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The Giving Tree Family ThanksGIVING Unit with Free Printables

Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to combine studies of trees, families, and service or giving. 

Whether you're here for tree activities, ideas on how to teach about your family tree, or to inspire the love of service into your children, you're in the right place!

So what is The Giving Tree Family ThanksGIVING?

Let's discuss that first before we go into some fabulous activities!

How The Giving Tree ThanksGIVING Came to Be

Each year growing up, my family would all sit around my grandmother's table for Thanksgiving, It was covered with a beautiful table cloth, and her fancy china.  My grandfather would carve the turkey.  

Mashed potatoes would be kept warm on the stove next to the sweet potatoes.  There would be corn and sometimes beans or carrots.  Oh, and I can't forget the stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy.  

In the evening, cousins and other relations would gather at our house for turkey sandwiches and desserts.  Part of the dessert table would always include an ice cream sundae bar.  

We'd play board games and laugh the night away.

When first married, I lived far away from my family.  Attending those family functions wasn't possible.  I made my own Thanksgiving dinner for Jason and I. We always found someone to invite to come over and join us.  Then our kiddos came along.

Thanksgiving is the HARDEST holiday ever, when accommodating special needs.  If autism and RAD didn't make things difficult enough, the food allergies make the holiday a nightmare.  After all, the entire holiday is about food!

I started agonizing about Thanksgiving months ago, dreading the whole thing.  At first I thought the best thing to do would be to go on a vacation.  The only problem was, Jason works the holiday, so it's not really possible.  I started asking friends and readers for ideas.  This is when I learned about The Giving Tree ThanksGIVING from a friend.

The Giving Tree ThanksGIVING is a tradition she has in her home with her own children.  Instead of focusing on the Pilgrims and Native Americans or a big feast, her family spends the day GIVING.  

She plans family service projects that everyone can participate in.  Service ends with planting a new tree.  

They put their Christmas tree up at night, and then gather around the tree and read the book, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.

When I heard about this tradition I instantly fell in love with it and asked for more details.  After all what better way to show thanks than to give to others.  I LOVED the idea of reading such a fabulous book as part of the day too.

This year will be the first Eddy Family Giving Tree ThanksGIVING.  Since the kiddos are still little, our service won't take all day, but I figure spending the morning in service will be a great start. 

Everyone is super excited about planting a tree in the backyard too.  We will still have Thanksgiving Dinner, as the kiddos are actually excited about it this year, but it won't be too elaborate.  

Then after dinner, instead of putting up our Christmas tree (It's already been up for two and a half weeks now.), we'll be putting together our Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Countdown Tree.  

I think it's quite fitting for the day.  Finally we'll end with one last reading of The Giving Tree.

Since our theme for the month is "I'm Thankful For Family," I'm trying to focus on service related to our family.  

This week's learning time activities are a combination of those related to our family and trees.  I thought this would be a great kick off to our first Giving Tree ThanksGIVING!  I hope you enjoy!

Now moving on to activities!

The Giving Tree Family ThanksGIVING Unit with Free Printables

Family Name Spelling

Family Name Spelling

The kiddos will practice spelling the names of everyone in our immediate family.  They will also practice spelling father, mother, sister, brother, and family.

Family Word Noun & Verb Sort

Family Word Noun & Verb Sort

Kiddos will sort family related words into the categories of nouns and verbs.  I just love my new Montessori Grammar Symbols!

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Family Unit Printable Pack. For your free copy, follow click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Family Member Vocabulary

Family Member Vocabulary

In this activity the kiddos will match up family member titles to definitions.  Once they've done this they can sort family members and place them under the proper titles and definitions.  

This activity seemed a little challenging for the kiddos at first, so I'm guessing we'll be doing it together at least one more day, before they venture to do it on their own.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Family Unit Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Sequencing Family Pictures

We've done this activity in the past. The kiddos LOVED it.  If it's possible, the kiddos enjoyed it even more today, a second time around.  

In this activity, I've included a picture of each kiddo for every year of their little lives.  Their job is to put the pictures in order from youngest to oldest and then place the correct labels below each picture.  

If they're feeling up to a real challenge they can sort all of the pictures, not just their own.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Family Unit Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Who Is In My Family? Graphing Activity

Who Is In My Family? Graphing Activity

The kiddos will put together a graph of all of the individuals in our family, putting them into groups of babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, adults, and grandparents.  

One can graph their real family, or use dice to create imaginary families.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Family Unit Printable Pack.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Sorting People By Family Activity

Sorting People By Family Activity for Kids

The kiddos will sort individual extended family members by family, so they learn which cousins belong to which aunts and uncles etc.  We've done this in the past and it was a favorite activity.

Our Family Tree

Our Family Tree Activity for Kids

We've done this activity in the past also, but it's always great to review.  

The kiddos will build their family tree using the pictures provided.  

I created this tree using family members who are living. Sadly, Jason lost his Grammy over the last year, hence the missing photo.  

The kiddos are so blessed to have so many great grandparents still living, and so many sets of grandparents that love them.

Parts of a Tree

Parts of a Tree Activity for Kids

The kiddos will color and then label the parts of a tree in their own little books.  All of them have thoroughly enjoyed this activity. Even Bulldozer has done it!

Source:  The printable for this activity can be found at Trillium Montessori.

Parts of a Leaf

Parts of a Leaf Activity for Kids

The kiddos will create their own books, coloring and labeling parts of a leaf.  Just like the tree book, this has been a big hit on our shelves this week.

Source:  The printable for this activity can be found at Trillium Montessori.

Tree Match Up

Tree Match Up

Last year, the kiddos did each of these match ups, but at different times. This year we're doing them as a combined activity.  The kiddos sort and match the different types of trees in the pictures.

Source:  I created the printables for this activity. The Deciduous Tree Match Up and Conifer Tree Match Up are free. For your free copies, click on the links at the bottom of this post.

Q-Tip Tree Painting Activity

Q-Tip Tree Leaf Painting Activity

Before doing this activity, we reviewed what a tree looks like during the different seasons.  The kiddos will use Q-Tips to create a tree for each season.  

They've really enjoyed this activity and are choosing different kinds of trees, which has been really fun.

Source:  I found this activity at Mess For Less.  The free tree printable I used for the activity can be found at DLTK Growing Together.

A Family Portrait Drawing Activity

A Family Portrait Drawing Activity

One of the kiddos' favorite things to do lately has been to draw pictures of their family.  

I thought it might be fun to include a photo of us for them to use as a visual, and see just how detailed their drawings can get.

Button Leaf Tree

Button Leaf Tree

I just love this activity. The kiddos do too. The glass bowl is filled with leaf buttons that the kiddos string on to the pipe cleaner tree branches.  The tree looks beautiful once all the leaves are on.

Tweezing Leaves

Tweezing Leaves

The kiddos will practice their fine motor skills by tweezing these tiny foam leaves, transferring them from one bowl to the other.

Hanging Family Photos

Hanging Family Photos Activity for Kids

What's not to like about a clothes line filled with family photos from the present and past?  

I've laminated the photos, so they're thicker and stiffer, making them hang more easily.  The results are beautiful and such a fun decoration!

The Giving Tree Invitation to Play

The Giving Tree Thanksgiving Invitation to Play

I couldn't resist including an invitation to play on our shelves this week.  

Besides enjoying it during learning time, it will be a great activity to occupy the kiddos, while I'm trying to fix Thanksgiving Dinner on the big day.

For those who would like more Montessori holiday activities and printables, be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter by clicking the link below.

Don't forget your free printables!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.

Simple, Kid-Friendly Random Acts of Christmas Kindness A Year's Worth of Monthly Service Projects for Families 12 Months of Family Service Projects Montessori-inspired Family Printable Pack Montessori-inspired Thanksgiving Printable Pack Montessori-inspired Native American History Printable Pack Montessori-inspired Explorers and Colonists Printable PackThe First Thanksgiving: Pilgrims Thanksgiving Activities for Tots The First Thanksgiving: Native Americans


  1. What a wonderful unit! I love all the ThanksGIVING ideas too. Such a great way to emphasize the beautiful part of the holiday (and to hopefully not stress too much about food issues). Hope your family enjoys a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  2. So many great lessons here! Thank you so much for stopping by the Learn & Play link up! Your post is featured this week on Christian Montessori Network.

  3. The family tree and sequencing family pictures are my favorite activities! I know Little Bee would love the sequencing pictures. Great idea!

  4. This is awesome!!! So many great ideas.

  5. Love this! We just had a Tree Unit for Vito but still too young for these, but will definitely be coming back next year for toddler ideas. Thank you!