I have been in the Thanksgiving spirit for a while now, even though we still have a ways to go until Turkey Day. I am particularly thankful for all of you, and the support you have given me and my book. I really and truly thank you -- you don't know how much each and every one of your kind words have meant to me.
And, as always, I am constantly and evermore thankful for my family, which is the inspiration for this particular project. We invented this crafty family tree a few Thanksgivings ago, and have been re-creating it in slightly new and different ways every year since. It all began when my son started asking some of those "who's who" family questions where you find yourself explaining all the relative relationships: Mommy's sisters are your aunts... Daddy's brother is your uncle... Our parents are your Grandparents. I drew a family tree to illustrate the concept, but it somehow fell flat. So we whipped up this 3-D family tree, in between pie-baking and potato-peeling. Conveniently, all the ingredients for this craft can be found at the grocery store. So it makes the perfect accompaniment to the Thanksgiving festivities, not to mention the perfect reminder of why we all gather together.
a leaf from nature
natural-colored coffee filters
red, yellow, and green liquid food coloring
newspaper for covering your work surface
dark-colored marker or alphabet stampers
First, trace around a leaf with a pencil. Kids can place their leaves right on top of a coffee filter, carefully stabilizing the leaf with one hand while tracing its shape with the other.
Make liquid water color paints by squeezing many drops of food coloring into a cup, and then adding a small amount of water (the more intense you want your colors, the more food coloring you'll add.) Make sure your work surface is covered thoroughly with newspaper -- food coloring can definitely stain.
My favorite part of this activity is painting the coffee filter leaves. The filter paper absorbs and diffuses the watery paint in such a wonderful way. The colors blend and bleed into each other as you dab at the leaf with your paintbrush, creating that dappled look of real autumn leaves. And when the painted coffee filter leaves dry, they get the crispy feel of dried leaves, but without all the crumble. This part is a hit with kids (and grown-ups) of all ages.
When all of the leaves dry, kids can start writing family member's names on each leaf. The first year we did this project, Jack was a pre-writer, so we used alphabet stamps for the names, which worked beautifully.
Last, but certainly not least, we glue a clothespin to the back of each leaf. This simple addition makes this project what I call a "craftivity," a craft that turns into a forever activity. The clothespins make the whole family tree endlessly interactive. I put all the clothespin leaves in a basket next to a big branch that we "planted" in a flower pot (using scrunched up paper bags to stabilize it). The kids clip, unclip, arrange, and rearrange the leaves over and over again, learning more and more about their family as they play. And getting a fine motor workout all-the-while. I just love it.
A variation of this project is in my book, along with 50+ other activities that can be adapted to all different skill levels. I have to say, this is one of my personal favorites. Please let me know if you try it, and if creating it and playing with it becomes a Thanksgiving ritual in your house, as it has in ours.
Oh, and so many THANKS, again.