Make an Easy, Festive — and Affordable — Thanksgiving Garland

Here is a homemade Thanksgiving garland activity you can make with the little ones in your life to celebrate the season. Bonus! It’s also a great way to practice a little bit of mindfulness.

At-Home Learning is an early childhood education resource (for ages 2-8) providing families, educators and community partners with at-home learning activities, guides, and expert advice.

Gratitude is the essence of Thanksgiving. It’s a special time to share with loved ones and to recognize all there is to be thankful for and what better way to start celebrating than with a little no-fuss family decorating?

Here is a stunning, homemade Thanksgiving garland activity you can make with the little ones in your life to celebrate the season. Bonus! It’s also a great way to tune out for a moment and practice a little bit of mindfulness.

A garland made of fall leaves hangs on top of a fireplace.
This garland is the perfect finishing touch for a mantle, table, fireplace or anywhere you like! | Meg Raby

Learning Goal

This activity will help your child:

  • Practice mindfulness through means of gratitude
  • Develop and enhance executive functioning skills: planning and preparing, problem solving and working memory
  • Practice fine motor skills

Materials Needed

Scissors, green string and leaves are laid out on a table.
All you need for this garland are scissors, leaves and string. | Meg Raby
  • A container or bag to collect leaves
  • 40+ leaves from outside (If there is no fall foliage where you live, artificial leaves from the craft store work just as well.)
  • Roll of string or yarn
  • Scissors

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Plan and prep: gather string, scissors and a container to collect your leaves. Place string and scissors on a table or on the floor, clear of any clutter.

2. Gather around 40 leaves from outside or use artificial leaves from a local craft store. Ask your child to count the leaves as they collect them for added fun and a little bit of a challenge.

A small blonde girl sits on the floor gathering leaves
Ellie, the author’s daughter, gathers leaves for her garland and counts them out. | Meg Raby

3. Take 6-8 leaves and ask your child to name 6-8 things they are thankful for. If they have trouble coming up with what they are thankful for, model ideas for them.

A hand holds a small bouquet of fall leaves.
Pick your favorite fall foliage to go on your garland. | Meg Raby

4. Gather the 6-8 leaves and hold them in a bundle by their stems. Wrap a piece of the string (around 6 inches in length) around the base of the stems to hold them together and tie it securely. Repeat with as many bundles of leaves as you want on your garland or until you have at least 6 or 7 “leaf flowers” attached to the string. Note: parents and caregivers will need to help tie the knots.

5. Cut a longer piece of string (make it as long as you want your garland to be) and tie your leaf bundles on it at regular intervals.

Close up shot of a garland made of fall leaves as it hangs off a mantle.
You can hang your finished garland anywhere you like. | Meg Raby

6.  Hang your garland on a mantle or place on your Thanksgiving table as a centerpiece.

The fall leaves garland adorns a table.
The fall leaves garland adorns a table. | Meg Raby

Meg Raby smiles at the camera as she holds a mug that reads "not fragile like a flower, fragile like a bomb."Meg Raby is a speech language pathologist, children’s book author and reviewer of children’s books published by many well-known publishing houses including Chronicle Books, HarperCollins and Gibbs Smith. She runs two Instagram accounts, @bedtime.stories.forevermore, where she highlights only the best in children’s literature, and @mybrotherotto, where she advocates for autistic children and adults while championing the message that everyone should be included.