The Grateful Tree: Teaching Kids to Put the “Thanks” Back in Thanksgiving

my worldraising giving children

Does thankfulness take a back seat to wish lists as the December holidays approach? Is giving the last thing on your child’s mind during the season of Santa Claus? In our home, The Grateful Tree is November’s equivalent to an advent calendar, helping our kids mark the days before Thanksgiving with all of the things they are grateful for.

Instructions for Creating a Grateful Tree

Follow these simple steps to create a tree for your Thanksgiving table:

  • Step outside with your kids and allow each of them to select a branch that has fallen off a tree along with the season’s leaves. Pick one  that has a 6-12" stem and plenty of short branches.
  • “Plant” the tree inside in a colorful vase or hand-painted flower pot. Secure it in place with rocks or pebbles to keep it upright.
  • Visit a local teacher supply or craft store to purchase 25-30 paper leaves, in autumn shades of red, orange, green and gold. Homemade leaves cut out of tissue paper or construction paper work great as well.
  • Using a hole-punch, make a hole at the top of each leaf and tie a loop of string at the top of each one.
  • Now, your child is ready to begin. Each evening, encourage him or her to write down at least one thing that he is grateful for that day. Giving thanks for a fun playdate, a great day at school, a challenging soccer practice, a nice snuggle with his pet, or a delicious home-cooked dinner are all great things to write on the grateful leaves.
  • Your child might decide to write the same thing each day or to think of something new to be grateful for each day of the month; the important thing is that he develops the regular habit of acknowledging the things in his life for which he is thankful and to honor them in this intentional, visual way.

Outside, the leaves are falling but inside, the Grateful Tree’s branches sprout thankfulness and fill our kids’ hearts with the true spirit of Thanksgiving. Grateful Trees have become the center of our focus each November and the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving table each holiday.

Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, 2nd ed. Her blog, Passive Aggressive Diaries, was designed to take a light-hearted look at the hilariously conniving ways in which people encounter and exude passive aggressive behavior in their everyday lives.  She also serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Life Space Crisis Intervention Institute.   Her work is brought to you by a baby clothes boutique in an effort give back to the parenting community.  Pay it forward – check out their adorable selection of baby accessories and shower gifts.
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