; blank leaves with a double outline in grayscale and color; and leaves featuring thanks-related Scriptures and solid colored outlines.

» IntheQuiver_Printable_Thanksgiving_Leaves

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After printing the leaves and cutting them out, use the front side of a blank leaf to write (or draw) something to be thankful for. On the back, write the name or initials of the family member and the date.

To hang the leaves, use metal Christmas ornament hooks or punch holes in the leaves and loop through with string.

As you decorate the tree, mix in Scripture leaves with your individualized leaves to provide touchstone Bible verses of gratitude and to remind our family–and ourselves–that God is the source all things and He is the one to whom we give our thanks.

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» Leaf Activities

• Rather than decorating the tree all at once, take it day by day, adding a leaf a time.

• When writing down the items to be thankful for, leave off the names of family members. Make a game of reading from each leaf and trying to guess whose leaf it is. Once the author is revealed, then write the name on the leaf.

Save the leaves from year to year. Not only can it be fun to look back and see what was on our minds and in our hearts in previous years, it is also an opportunity to remember the experiences we’ve had, the people we’ve known, and the ways we’ve grown as a family over the years.

For example, some of my favorite leaves from years past include one with the names of dear neighbors we had in our old house and one that my son made when he was about 3 that says “stories about bears.”

Bonus: By saving leaves, each year the tree will look fuller and contain more leaves–without any extra effort!

Spread the thanks. This activity does not have to be limited to the members of your household.

› Have blank leaves handy for any visitors who may pass through your home and ask them add a leaf to the tree.

› If you are a teacher, you could incorporate this activity into a Thanksgiving-related lesson or as a warm-up exercise as the holiday nears; a Thanksgiving tree (or bulletin board or garland, etc.) displayed in the classroom is a festive and meaningful way to brighten the classroom and foster a sense of gratitude in the learning environment.

› Set up a Thanksgiving tree at work. Leave a supply of blank leaves, pens, and ornaments hooks (or even paperclips) beside the tree for any co-workers who may want to participate.

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For other ways to encourage a heart of thankfulness in our children (and maybe even ourselves!) this Thanksgiving, see our previous post → Encouraging Gratitude.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “DIY · Thanksgiving Tree { Free Printable » Blank Leaf Template & Scripture Leaves }

  1. Thank you! We’ve done this in the past and it is always a great reminder of the things we are thankful for. It was great to have the Scriptures to read and add to the tree as well! My kids really enjoyed it! Thank you again! Happy Thanksgiving! Blessings to you.

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