The Thanksgiving Tree
When my oldest daughter was three and the holiday season was approaching I wanted to start a new family tradition. One that would not only be memorable, but also beneficial to our family and community. During the holiday season children are bombarded with messages promoting greed, not promoting giving. In order to combat this holiday pitfall I made a ThanksGIVING Tree.
In the interest of being environmentally conscious I created a tree that can be used for a few years.
Using a standard foam board (like posterboard but plastic). Hand draw a tree without leaves onto the board.
Next, paint your tree. For this step I started with one color brown and then added varying shades as I went to get the look I wanted.
Then, head over to Microsoft Word pick out a font, or fonts, you like and print "The Thanks Giving Tree", your family name, and the year (optional). Print, cut and glue onto the top and bottom edge of your foam board.
Now, for the fun part! Trace out a leaf shape you like (that is also simple!) and then copy this on multiple pieces of colored construction paper. I used brown, green, orange, and yellow. Cut out all of your leaves. If you have one child you will want at least 25 (enough to get you all the way to thanksgiving). You want one leaf per child per day.
*Note, you can print off your leaves, just take into account the amount of ink you are going to use or invest in colored printer paper.
Finally, place your tree on the wall using command hooks or just lean it against the wall. Pick out a basket (decent sized) and a smaller bowl (for the leaves).
How It Works
So, you have spent some time making this tree and you're wondering what to do with it. It's kind of sad looking without an leaves and you are seriously questioning your decisions as a parent and creative... Or, maybe that was just me!
Starting on November 1 have your child pick one leaf and write one thing they are grateful for on that leaf. We started this tradition when my daughter was 3, so we helped her write most of the leaves. Use a small piece of tape rolled (or double sided tape) and attach the leaf to your tree.
Finally, have your child pick one gently used toy or book to place under the tree. All toys or books will be donated after Thanksgiving.
By Thanksgiving the basket of toys is overflowing and the empty tree is full of wonderful reminders of all the things you have to be grateful for.
A few tips
The child has the final say about which toy/book they donate. Though, we do make sure first teddy bear from her birth, for example, isn't donated.
Talk with your child about where the toys/books are going. In our case we usually find a local women's or children's home.
I know not all parents will agree with this particular tip, and that's fine, but I feel like this is one of the most important parts! Explain to your child that they are blessed with an abundance of toys/book and not every child is as fortunate. Over the past 3 (now 4) years our conversations have gotten deeper and more specific. My daughter understands that some children don't have homes or basic necessities like food and clean water. So in the scheme of things giving a few toys seems like no big deal to her.
We let her pick a few new toys just after Thanksgiving to add to the donation.
A huge bonus of donating toys for almost an entire month is that we reduce the amount of toys in our home. Toys that if kept would likely b played with only a handful of times a year.
The importance of creating holiday traditions that are fun and teach gratitude is so very important in today's very material world. Has your family started a fun tradition? If so, leave me a comment and picture!