Making a Family Thankful Tree

It all started when they were toddlers. To be honest, our original Family Thankful Tree wasn’t a tree at all.

Our First Family Thankful Tree

It consisted of a mass of roughly cut construction-paper leaves stuck to the ugly brown paneled wall at the top of our basement stairwell. My oldest was in kindergarten, and I had the idea to cut out paper leaves and write something we were thankful for on one each day, as part of our Thanksgiving preparation that year. With each passing year, the arrangement got a little neater, a little more organized, and, well, a little taller as the girls grew. But never once, after the first year, did I instigate the assembly of the Family Thankful Tree.

A Family Tradition That’s Here to Stay

Even if our family was in the midst of exciting life changes or difficult challenges, every fall ushered in talk of how they would assemble a thankful tree and where and how it would be displayed that November. Some years they pieced a tree together out of brown construction paper and taped it, with painter’s tape, to the closet door near the entrance way. There was the year they didn’t make a tree at all and used a loop of masking tape each day to hang the leaves on our sliding glass door. (That exercise was never repeated after they realized how much elbow grease was required to remove all the stickiness left behind when the leaves were dismantled in December.)

The year we moved into our 216-year-old farm house in rural New England, they found a perfect spot for their newly painted tree…

Painting the Thankful Tree

They hung the craft paper tree in our carriage house (yes, 100 years ago it was the area that housed the horse-drawn carriages), where we often enter instead of our main door (because it’s preceded by an old porch, where we can leave muddy boots and cumbersome coats). I decided it was the perfect placement. Before we give daily thanks, we should rid ourselves of our muddy worries and cumbersome busyness. We should come empty handed but aware that we are greeted with grace.

They forced the thumb tacks through their painted tree and into the venerable wooden beams. (There’s pretty much no defacing this old farm house. It’s survived 216 years of use and gladly takes a few more tiny scars, bearing witness to the love it houses.) Then they decided on one big difference that year. Sitting and cutting construction paper leaves was no longer appealing to my teens, as it used to be to my elementary daughters who loved any excuse to wield big-girl scissors, but our homestead has an ample supply of the real things, nicely crisp and naturally dried. 

So we now gather a basketful of leaves every late October and place it beside our tree, along with a sharpie, a box of double-sided tape squares, and a list of some open-ended, but out-of-the-box, things we should be thankful for (e.g. “something I heard today,” “something handmade,” or “something that makes me truly feel God’s love”).

Our Thankful Tree: My October Pick-Me-Up

I’m always deeply grateful to hear my daughters discussing plans for the Family Thankful Tree when the breeze turns crisp and the leaves turn brittle. Truth be told, I’m not crazy about fall. It means summer has eluded me yet again, and here in New England latitudes, summer is just too short. So even though I am surrounded by amazing autumn foliage, I need a bigger pick-me-up in October.

inspiration for a Thankful Tree

Even though the evening sky offers breathtaking backdrops as the sun tucks himself in behind the barn, I need a bigger pick-me-up in October.

Fall is time for a Thankful Tree

But being forced to stop at least once a day and not only think about something I’m truly thankful for, but then document it simply and succinctly on a meager leaf, well, that’s always the daily pick-me-up that this lady needs.

Making Your Own Family Thankful Tree

If your family would like to assemble a Family Thankful Tree this year, and you don’t have baskets full of dried leaves at your disposal, or you do still have elementary children who love any excuse to wield big-kid scissors, I made this helpful printable just for you. Please print it out and enjoy the start of a new family tradition. Just be warned, elbow grease will be needed if glass is a backdrop for masking tape. And annual perseverance will be needed for what may become one of those “forever traditions” in your family too.

v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v vv v v v v v v v v v v v vv v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v v  

Do you follow along on SoulyRested.com? Stop over there, click “FollowThisBlog” in the right-hand column, and I’ll send you a FREE 7-page, chock-full-of-information printable that will get you started on an unbelievably easy, unlimitedly rewarding journey of nature study with a child. The mini e-book will give you practical ways to help you and your children enjoy learning about nature. You can study real trees in or around your own backyard while you gather a few pretty leaves for your thankful tree. Even the least science-oriented parent (or grandparent) ever can use this mini e-book.

And love it.

Really.

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When it’s time to take down the thankful tree, try this other great family heirloom tree–just in time for Christmas: A Family Reading Tree, which I wrote about here on Proverbial Homemaker last year.

What does your family do to encourage thankful hearts this time of year (or all year long)?

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thankful tree

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. So fun!! We did this last year in our homeschool “classroom”

    1. That’s awesome Kacey! I hope you found you enjoyed it as much as the kids did! 🙂

  2. I love this idea! Our Thanksgiving here in Canada has already passed, but I’m sure my daughter would love to do this next year. Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a wonderful post, it brought tears to my eyes. Just yesterday I was realizing that it’s time to share my “thankfuls” again, and I’m so looking forward to it!

  4. I love your idea, and I love the idea of using real leaves, too. This would be a fun activity for our Thanksgiving family gathering, too. I have a lot to be thankful for, that’s for sure!

    1. The real leaves idea was sheer lack of time to do anything else… but it worked well for us last year, and I didn’t struggle so much with letting them go (aka throwing them away) when it was time to take down the tree. (I’m a sentimental hoarding mom type. 🙂 ) Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me, Michelle.

  5. What a wonderful idea! I need to start something like this so that we have a record of what to be thankful for. Best of thoughts to all your family this year. BTW, I love the sound of your house!

    1. I’m so glad you liked the post, Kim. And yes, it is so important to make a conscience effort to keep track of all we have to be thankful for! (btw, thank you about the house. I love it. My husband–the repair man–has a love/hate relationship with it that leans more toward the “hate,” given all the work it requires. 🙂 )

  6. We’ve been doing this with our Sunday School class, but the children use it for a prayer tree, writing names of people we’re praying for on cutout shapes of their handprints. So, it would be wonderful to do the thankful thing with them, as well. Thanks! 😉

    1. I like the idea of a prayer tree as well, Katharine! They would work nicely together, teaching the class two parts of the ACTS prayer pattern–the Thanksgiving and Supplication parts–by picking a hand from the prayer tree and a leaf from the thankful tree. I love it!

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