When a loved one is deployed, a military family is full of wishes: that their service member will be safe, that they will be home soon, that the children will adjust to the separation. A creative activity helps families to process those hopes and wishes.
In The Wishing Tree, a book by Mary Redman, illustrated by Christina Rodriguez, a military child named Amanda is inspired by yellow ribbons on a neighborhood tree to create a reminder of her deployed father. Her “wishing tree” becomes a place to collect wishes, hopes, and prayers for him.
Amanda writes hopes for her father, like “I hope your flight is safe,” and prayers, “Please, protect my daddy from harm,” on yellow ribbons and tied them to an artificial tree from a craft store.
There are many different ways to create a wishing tree. Use some of these ideas or imagine your own.
- Start with a small tree or plant (artificial or real) or a tree branch. If necessary, place it in a flower pot or jar, supported by florist foam.
- Write your wishes on lengths of ribbon with a fabric pen and tie them to the branches.
Bulletin Board Wishing Tree
- From a sheet of construction paper or fabric, cut out the shape of a bare tree with plenty of long branches. Attach it to a bulletin board or poster board on the wall.
- Cut out leaves or other shapes from ribbon, paper, flannel, or other fabric. Have family members, students, or other participants write wishes, hopes, and prayers on the wishing leaves and attach them to the tree.
Containers for Wishes
- Box: Select a box with a lid. Cut an opening in the box top or use a lid that lifts off. Decorate the box with photos of a person you are gathering wishes for. Write wishes on small pieces of paper or paper leaves and put into the box.
- Jar: Use a large clear container, like a pickle or candy jar, and colored pieces of paper or ribbon to write your wishes. Decorate the jar, or let the colorful wishes inside show through. Your wishing jar will grow more beautiful with each prayer or wish added.
Wishing Tree Placemats
- Draw a picture of a tree on a piece of paper the size you want your placemat to be. Include leaves on the tree, and photos of your family around the tree, if you like.
- Laminate the paper.
- Use markers or crayons to write wishes on the leaves. Add new wishes at each meal.
Holiday Wishing Trees
- Write wishes on ribbons, paper ornaments, or other craft items. Decorate your family treat the holidays with your wishes and hopes for others.
- Create a giving tree, decorating with wishes from others in need. Encourage everyone to select a wish from the tree and make it come true!
Create Your Own Wishing Tree Idea:
Feature photo: A young girl places her paper love note on an art board wishing tree at a reunion workshop in Vicenza, Italy. Photo by Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito.