Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on what we’re thankful for, and right up at the top is family! Raising kids to not only appreciate, but to show appreciation for their family is so important. To help my kiddos see the far-reaching beauty that comes from our little family, we created a family tree Thanksgiving craft using nature.
One of my favorite things to see as my kids get older is how close they are with their extended family! They absolutely adore grandma and grandpa, and are always asking about their aunts, uncles, and cousins. Being able to put all the names into one spot for them was so fun!
For our leaf family tree, we decided to only go as far up as our grandparents, and only the ones that are still with us. So our list is made up of our immediate family unit, their grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. It turned out to be more than enough for our project, since that added up to 24 people and filled up our whole page!
Making a family tree is the perfect craft for Thanksgiving, but this project is a great way to learn about family connections all throughout the year! I think at some point we will get a larger piece of poster board to extend our tree out even further. It really is a beautiful demonstration on how we are all intertwined.
A family tree using leaves + twigs
Using actual parts of a tree to make this craft help kids feel all the more connected to the world around them. I love the projects we do using nature because finding the materials is half the fun. It also provides so many opportunities for learning!
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Here’s a fun fact that you can share with your kiddos while making your Thanksgiving craft! Using an actual tree to symbolize lineage traces back to a painting called the Tree of Jesse. It was meant to portray the family line that led to Jesus which was referenced in Isaiah 11:1. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”
Pretty cool, right? Ok, now let’s get to making our leaf family tree Thanksgiving craft!
- Large white piece of poster board (we actually used a large piece of foam paper since it’s what we had on hand, but poster board would be preferable)
- Lots of leaves of various colors and sizes. We chose to do all the same type of leaf, but you could also mix it up!
- Thinner sticks that will be easy to break into smaller pieces
- Glue– either regular liquid glue or hot glue
How to make your leaf family tree:
1. Gather your materials outside
This is always our favorite part of our crafts. Go for a walk around the neighborhood or to a nearby park to find some leaves and fallen twigs. If you have a loose idea of how many people you’ll be putting on the family tree, make sure to grab at least that many! I suggest grabbing more than you think you’ll need because little ones working with leaves can sometimes end in leaves getting ripped up 🙂
2. Take the stems off the leaves
I used my nail to cut some of the stems off, but this is also a way for kids to work on their scissors skills! Set them up with the pile of leaves and safety scissors. Challenge them to cut as close as they can to the leaf, without actually cutting into it!
3. Write down list of names
We needed to write down our family members’ names to keep it straight and make sure no one got left out. Decide how far out into the family you want your tree to go, and put them all onto a list! Count how many names are included and pick out that amount of leaves.
4. Lay out leaves on paper and glue down
Let your kids lay our all the leaves around the paper to be glued down. If you want to write something at the top like we did, just remind them to keep a little bit of space up there. Spacing all the leaves out evenly so that they fit can be a fun challenge for them to figure out!
When it comes time to glue, hot glue or regular glue will work fine. I am impatient haha, so some of it was done with hot glue which sets very quickly. However,the liquid glue works fine as long as it gets left alone to dry for a while. It does work pretty quickly for the leaves, but will more so need time to dry for the sticks in step 5!
5. Lay out sticks and glue down
Start by glueing down a “tree trunk” at the middle bottom of the page. If you have a thicker branch or twig, that would be best here. From there, quickly measure the distance from the leaves to the base they’re going back to, and break them to size.
Getting all of the twigs to reach back to the main “trunk” of the tree would be a hassle, so we didn’t do that. For leaves that are on the outer edges or not near another twig that it could come off of, place the one end of the twigs under another leaf. This will simply give the impression that there are lawyers and keep the leaf from looking as though it’s floating, lol!
6. Label the leaves
Now the fun part! Go through and pick which leaf will be designated for which family member, and write their name down. If you want to keep family units together, that would make sense, but it doesn’t matter! Let your child put their names wherever they please.
We also wrote along the top “Thankful for Family” since this is a craft for Thanksgiving. Some other options would be to simply write your family name or a quote. A related quote that I always found to be beautiful is “Families are like branches on a tree. We go in different directions, but our roots remain as one.”
7. Bonus: Make pine grass at base of tree
This one is definitely not necessary, but we thought it added a cute little touch. We have a bunch of pine trees around us, and Lu found some fallen pine needles on our nature walk. So we decided to use them for our craft, too!
We took a small bunch of pine needles and cut the ends off. Then we simply glued them along both sides of the tree base to look like grass! I considered doing it along the whole bottom, but with ours it felt like that would be too busy.
We can’t wait to display this for our family gathering at Thanksgiving! It was touching to see the pride my daughter felt in seeing her close relatives on a beautiful tree together. I hope your family enjoys creating your own leaf family tree!