Every year, I make a really big deal about the “thankful” aspect of thanksgiving. I work really hard to help foster a spirit of gratitude in my littles, and a national holiday that can back me up in that endeavor is too good to pass up. One could certainly argue that the thankfulness is missing from the holiday at large, especially with the materialism of Black Friday nearly eclipsing the family feasting, or that the history of the event should play an important role in the focus, but I say I’m gonna take what I can get. It’s a rare occasion that society backs me up in my parenting philosophies, so, when it does, I’m going to run with it.
In years past, I’ve had the kids make “thankful turkeys” in preparation for Thanksgiving day. They would trace their hands on red, yellow, orange and brown construction paper. Then, I would ask what they were thankful for and record their answers on the turkeys. I really liked this activity because it captured the size of their little hands along with the dates and adorable things for which their little hearts were thankful.
There was only one downside – I never found a way to display the “thankful turkeys” that I really liked. Most years, they simply got taped to the kitchen cabinets. One year, I tried to arrange them in a dish to make a centerpiece. On the cabinets, I usually ended up viewing them as clutter, which took away from some of the heart-warming quality. Plus, they usually got wet, bent, or knocked down in the chaos of daily life. The centerpiece thing was ok, but you couldn’t really read their sweet thoughts. The display issue wasn’t really a major one, but, nevertheless, I found myself itching to do something different this year.
While perusing the Oriental Trading catalog, I saw an an adorable tree meant for bulletin board display in a classroom. When I first saw the tree, I thought we’d just make our own, but who am I kidding? I ordered the tree from Oriental Trading. The tree did come with precut leaves, but we didn’t use them. The kids really like to trace and cut and glue, so we made our own leaves just to make the project a little more hands on. (We actually intended to add glitter, but we never got around to that… There’s always next year, right?)
So here’s what we did.
Each person in our family was told to make 6 leaves, except Leila. She was exempt this year. Ultimately, the kids decided to make leaves for Josh and me, so pretty much the boys just made 30 leaves. They used the original leaves as templates. Their little hands were tired after that, so that was all for day one.
The next day, they were assigned the meat of the project. They were to address one leaf to each member of the family, sort of like a valentine. On the flip side of the leaf, they were to write why they were thankful for that person. On their remaining leaf, they were simply to list all that they were thankful for. (Major bonus: this also killed lots of educational birds with one stone! They were writing, spelling, forming thoughts into concise, leaf-sized statements, etc. They were very pleased to learn that there was no copy work/dictation, handwriting, or spelling assignments while were were working on the leaves.) It took a few days to get everyone in the family to complete the assignment, but, finally, they were done.
Once all the leaves were completed, I had the boys sort them into piles by addressee. They passed them out one night after dinner. We all took turns reading the leaves addressed to us. Then, at the end, read the leaf that we wrote listing all we were thankful for.
The part where we read what each family member wrote about us was truly magical. The boys beamed as they heard leaf after leaf acknowledge and recognize their value. It could have been the hormones, but watching them react to their leaves was priceless. Of course, I cried.
Finally, after all the leaves were read, we attached them to our little tree. To concretely connect God as the giver of all these good things, I wanted to place the tree on the wall by our “home shrine” (which is just our little prayer corner), but the wall wasn’t big enough. Thus, our tree stands proudly in our foyer. I passed out the tape, and the kids attached their leaves. It was almost as fun as decorating the Christmas tree.
Next Friday, after the Thanksgiving festivities are over, I’ll take our tree down. I’m going to place all of this year’s leaves in a page protector, which will eventually be collected in a binder. I’m going to put what’s left of the thankful turkeys from years past in the binder, but, sadly, many of them haven’t survived. What a treasure it will be to look back at all we’ve been grateful for over the years!