Tree of Thanksgiving

Here is our Tree of Thanksgiving we made.  As a family we wrote things we are thankful for on each leaf and hung them on the tree.  It is now sitting in the middle of our kitchen table and when we say grace we read the leaves and thank God for all of our blessings.  This is a project I loved from beginning to end.  Obviously the part I love best is giving thanks, but on a crafty note, I also really like how our tree came out.

Supplies: posterboard (for the tree), paint, cardstock (for the leaves), construction paper (to make template), ribbon or raffia, hot glue, scissors, hole punch, marker


To make the tree you first want to draw out a stencil of the basic tree design.  You want to have a bit of a dip in the center piece. (Don’t be thrown off by all the orange paper.  The stencil and the tree really are different pieces; we just have a ton of orange paper).

Use your stencil to make two copies of the tree on posterboard or foamboard, depending on what you prefer.  I used orange posterboard since that’s what we had on hand and I thought it would work well painting it brown.  You could certainly skip the painting step and just go with brown board.  Different colors will give you different looks.

You need to make a cut in the top of one and the bottom of the other.  And you will want the cuts to match up.  I just went to the halfway point on each.  It might have worked between if I cut only down 1/3 from the top on one and up 2/3 from the bottom on the other.

I then reinforced the pieces with hot glue so the cuts weren’t quite as important.  You just need the pieces to fit together evenly so that it will stand up.

Cut additional branches as necessary.  I added four branches, one for each middle space.

Then hot glue the additional branches in.

Paint the tree.  You just need to be careful because if it gets too wet the whole thing can fall apart.  We just painted it lightly and quickly.  Just know that as you paint the branch pieces might start to curl.  I just made sure to quickly paint the other side.  Then I used a hair dryer to help it dry a little before propping it up.  You could certainly skip the painting step.  However, I kind of liked how it made the branches curl up and change shape a little.  It also kept all the branches from all being lined up straight.

For the leaves I used my cricut to cut them out of cardstock.  You could also just as easily draw your own or search a stencil online.  And then I used raffia for the ribbon hangers.

Then we just hung the leaves on the tree, reading each as we went along.  Like I said before we keep it in the middle of the table and refer to it when we say grace.

Thanksgiving File Folder Games

With Thanksgiving around the corner, here are some festive file folder games we made for the girls.  Both Thanksgiving games focus on math skills.  And I’m grateful once again to my husband, Ed, for making all the clipart for me.

Thanksgiving Pattern Making

Like the name says, this game is about making patterns.  Little ones just learning about patterns, can simply match the pictures onto the pattern strips, while others can continue the pattern with the picture cards on the blank strips.

Download Thanksgiving Patterns File Folder Game

To make the file folder, you want to cut out the grid of pictures to make the card pieces.  I recommend laminating them to help them last longer.  Then glue the pattern strips down on the file folder.

I wanted to have the blank pattern strips too so that the girls could see where to continue the pattern and how many to lay out.  I attached them to the side of the folder using tape so that they could fold in to pack up the game and extend to layout the pattern.

I also added an extra blank one so that the girls could make their own pattern as well.

Turkey Number Game

In this game the girls add the feathers to the turkey body while practicing counting and number recognition.  I used the colorless feathers to act as a guide for where to add the feathers and so that the girls could match the numbers.  And be sure when gluing down the turkey body you only glue in the center so that the wing pieces can slide under the body.

Download Turkey File Folder Game

Once all the feathers are laid out, we practice some simple arithmetic, such as taking away three feathers and seeing how many are left then adding two back to see what it equals.

In addition to black and white wings, we also included a colorless turkey in case you want to have the little ones color their own set.  Instead of a file folder game you can turn this into a craft, coloring the pieces, cutting them out, and gluing them together.

Another option is to use the pieces to make a felt board story.  We sometimes sing a turkey version of 10 Little Indians:

One bright, two bright, three bright feathers,
Four bright, five bright, six bright feathers
Seven bright, eight bright, nine bright feathers,
Ten bright feathers on the turkey


Bad Bug Bite Blues

This has been a very buggy summer.  If you haven’t noticed then you probably haven’t been outside.  We have horrible mosquitoes here right now but it appears that many places are suffering from increased mosquitoes.  So, I thought I would share this super tip we got from a lady in CVS regarding mosquito bites.

That’s right, this tip comes from some random lady who saw us looking for something to relieve the girls’ bug bites while we were back East and she stopped us to share her experiences and recommendations.  She told us to have the girls soak in a bath in epsom salts.  And guess what?  It totally works!  When the girls get bad bug bites, we give them a bath and dump a bunch of epsom salt into the water.  Afterwards the swelling goes down and they itch less (I know because I do it too).

If you aren’t familiar with epsom salts, you can pick them up at any drug store.  They are cheap and tend to be in a cardboard box like a milk container.  They are completely safe, even if they get in your mouth (in fact, some people use epsom salt as a laxative).

Hopefully this brings you some relief!  And thank you to the random lady in CVS!



Beach Baby Tip

While looking through our summer pictures, I was reminded of this tip from my sister that has worked great for us.  And while summer is drawing to a close, it’s still beach weather or maybe for next year…  Anyway, my sister’s suggestion for when we go to the beach is to bring a baby pool!

Zoe enjoying the pool at the beach in 2010

We spend a week in the Outer Banks every year and this has worked great for us as well as for our nephews.  When they were tiny it was a great way for them to play in the water without being overwhelmed by waves, especially on rough water days.  Now that they play out in the ocean with us, they still love sitting in the pool to cool off or using the water to build in the sand.  Even my 9-year-old nephew appreciated being able to easily build sand castles with the water.

Mia in the pool in 2012

We just bring a little blow up pool with our stuff.  It’s easy to stuff it in with all of our other stuff and pretty quick to set up.  As soon as we get out to the beach we blow it up and then fill it with a few bucketfuls of water.



Sunshine On My Shoulders

If there is one thing we have a lot of here in Arizona, it’s sunshine so it only made sense to do some sun activities.  And ever since we read Fancy Nancy: Stellar Stargazer the girls have been obsessed with their favorite sun fact: “The sun is a star!”  We did two different art projects, a felt board story, and made sun prints.  We sang “You are My Sunshine” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and of course I played John Denver’s “Sunshine on My Shoulders” for the girls.  My biggest goal was for Mia and Zoe to start to understand why we need to wear sunscreen as we kick off our summertime fun.

Skills: science, art, life skills, letter recognition, music

Puffy Paint Suns

We used homemade puffy paint out of shaving cream to make these.  Thank you so much to Kendra for turning us onto this!  I mixed equal parts shaving cream and glue and then added in the paint.  Since the other things are white, I added in some orange to darken up the yellow paint.

We’ve done this before and I found it was easier to cut out the design ahead of time from posterboard (or another hard paper or cardboard).  Then I laid it over paper for the girls to go to town painting.  It took them a little bit to get used to the feel this time but they really loved moving the paint around.  Just be sure you can wash up immediately after this activity.  🙂

Paper Plate Suns

While our puffy paint suns were fun to make, they didn’t really look like suns when we were finished so I decided to have us also make these paper plate ones.  They were super easy to put together but Zoe and Mia seemed to enjoy them.  We painted paper plates with yellow, orange, gold, and silver sparkle paint.  Then the girls glued on the yellow and orange rays that I had cut out ahead of time.

Sun Prints

The sun prints were really cool (I think Ed and I were just as excited as the girls) and they really showed just how powerful the sun can be.  We ordered ours from Amazon; we just got a small package but there are all kinds.  There wasn’t too much prep except to get a bowl of water ready and then to find what we wanted to put on our sheets.

Sunny Letters

We also practiced our letter recognition with these sunny letters from Sparkle Box.  We used the letters as a file folder game matching the lowercase letters on cards to the uppercase letters glued to the file folder.  And then we also practiced finding letters.

Uppercase Sun Alphabet
Lowercase Sun Alphabet

Felt Board Story

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a felt board story and the girls seemed excited to have it back.  We did the Sad Little Sunbeam from Sun Safe Central.  All the pieces are included so I just printed them on cardstock, laminated them (so we can use them next summer), and glued sandpaper to the back so they’ll stick.  The story is long but it seems to get the point across about how the sun can hurt us and how to stay safe.  I wondered how much the girls got out of it but later I caught both girls re-enacting the story on the felt board.  And since they’ve talked about needing sun safe clothes and sunglasses.  🙂

%d bloggers like this: