With the start of November comes a month of thanksgiving. Sure people are thankful throughout the year, but they get serious about giving thanks in November. If you’re on Facebook then I’m sure you have noticed the 30 Days of Thankful statuses. Then there are the 30 days of Random Acts of Kindness. While part of me wants to ask why these things only seem to be popular during this month, another part wants to embrace the kindness and goodwill. These moments are excellent teaching times to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving in our children.
The Apostle Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This time of year just gives us extra practice in giving thanks throughout the year.
In the past, I’ve tried doing some form of a Thankful Tree, but my kids just didn’t get it. We would talk about being thankful, but they didn’t really grasp the concept. Not to mention our oldest son had very few words at the age of two. Every conversation was very one-sided with our daughter dominating.
This year has been different so I really wanted to embrace this concept and help my children cultivate a heart of thanksgiving. I started a Thankful Tree Pinterest Board, and began searching for ways to make a tree. While I wanted something simple, I also wanted something that my children couldn’t tear down, eat, or that we would just have to throw away when November ended. I am a crafter at heart who rarely finds time to do anything crafty, so this was my opportunity.
Initially I was going to paint a tree on the canvas but my daughter started decorating it first and with an orange permanent marker. (It was a rock, just in case you were wondering. That’s what she said anyway.)
I wasn’t sure that the paint would cover up the orange permanent marker, so I went with scrap paper to make a mosaic. This is a great project for your children to help you with. There were times that it really stressed me out having them help, but they loved it. By helping it also has given them ownership of the project. It wasn’t just something that Mommy wanted them to do.
You will need:
- a canvas (any size will do)
- pencil to sketch out your tree
- various scrapbook paper in the colors you need (I chose blue, green, and brown)
- Mod Podge (to use for both glue and to seal it)
- sponge brushes (I actually broke a brush during this project, so I’d say three to be safe)
1. Gather the children at the table and let them tear paper. We had large pieces and tiny pieces. To make this time go a tiny bit faster, I did tear some myself.
2. Sketch out your tree. I am not an artist. All you need is the trunk in the middle and some kind of guideline for where you want the green of the tree top and the sky to be.
3. Figure out spacing. I laid out some of the paper to make sure I had the grass as tall as I wanted, and to make sure it was actually going to look like a tree. You can skip this step if you want to.
4. Paint with Mod Podge. I poured out Mod Podge on a paper plate and started painting the canvas with the Mod Podge in small sections. You have to be a little careful and not saturate the paper or it wrinkles and gets bubbly. But that’s the perfectionist coming out in me. Your kids will love it regardless. I used the sponge brush to paint, but I gave my children little paintbrushes. Less glue can get on those little brushes 😉
5. Repeat. Paint with Mod Podge on the canvas, put down some paper, and paint over the paper with Mod Podge until you’re finished. I started with the grass, then the tree trunk. Glued down the blue sky, and did the green on the tree last.
6. Admire your hard work. When you are finished, it will look amazing. Promise! And your kids will love it.
I would suggest doing this project for next year. Don’t stress yourself out trying to get it finished, like I did. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so time-consuming if we had started after lunch and I continued on during naps. Oh, and if I had used a smaller canvas.
How do you use a Thankful Tree?
Each night at dinner we name something we are thankful for. It’s simple, but it really makes us think about how blessed we are and how much God has given us.
Here are some examples of things that have been said:
my four-year-old birthday party and Cinderella birthday cake
my music box (I really wanted two of them, but I’m thankful for one)
Obviously, we are doing this with a four-year-old, a three-year-old, and a one-year-old. Their answers may be a lot different than the answers you’ll get from your children. This year we are writing them on post-it notes and sticking them on. So far they are sticking. I’ve thought about adding hook and loop dots and painting wooden leaves with chalkboard paint for next year. I think that would be cute. At least it looks cute in my head.
A Step Further
Because I can’t seem to leave things alone and just keep them simple, I had the kids make individual Thankful Trees with their hands. I let them paint the canvases with dot markers and traced their hands and upper arm once the paint dried. They LOVED this activity. And Mommy has a little keepsake of their hands.