Image by Ann McArthur via Pinterest 

This Christmas craft (and lesson!) asks children to remember everything they got for Christmas in previous years, an exercise that is telling: While opening presents is really fun, the gifts fade into shadows of memories. But the experience of celebrating Christ lasts a lifetime. Children will make a gratitude tree along with you, which is a way of celebrating Christ by being grateful for what he has already given us.  It starts the Holidays off well before kids get fixated on getting more!

“Christmases Past” Gratitude Tree  – Christmas Craft & Lesson


– Construction paper in as many different colored sheets as possible
– Scissors
– White card stock, one sheet for each child
– Stick glue or craft glue, several containers to make sharing easy
– Dark markers or pens, one for each child
– 22 sandwich bags


Cutting the construction paper sheets into the strips that make up the tree:

The bottom strips will be seven inches wide. The top strips will be two inches wide.

Create the strips, stand, and star as follows:

1. Mix up the colors of construction paper to make the strips, so that if you are repeating a color, one strip does not immediately follow the same color.

2. Cut the strips all the way across the width of the paper, being most concerned that the lines are straight. Don’t be too concerned about the width of the strips. Some can be wider than others; none should be wider than a half-inch, and none should be so narrow that kids can’t write on them in marker. Keep the strips of different colors in separate piles.

3. To start getting the width right, cut 1.5 inches off of one color of strip. Cut one strip for each child and one for your sample. That will be your longest strip. Place those in a sandwich bagged marked “1”.

4. Repeat this with the next color, cutting enough strips for each child to have one, plus one for the sample, only cutting them about a quarter-inch shorter. Bag those strips marked “2.”

5. Keep going cutting slightly shorter until you have 20 bags, and the shortest strips are about two inches.

6. Finally, cut black squares to make the tree stand and yellow stars for the top, one for each child. Bag them in the remaining two bags.

Before the activity begins, remove one strip from each bag to create the sample in front of your children. For now, lay the strips in order in a pile – the longest on the bottom and the shortest on the top, along with the stand/stump and the star.

Before you begin to teach, pass out one card stock sheet to each child. Place the bags, glue and markers on the table beside you with the bags in order by numbers.


Tell me what presents you got for Christmas ____ year(s) ago.

You’re going to pose the question below based on their ages. If your children are four or five years old, ask them ONE year ago;
If your children are six or seven years old, ask them TWO years ago;
If your children are older than seven, ask them THREE years ago.

See how many can answer.

Was that all you got? Try to remember everything you got that Christmas.  Let them try. They should not be able to name everything; only a few things.

What was in your Christmas stocking?  Encourage them to remember everything. They should not be able to remember.

Think of your big presents from that year that were not electronic. Where are they now? Some will still have them but not know where they are; some will have passed them down to younger siblings; some will not know where they are, whether they had been thrown out or taken to Goodwill, etc.

If those big presents were not electronic, such as an Xbox, when was the last time you played with them? A bike or a musical instrument may be among the exceptions, but most kids don’t use them if they have them.

If you still use any of that stuff, how do you feel when you are touching it? Do you still feel that excitement that you felt when you saw it on Christmas morning? No, it’s same-old, same-old.

Christmas morning is an exciting time for most of us. It does feel great to tear off wrapping paper and see something you’ve been wanting. It allows us to add to our collection of stuff. And owning something we didn’t previously own is an exciting feeling, right? Yes.

But what happens with that gift over time? We stop being so excited. We get tired of it. We outgrow it. It becomes just another possession. It breaks or gets dirty. We forget about it. Mom throws it out.

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal”¦or where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  

Rather, he says, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” And on Christmas, God sent us a treasure from heaven.

You are going to read excerpts from the poem, “One Solitary Life.” As you read each line, have your assistant begin to build the Christmas tree on the table in front of the children, starting with the stump/stand at the bottom and ending with the star. Each line below is numbered, 1 to 22. Read slowly so your assistant might be able to add the piece that corresponds, but do not try too hard to stay together. It will distract from the reading. The reader will probably finish first, which is fine. At the end, the tree will only need to be glued down.

1. He was born in an obscure village
2. The child of a peasant woman
3. He grew up in another obscure village
4. Where he worked in a carpenter shop “¦
5. He never wrote a book
6. He never held an office
7. He never went to college 8. He never visited a big city
9. He never traveled more than two hundred miles From the place where he was born
10.He did none of the things
11.Usually associated with greatness
12.He had no credentials but himself …
13.While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
14.The only property he had on earth”¦
15.When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave.
16.Nineteen centuries have come and gone …
17.All the armies that have ever marched
18.All the navies that have ever sailed
19.All the parliaments that have ever sat
20.All the kings that ever reigned put together …
21.Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
22.As powerfully as that one solitary life

We find things under the Christmas tree that excite us for a while – a few weeks, maybe a few months. Some we are still using; most go into the discard pile. But we have a Savior who gives us eternity with him. He gives us peace, joy, comfort, protection, security, all the things we can’t unwrap. But they will never break, and we will never get tired of them.

Allow children to observe the tree that your assistant just made.

Instead of thinking about what we might get on Christmas, let’s think today about being grateful for all the things the Lord Jesus has already given to us. This will be a Gratitude Tree that we will decorate with all the things we can think of that we are thankful for, starting with our salvation.

Let’s pretend it’s our Christmas card to the Lord Jesus! That would make him very happy!

Pass out the bottom strip. Have everyone write SALVATION on it.

Pass out the stump and have children glue down their stump and their bottom strip. Note: The strips will tear if children try to run stick glue all the way across.  The best way is just to glue the ends and press them down smoothly.

As you pass out each strip, have children think of something else they are thankful for and write it on the strip. They should write some in the center of the strip and some to either side, so that all the writing is not up the middle.

Here are some gratitude prompts if they run out of ideas:

– What is your favorite class in school?
– What are your favorite clothing items?
– What toys do you enjoy playing with?
– What room do you like most in your house?
– What specific thing do you like about that room?
– Who is your best friend?
– Who is your favorite teacher? Relative? Neighbor?
– Do you have a pet?
– What’s your favorite book? Movie? Video game? TV show?
– What do you like about your features?
– What has Jesus given you (peace, love, joy, patience, commitment)

At the end, write GRATITUDE TREE at the top.


You might also be interested in these other wonderful Christmas craft & activity ideas!

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