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Traditions That Encourage Gratitude + Two Adorable Leaf Projects!

Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

As the days grow shorter and colder, the fall season extends an invitation to go inward and slow down. At our house, we begin making our favorite cold weather dinners and talk about what we want to bake during the holidays. We sit by the fire at night. We are spending a lot more time in our small space -- which has it's challenges. So, this seasonal closeness got me thinking about ways to create more harmony!

Sibling Gratitude Exchange

Studies conducted by psychology experts show what we all feel and know intuitively: that gratitude and generosity work in tandem to reward both the giver and receiver. So I asked the kids to make lists of what they love about each other and themselves to put that gratitude and generosity connection into practice! They both had big smiles listening to each other's lists and then had a long hug before they began to write about themselves. This exercise was especially helpful for my daughter, who tends to be a perfectionist. Her brother's sweet list of things about her helped her think of sweet things about herself too. This is a great activity for any personality type, though!

Gratitude Tree

Our gratitude tree and pressed leaf doodle projects on display.

During the month of November, we write down one or a few things we feel grateful for every day and display it on our gratitude tree. This could also be a tradition for Thanksgiving day (I have a bunch more on-the-day ideas here). I bought this felt wall hanging, but a gratitude tree could also be made with paper or drawn with window crayons on a large window or sliding glass door. We keep the cards and add to them every year. It's fun to read what they cared about in previous years. And I like to give them the challenge of thinking of many things, so little things make the list too. For instance, someone was thankful for spaghetti last year!

Leaf Doodle Project

There's something super zen about doodling on pressed fall leaves. We like to make garlands, hang them individually with washi tape and make mobiles (as pictured above). This year we also used them on our "gratitude" banner (below).


Pressed fall foliage


Collect fall foliage and press between pages of a thick book (phone books are good). Place some weight on top of the book to ensure the leaves are pressed flat. I usually leave them for at least a few days.

Tape the stem of your pressed leaves to a piece of scrap paper and begin your design. Chalk markers and metallic sharpies look striking. Oil pastels work too. Encourage your child to study the lines and shapes inside the leaves. There are endless possibilities. It's one of those projects that somehow all ideas look great.

For the mobile, all you need is a stick and some twine. I also added a few found objects using jewelry wire.

Thanksgiving Flag Banner with Pressed Leaves


Pages from old book

Pressed leaves

Elmer's glue


Decide what you want your banner to say, such as "Give Thanks," "Thankful," "Blessings," or "Thanksgiving." Count out your letters and also extra flags for each end of the banner. I cut out one flag and used it to trace all of the others.

Paint one side of a leaf with Elmer's glue and place it on your flag. Roll flat with roller. Once you're finished glueing on the leaves, layout your flags in order. I find it's easiest to do this on the floor.

Write your letters in glue and glitter, use a stencil and paint or markers -- whatever you have on-hand.

Next, I hung the hooks for the banner on my wall. To make sure it hung the way I wanted, I tied a loop in one end of the twine and attached it to one of the hooks. I walked the twine over to the other hook and cut it the length I wanted (instead of measuring, which eludes me at times!).

I tied a loop in the other end.

Then, I taped the twine to the floor in a straight line to begin assembling the flags. We attached our flags with washi tape. You could also fold the flag over the twine and staple it or attach with those teeny clothespins from the craft store.

We hope these ideas and projects bring more fun and meaning to your house too! Happy Thanksgiving!



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