My original tree, using paper leaves.
Have you ever heard the saying, “take time to stop and smell the roses?” With the hustle and bustle of daily life, this can be easier said than done! However, according to several studies, being intentional about gratitude can benefit you both physically and mentally. A Gratefulness Tree is a fun and creative way to help you be more intentional about the what you are grateful for.
I learned this project many years ago and I keep the first rendition (pictured on the right) which was really simplistic in my office as a constant visual reminder to count my blessings. The four H’s of 4-H, Head, Heart, Hands, and Health, are incorporated into this project, so consider this for a future 4-H club meeting activity as well!
These are the supplies you will need to create your tree.
Items needed for this project: Small branch(es) with leaves removed, vessel of choice, foam, sand, or soil to stabilize branches, pebbles for additional weight and stability, needle and thread to hang the leaves, leaf pattern and colorful paper, or purchased leaves. You will also need a gel pen or superfine marker to write on leaves, rubber bands, tape, and decorative seasonal napkins or florists’ moss to the base of the tree.
Even though this DIY project is presented in the month of November, this project can be done at any time during the year. On Thanksgiving Day or any designated day, have each family/club member and guest take a leaf off of the tree to read out loud.
Use tissue paper or florists’ foam to secure the branched in your decorative container.
The comings and goings of our daily lives can consume us at times. It can become easy to focus on the negatives or challenges we face because they cause of some sort of discomfort and forget to think of those things or people that bring joy and comfort to our lives. I hope this intentional project on gratefulness helps us all to “smell the roses” more often.
What do some of my leaves say? Well, here are a few examples of the things I am grateful for; food, good friends, willingness to forgive, sight, faith, family, and shelter. I will display the newest tree (pictured on the left) in my home and just like my first one it will gain more leaves over time.
Use a gel pen to write what you are thankful for on each leaf
Use decorative napkins, fabric, or even florists’ moss to cover the base of the tree.
This is what your Gratefulness Tree will look like when you are done.
Not much can make one happier that the warm scents of pumpkin spice, twinkling festive lights, and the joyous spirits that the holiday seasons bring many families. As the Thanksgiving holiday season approaches and we find ourselves dashing from one from one festive event to another, it becomes a wonderful opportunity to pause with our family members and reflect on how we can continue to apply one of our very important 4-H essential elements, generosity, into the holiday season to demonstrate simple acts of gratitude, that being that one is thankful for the kindness of others. Research supports that individuals are observed to be happier, healthier, and have a more positive outlook when they practice being grateful on a regular basis (Berrena, 2016).
4-H supports the life skills of nurturing relationships and concern for others through generosity. Gratitude is just one of many ways that we as a 4-H family can foster generosity, compassion, and kindness for others. By helping our children recognize and thank those that are important in their lives and also by appreciating what they currently have available to them, it will make their best better, even on challenging days.
Expressing gratitude should be a daily act and does not have to be complicated or costly. In fact, expressing gratitude can be quite fun and can also be a creative outlet and even incorporated into a family togetherness project. For the sake of the holidays, below are five festive ways that you and your family can express gratitude in the coming days.
- “I am thankful for…” Statements – Expressing gratitude can be as simple as sharing what you are thankful for aloud to others. Start a daily habit of having each member of your family create a “I am thankful for…” statement. Remind your family as you begin this activity that they can share their grateful statements with others throughout the day.
- Colorful Place Mats – If you are looking for a creative outlet for your family, putting crayons to paper to design colorful place mats are a wonderful way to capture their gratitude! Simply grab some construction paper, crayons, and instruct the children to write, “I am thankful for…” at the top of the paper. Then design away! Once done, you can easily laminate the artwork so spills can be wiped away during the holiday meals. These lovely gratitude place mats will become keepsakes for years to come!
- Acts of Kindness – When you and your family can, it is always great to give of your time to others. Organizations such as food pantries or homeless shelters can always use assistance. You can easily find individuals in your community that may need special assistance with getting firewood or even holiday shopping. If your time is limited, contact an organization to see what other needs they have such as food or monetary donations.
- Tree of Thanks – Another creative activity you and your children can easily put together for the dinner table and add to it throughout the holiday season is the Tree of Thanks. Simply gather a tree limb of whatever size you prefer for your table piece and provide your family with paper leaf cutouts and crayons. Each evening before dinner, have your family decorate a paper leaf with something that they are thankful for. During the dinner meal, have a family discussion on gratitude and what the leaf means to them. When the discussion is done, hang the leaf on your Tree of Thanks. At the end of the holiday season, your family will have a beautiful display to be proud of!
- Thoughtful Notes – Handwritten notes are still wonderful ways to express how much you are thankful for others. Even better are notes that are handmade by children! It takes little time, a blank sheet of paper, and a few crayons to create a thoughtful note to give to someone. Make a point this holiday season to tell someone just how much they mean to you in the form of a written note. I guarantee you the note will be cherished for years to come!
So, remember, gratitude is all about the positive attitude. It is a gift not only for the person you are sharing it with but also, it is a gift for yourself. Focusing on what you do have increases your level of happiness. Go forth, apply generosity, and be grateful this holiday season! Happy Holidays!
Berrena, E. (2016). Practice Gratitude. [Online], Available at: http://extension.psu.edu/youth/prosper/news/2016/practice-gratitude