our thankful tree: beautiful, simple for thanksgiving

thankful tree

Maddy, Owen, and Cora have already started with a case of the ‘galloping greedy gimmies’ a la Berenstain Bears thanks to the 800 million holiday wish books that have made their way into our home. 

Sure, I think it’s fine for kids to flip through the catalogs and dream a little, but it seemed that our kids were forgetting the spirit of the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, which is nearly upon us.

So when I found a pack of dollar-bin leaves that we hadn’t used this season, I thought we’d put them to use in a Thankful Tree–a work in progress and a reminder to our family of how much we have to be thankful for.

  • Thankful Tree: A lot like our sweet and teeny Love Tree from last Valentine’s Day, the Thankful Tree is basically sticks, leaves, and lots of thought.

One sunny day last week, the kids took a bike ride, and I lugged our wagon so we could go on a ‘stick hunt’ of sorts, collecting sticks for our Thankful Tree.  (Usually our yard’s full of them, but our squirrels must have found other things to do this fall than to try to make nests in our trees!)

our thankful tree

Our wagon is full of sticks for our Thankful Tree.

Once we got home, we broke the big sticks and placed them in one of our huge glass vases.  We tried to use the sticks that had twisty and turney branches so that our leaves would have lots of places to hang.

Then we put our blank Thankful Tree aside for a bit so that we could tackle homework, dinner, and everything else.

our thankful tree

We started work on our Tree at breakfast one morning when everyone was particularly cranky, nasty, and grouchy towards each other. When I couldn’t take it anymore and couldn’t bear to hear one more whiny complaint or one more kid tattling, I grabbed the leaves and a Sharpie.

You know what? We have so much to be thankful for.  You guys have so much in your lives, I think you forget it. We’re going to start our Thankful Tree right now, while we’re eating breakfast so that you start the day off knowing how much you have to be grateful for.

I’m going to start writing what I’m thankful for on these leaves.  You listen to what I’m writing, and when you think of something you’re thankful for, let me know, and I’ll write it.

our thankful tree

our thankful tree

I started by writing ‘for our house’ and ‘for our good food‘, and soon the ideas started coming.

Owen said, I’m thankful for Mommy.  (Seriously, and I didn’t even plug myself, I promise.)

our thankful tree

Owen, that’s really thoughtful.  I’ll write that on a leaf for you.  I wrote ‘for Mommy‘.

Cora added, I’m thankful for Brady.

I said, Cora, you’re right.  Even though we get frustrated with Brady, we should be thankful that we are able to have a furry family member because some kids really want a dog, and they are not able to get one.

our thankful tree

Our many leaves, waiting to hang on our tree.

Maddy jumped in and asked for her own pen, and she wouldn’t stop writing; she added ‘for my friends‘ and ‘for our games‘ and ‘for our warm clothes‘ and ‘for my family‘.

We added what we could before we had to throw the dishes in the sink, grab lunches and backpacks, and put on coats and shoes.  We didn’t finish, but I think–I hope–it got us re-focused and off to a better start for the day.

our thankful tree

our thankful tree

Later that day, I cut a small slit in each leaf and Maddy helped me tie a string through each one so they could hang from the branches of our Thankful Tree.

It really is a gorgeous and unique centerpiece, and it’s a work in progress.  I filled a small basket of already-strung leaves and the Sharpie so that whenever anyone feels like they want to add a leaf, they can.

I wanted to deliberately add leaves at the end of each day, but I think that for us–with our schedules and with everything going on right now–I like the idea of our leaf-adding to be a more natural, add-as-we-feel-ready kind of thing.

thankful tree

You certainly don’ t need these special leaves to make your own; even if the leaves are cut from construction paper, a Thankful Tree can be beautiful and special, and I’d love to see others’ versions and ways of giving thanks.

And that’s it–just a fall-festive way of reminding my littles that we have so much to be thankful for during this special, giving time of the year.

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post




  1. says

    What a wonderful idea! I think we have some leaves just like that so now I just have to find them to do the same thing in our house! And you absolutely deserve a plug!!! Put yourself on a leaf on that tree again for me! 😉

  2. Shanna says

    What a great idea! But can you please change your feed settings back to full? I don’t tend to click through to read abbreviated feeds. :(

    • amy says

      ack! I didn’t realize they weren’t coming in as full posts. . . I bet it’s from my switch from Blogger to WordPress–I’ll certainly see what I can do! Sorry!


  3. Janel says

    This is a great activity! Hope to do it this weekend! What templates do you have for your leaves and what material are they made out of? I always find great stuff on your blog- thank you so much!

    • amy says

      Oh my goodness, these leaf templates came from the dollar bins at Target or Michael’s a few months ago, I’m afraid!

    • amy says

      totally agree! and we had a tough day today with lots of tears…so we took some time tonight to add a few leaves, and it makes everyone feel just a little bit better! Thanks for reading, Tara!

  4. Kim says

    We love this activity! I cut out leaf shapes from recycled copy paper and colored them with crayons/markers. (Next time I’d color the pages BEFORE cutting out the leaves, duh!) We’ve been adding leaves to our tree daily. I might even encourage the adults to add leaves of their own on Thanksgiving day. Then we can play a guessing game to see which leaf came from which family member.

    • amy says

      Kim, LOVE it! And such a fantastic idea to have family members add leaves on Thanksgiving; the tree will be so full and beautiful by the weekend!

  5. Monette says

    I’ve been searching for my leaves since I read this post. I know I have a bag of them in my craft room. While I was hoping to do it for Thanksgiving, I think any time it’s done gets the point of being grateful across.

    • amy says

      TOTALLY agree!! Make thankful snowflakes and it’s a great post-holiday reminder of how grateful kids should be!

  6. says

    Love it, Amy! Was just looking for ideas to do a thankful tree and there was yours on pinterest. I am going to make one for our immediate family and leave it out for Thanksgiving, so that all of our extended family can add leaves, too, when they come over for Thanksgiving dinner.


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