How to Plan a Gratitude Tree Activity: Step-By-Step


The world can feel like a scary and overwhelming place sometimes. It’s easy to get bogged down in negativity, whether that manifests in the form of financial anxiety, family drama, health problems, or job stress. 

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For every bad thing the world throws at you, there are also so many positive things for us to appreciate. Sometimes, it can just be hard to see them unless we’re paying attention. Doing a gratitude-oriented craft project (for example, a gratitude jar) can be a great way to remind yourself to focus on all the good things you have in your life. Here, we’ll break down the materials and steps necessary to create a gratitude tree project. 

What Materials Will You Need to Set Up a Gratitude Tree Activity?

So what is a gratitude tree, exactly? It’s a piece of visual art made to look like branches or a tree. People can write things to be grateful for on leaves and affix them to the branches.

As with any art project, there’s lots of room to add your personal creative touches. There are multiple ways to construct a gratitude tree. Today, we’ll explore two different methods for creating gratitude trees: a simple version and a more complex one. First, let’s look at the materials you’ll need for both iterations.

Materials for simple gratitude tree

  • Printable Gratitude Tree template
  • Construction paper, cardstock, or other decorative stationery
  • Pencil
  • Markers
  • Scissors (or safety scissors if working with children)
  • Glue

Materials for advanced gratitude tree

  • Construction paper, cardstock, or other decorative stationery
  • Pencil
  • Markers
  • Scissors (can have decorative edges if you want to elevate your finished product)
  • Vase or decorative vessel
  • Bundle of branches
  • Colorful moss or other filler (optional)
  • String or yarn
  • Hole punch
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Steps for Setting Up a Gratitude Tree Activity: Simple Version

Our first gratitude tree activity is simple, fun, and family-friendly. Something like this is a great activity to entertain kids after school or on the weekends. Kids of all ages can participate in this with only minimal parental supervision. A gratitude tree is also a great activity to do on a holiday like Thanksgiving, which is oriented around gratitude and family togetherness. 

1. Set up a crafting area

Whenever you tackle an arts and crafts project, it’s important to set yourself up for success. Choosing a proper workspace is critical. Ensure you have enough chairs for everyone who wants to participate in the project. A kitchen or dining room table usually has ample seating while providing room to spread out.

2. Source gratitude tree template

Once you’ve selected your ideal workspace, you can gather all your supplies. Start by searching online for free printable gratitude tree templates. They tend to resemble bare trees with naked branches on a piece of paper. You can print out fully colored pages or select black and white ones that can be colored in. 

The number of templates you need will depend on your personal preferences. If your end goal is to wind up with one completed gratitude tree that multiple people contribute to, you don’t need multiple copies. However, if you want kids and other participants to take a keepsake home, you can print out separate templates for each guest.

3. Select paper for your leaves

Besides the template, the most important component of a gratitude tree is the leaves. Look for sturdy and colorful paper that will make a striking visual impact. If you’re going for simple but bold colors, get a pack of multicolored construction paper.

You can choose colors that complement the season. For example, a Thanksgiving gratitude tree might feature red, orange, and yellow leaves, while an Easter gratitude tree might feature pretty pastel pink and purple leaves.

If you’re feeling extra creative, you can also make your leaves out of decorative cardstock paper. You can get the paper in various patterns and colors, which creates a unique and custom effect. 

If you’re working with really young kids, you may prefer cutting out the leaves ahead of time. That will help streamline the assembly process. If you’d like the kids to work on their scissor skills, you can trace light pencil outlines on the paper and have them cut out their leaves. Just be sure to provide age-appropriate safety scissors.

4. Assemble remaining materials

Once you’ve settled on your template, you can round up the rest of your crafting supplies and set up your workstation. This project utilizes everyday supplies that most people already have on hand, including markers, a pencil, and glue.

Multiple types of glue will work well in this project. However, if you’re working with young kids, you may want to opt for glue sticks to minimize the mess. You also have a lot of latitude when choosing markers, but a classic black Sharpie will probably be the clearest and most striking selection. 

5. Have participants write on the leaves

Once your template is prepared and your leaves are cut, let people select what leaves they’d like to write on. They can use the provided markers to write down what they’re most grateful for. Younger kids with penmanship issues may need some assistance from an adult.

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6. Glue leaves to gratitude tree

As people finish their leaves, they can begin gluing them to the template. If people contribute a single leaf to a larger group project, you may want to coordinate the placement before they’re permanently affixed. If people make their own trees to keep, they can fill out multiple leaves and assemble them individually.

Steps for Setting Up a Gratitude Tree Activity: Advanced Version

Now that we’ve mapped out a more basic gratitude tree activity, we can take it to the next level. This more complex gratitude tree has a three-dimensional element that turns it into quite the statement piece. Once it’s finished, it can also serve as a festive centerpiece on a holiday dinner table. 

1. Gather your materials

This more complex variation on a gratitude tree uses many of the same supplies as the more straightforward iteration, which includes markers, a pencil, colorful paper for leaves, and scissors. 

You’ll also need to gather some other supplies for this project. You can visit a craft store to buy faux decorative branches or just go outside and collect sticks and twigs. Next, select a vessel like a vase or decorative pitcher to display your branches. Finally, you’ll need a hole punch and some yarn or string.

2. Arrange sticks and branches

Once you’ve gathered your supplies, it’s time to build the foundation of your centerpiece. Gather your sticks and branches, and arrange them in your chosen vase or vessel. You may want to loosely bundle the sticks at the base with some twine or yarn to keep them in some semblance of order. You can also add colorful moss or some other decorative filling material into the vase to help reinforce and stabilize the branches.

3. Create leaves

Because this gratitude tree is three-dimensional, you can get a little more creative with the leaves. Cut them in larger shapes and sizes, and play with decorative edge scissors to add texture.

Once you’ve cut out your leaves, you can finish preparing them for the gratitude tree. Punch a hole into the top of the leaf, then loop a short length of string or yarn through it. These leaves will ultimately get suspended from the branches.

4. Set up a work station for assembly

Once you have all of your elements prepared, you can set up a little table for the people who will contribute to the gratitude tree. As guests arrive, direct them to the table where they can use the provided markers to write messages of gratitude on the leaf ornaments.

Instruct them to hang the leaves from the branches as they complete their contribution. Once everyone has added their gratitude leaf, you can place the finished tree in the center of the dinner table for everyone to admire and enjoy. 

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Tips for Planning a Virtual Gratitude Tree Activity

Creating a gratitude tree is an excellent activity for bringing family and friends together. A virtual gratitude tree enables you to engage in a fun activity with friends and family members from across the world. Even if your loved ones are far away, they can still participate. Follow these tips to plan the perfect virtual gratitude tree activity.

Create (or source) a digital gratitude tree template

Earlier, we talked about printing out templates for a simple gratitude tree activity. There are also online templates that allow you to set up a virtual gratitude tree. Once you’ve chosen your template, you can choose to share it via a format like Google Slides or something similar. Invite your loved ones to contribute to the final product!

Embrace technology

If you’re a little more tech-savvy, you may opt to create your own virtual gratitude tree from scratch. Look for apps like Padlet that have built-in message board functionality as well as flexible customization options. Look for online tutorials to help inspire your design.

When in doubt, simplify

There’s something sweet about the thought of family members from around the world working together to create a unique gratitude tree.

If you’re coordinating a virtual gratitude tree with technophobic loved ones, you may find yourself pulling out your hair as you try to walk them through the process of contributing. Unfortunately, you’ll inevitably run into at least two or three family members that are technologically challenged.

Even if your family is full of luddites, you can still include your loved ones in a virtual gratitude tree activity. If your grandparents are still using a dial-up modem, you can reach out and ask them what they’re grateful for and include their contributions in the finished project.

You can still grant access to any shared templates to more tech-savvy family members if you so choose. Just save them—and yourself—from the headaches of navigating the internet.

A Fun Family Project To Be Thankful For

When life is getting you down, it’s good to remind yourself about all the things in your life that bring you happiness. Creating a gratitude tree can help you spot small, joyful things that you might otherwise overlook, and you’ll even end up with a neat souvenir. If you find this exercise uplifting, you can also start keeping a gratitude journal to help you be more mindful about thankfulness on a daily basis. 


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