What Is A Gratitude Tree – Making A Gratitude Tree With Kids
It’s hard to be grateful about the good things when one big thing after another goes wrong. If that sounds like your year, you aren’t alone. It’s been a pretty bleak period for many people and that has a way of putting gratitude on a back shelf. Ironically, this type of moment is when we need gratitude the most.
Since some things are going right, some people have been kind and some things have turned out better than we hoped. One way to remember this – and teach our kids the importance of gratitude in the process – is putting together a gratitude tree with kids. If this craft project interests you, read on.
What is a Gratitude Tree?
Not everyone is familiar with this enlightening craft project. If you’re not, you may ask “What is a gratitude tree?” This is a “tree” parents create with their kids that reminds the whole family about the importance of counting blessings.
At its core, a gratitude tree project consists of writing out the good things in your life, the things that have gone right, then displaying them prominently so you don’t forget them. It’s more fun for kids if you cut paper into the shape of leaves and then let them write out something they are thankful for on each leaf.
Children’s Gratitude Tree
Although we shower our kids with love and gifts these days, it’s also important to teach them our core values, like the need for gratitude. Making a children’s gratitude tree is a fun way of encouraging them to think about what they are thankful for.
You’ll need bright colored craft paper to get started, plus a bare shrub cutting with lots of branches to which paper gratitude leaves might be attached. Let your children pick out the colors of leaves they prefer, then cut them out, one by one, to attach to the tree.
Before the freshly minted leaf can get taped or stapled to a branch, they have to write on it one thing they feel thankful for. For children too young to be able to write themselves, a parent can put the child’s idea onto the paper leaf.
An alternative is to get a copy of a simple sketch of a tree without leaves. Make copies and let your kids decorate them, adding reasons they are grateful to the tree leaves or branches.
Thanksgiving Gratitude Tree
You don’t have to wait for a national holiday to make a gratitude tree with kids. Although, some holidays seem uniquely suited to this type of centerpiece. A Thanksgiving gratitude tree project, for example, helps the entire family remember what the holiday really means.
Fill a vase half full of small rocks or marbles, then poke the bottoms of several bare branches into it. Cut out paper leaves, such as six for each family member. Each person chooses six things they are grateful for, designs a leaf with that thought on it, then hangs it on a branch.
November 19, 2013 by Ashley 14 Comments
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Okay, one more project ( or, maybe 2 ) for Thanksgiving. And then I have several things that I want to make for Christmas gifts this year that I’m dying to share.
However, this little project may be my favorite of all the Thanksgiving posts this year. Mostly because it gave us some great things to think about, chat about, and share together as a little family. One thing that I hope to really instill in my little wigglers…….is gratitude. I know they’re small and their understanding is limited but I want them to grateful. And happy. And appreciative for even the smallest of blessings.
So, my sister Robin (remember she’s staying here in our home…) came up with this great little Gratitude Tree. And I just took the pictures. And contributed minimally. :)
And you know, I really REALLY love it.
And it sits perfectly up on that big mantel that we recently constructed (with that rad big brother of mine!).
I think I enjoy looking at it….mostly because it reminds me of the conversation we had with our littles, while talking about anything and everything that we are really grateful for. I could see their little eyes light up, as they rattled off their most treasured blessings.
Each of those items were written on paper, attached with a little jute string, and hung from each of the burlap leaves on the tree. Oh, and each of those little leaves have wire attached……and are bendable and stay right where you want them.
For 2013, this definitely made the list. The kids feel the same way….because having our home means no more moving. And they remind us of this fact often.
Some items are more serious……while others are a little more trivial. But hey, Elli appreciates the small things too.
And Chloe appreciates the vain things. (That 2 year old of mine could LIVE in her dress up high heels. Or the ones from my closet. Grrr.)
It sure is a perfect fall decoration. And a lovely center piece for Thanksgiving.
And the cost is minimal. A few branches from outside, a little jute string, some pebbles from our landscape, and a metal container that was stored away, unused. The only thing I purchased was the metallic marker, to write out each item of gratitude.
My heart is feeling full. And this little tree helped fill it right up! :)
Would you like to make your own Gratitude Tree??
First, find a container of any type (glass, metal, wood, ceramic, etc) that is sturdy enough to hold your branches. Keep in mind the pebbles will help give the base some weight too, so the container doesn’t have to be super heavy, just sturdy. Then, gather old dried out twigs and branches and arrange them into the container, just how you’d like them. Don’t be afraid to break off branches, re-adjust, etc.
Then, pour pebbles into the container, completely surrounding each of the branch bases. (If you don’t have access to pebbles……..you could use sand, marbles, bigger rocks, etc.)
Next, cut out leaf shapes out of some burlap fabric.
Then weave thin wire through the length of the leaf, allowing the leaf to bend and hold its shape.
Cut the wire off at the base of the leaf and then place a blob of epoxy glue at the base. (You could use hot glue too but I found the epoxy to hold a little better.)
Then, attach the leaf to the branch, molding it around the branch. Use a clothespin to keep the leaf in place until it dries…..otherwise you’ll have to hold it with your fingers.
Then, wrap some jute string several times around the base of the leaf, completely covering the glue and base of the leaf. But leave one end of the jute string long, to hang your paper later on.
Now remember, since there is wire in the leaf, you can mold it and bend it however you want.
Then, cut out ovals in card stock paper and write a “gratitude” item on each piece of paper.
Then hole punch one end of the paper.
And then string it onto the long end of each just piece and tie a single knot. Cut the excess jute off…..and let the paper hang.
This is optional, but I wrapped more jute around the container several time and tied it in a knot at the back.
Money may not grow on trees, but happiness can! A recent Harvard Health article suggests gratitude is “strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.”
If you don’t believe Harvard, check out Dr. Brene Brown’s 3-minute video on the relationship between joy and gratitude. Her research on courage, vulnerability, and gratitude will blow your mind. She’s kind of my hero.
Have you ever found yourself feeling like things aren’t going your way or that you’ll feel happy once you achieve/obtain/buy…? Practicing gratitude can refocus your attention on what has gone your way instead of what you lack. Nurturing gratefulness in kids will also set them up for happiness down the road.
Make A Gratitude Tree For Kids
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"Since Thanksgiving is almost around the corner, it's the perfect time to teach kids about the power of gratitude and counting blessings! Making a gratitude tree is a fun craft that will quickly become a family tradition! To make a gratitude tree you will need craft paper, string, twigs or tree branches that you collect in your yard or on. walk, a pen or a marker, and small rocks. This craft is good for kids of almost any age as long as they are supervised. Older kids (or you!) can help write down what the younger kids are thankful for. "
Primary Technique General Crafts
- Craft Paper
- A Few Twigs or Branches
- A Pen or Marker
- Small Rocks
Take a cut out of the craft paper in the leaf shape.
Use the craft leaf as a template for tracing the rest of the leaves on a bigger sheet.
Punch holes in the leaves tie a piece of string in the holes.
Add rocks to the base of the vase and stick the tree branch there so that it stands erect.
Ask your kids to draw or write about things that they are thankful for. If they are too young, you can write for them.
Tie the leaves on the tree branches.
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A Gratitude Trick That Marie Forleo Learned from Robert Emmons
The following video shows the results of a USC study where students kept a gratitude journal for 10 weeks. Watch what happened when the three groups had different prompts—and results.
If one of the three prompts mentioned in the video resonate with you, why not give it a try? If not for 10-weeks, for 2 weeks? You might be surprised with the slow and steady benefits this simple tip brings.
It will look like this at the end.
Paper gratitude chain
Paper chains are so fun and easy and are the perfect way to celebrate gratitude with the whole family. You can make it a one-time project or a daily meditation.
Supplies for paper gratitude chain
- Hallmark wrapping paper, craft paper, construction paper
- Crayola® markers
- Scissors or craft knife
- Glue stick, tape or stapler
How to make a paper gratitude chain
- Step One: Cut the paper into strips about 8½ inches long and an inch wide.
- Step Two: On each strip, write a message of gratitude on the front or back of the paper.
- Step Three: Glue, tape or staple the ends of one strip together to make the first link in the chain.
- Step Four: Loop the next strip through the first and fasten the ends to make the next link and repeat until the chain is as long as you’d like.
Ways to use a paper gratitude chain
- Give each family member a stack of paper strips and take some time to write messages. Then take turns adding links to the chain—you can decide whether to talk about your messages or not.
- Make the first link and hang it on a mirror, mantel, doorway or wall to start the chain. Keep a stack of paper strips and markers nearby and add links to the chain every day or whenever you’re thankful for something.
- At the beginning of breakfast or dinner, take a moment for everyone to write down something about the day they’re thankful for and add it to the chain.
- Start creating the chain November 1st (or January 1st) and make it the first decoration you add to the Christmas tree.
- Bring the paper chain out every holiday season and keep adding to it.
For inspiration, see our “Ideas for gratitude messages” below.
Gratitude branch or tree
Making a gratitude branch or tree is a simple and fulfilling way to think about what matters most…and share it with those you love.
Visit our creative blog Think. Make. Share. to see how to make your own DIY Gratitude Branch or Tree.
And to make it even more your own…
- Decorate it with photos, messages, ornaments or trinkets (or all of them) that have special meaning.
- Drape it with a paper gratitude chain.
- Give everyone in the family their own branch.
Decorated doodle letters
If you’ve ever doodled all over a piece of paper during a meeting or phone call, you know it can actually help you focus on what people are talking about. It’s also a way to relieve stress.
We’re stealing this decorated doodle letter project and repurposing it for focusing on what we’re thankful for. All you need are letter forms—you can find three-dimensional paper-mache letters, cut-out wooden ones or make your own on cardstock or cardboard. Whether you doodle on your own or with others, it’s a simple way to create something personal and meaningful.
How to give decorated doodle letters an attitude of gratitude:
- Spell out a word (may we suggest “THANKS” or “THX”?) with the letters, use your initials or choose a letter that stands for something meaningful.
- Draw icons representing things you’re grateful for, including little illustrations of people you love.
- Write a free-form poem or list of words.
- If you’re using multiple letters, try giving each one a theme, color, medium (markers, paints, stickers, magazine collage, etc.) or subject.
Ideas for gratitude messages
Want some starter ideas for your gratitude messages…or some kick-starters in case you get a little stuck? Here are some different ways to think about thankfulness:
Choose a writing direction that most fits your personality. Here are a few prompts to get you thinking:
- Think of the people and pets in your life. What are three things that make each of them special? (Examples: good sense of humor, giving the best hugs, being an empathetic person)
- What memories are you grateful for? (Examples: a meaningful trip, a lovely dinner, a hard-earned accomplishment)
- What is it about this time of year that warms your heart? (Examples: crunchy leaves, hayrides, apple cider)
Think about people you’re thankful for, and use these fill-in-the-blank messages to say why (this is a great one for woven paper placemats):
- Five words to describe you: 1.___2.___3.___4.___5.___ (Examples: fabulous, clever, creative, adorable, caring)
- You make me feel _______and________. (Examples: like I can be anything I want to be, cherished, that I’m amazing)
- I love you because you’re _______. (Examples: the most generous person I know, a great listener, the best salsa dancer ever)
- My favorite memory with you is ____________. (Examples: going to the beach, that time we stayed up all night, our road trip to Tennessee)
- You’re so talented at ________and__________. (Examples: making pancakes, playing the piano, being kind to others)
- My life is ________because you’re in it. (Examples: sweeter, a lot more peaceful, so much happier)
- You’ll always be my favorite ____________. (Examples: sidekick, bestie, partner-in-crime, shopping buddy, etc.)
You can personalize compliments for friends and family members (this is wonderful for photos on a Gratitude Tree). Something like:
- Thankful for your kindness.
- Love your spirit.
- You’re nice.
- You have good manners!
- You’re awesome.
- You have a generous heart.
- You have the best smile.
- Grateful for your patience.
- You’re smart.
- You keep me sane.
- Happy we’re friends.
- You’re brave.
- You’re tough.
- You’re a hard-worker.
- You’re compassionate.
- You’re calm.
List things that matter to you, such as:
- Second helpings
- All the fixin’s
- Movie marathons
- Fur Babies
- Home over our heads
- Slowing down
- Good memories
- Sweater weather
- Warm ovens
- Cozy tables
- Crisp leaves
Try writing some phrases that make you feel warm and cozy, like these (we love these for the decorated doodle letters):
- So grateful
- Happy you’re here
- Blessed beyond words
- You’re a gift
- Pass the happy
- You’re loved
- All the smiles
- Relishing the moment
- Savor and repeat
- Kindness served here
- Goodness served here
- Thankful times
- Counting blessings
Or write down some reminders to express gratitude or share your blessings, like these:
- Give thanks
- Notice kindness
- Share your pie
- Help your neighbor
- Pray for someone
- Wish good things
- Reach out
- Say something nice
- Offer your seat
- Pile on the fun
- Serve up some love
- Gobble up the goodness
We hope these gratitude crafts will reinvigorate your spirit and bring some calm to this busy season. Enjoy this you-time and remember that we’re grateful, too, for people like you.