Introduction: Healthy Boundaries Tree

About: During the COVID-19 crisis, all of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship's religious services moved into an online-only format. I generally organize Sunday school activities for the children of the Fellowship …

In today's Time For All Ages, we read Shel Silverstein's book The Giving Tree, and learned about its more...problematic aspects. So we compared the original story to an amusing rewrite of the ending by playwright Topher Payne, which was called The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries. With that in mind, let's make our own Trees With Healthy Boundaries so we can think a little bit about our own boundaries.


-construction paper (I used brown, green, and yellow, but your tree can be any color!)



-glue stick


Step 1: Make the Tree Trunk.

Choose what color you'd like your trunk to be. (If you only have white paper, you can always color it with markers.)

Lay your hand and arm down on the paper for the trunk, and trace it. Your arm will be the tree trunk and the fingers will be the branches.

Once you've traced it, you can decorate it with markers if you like!

Step 2: Make the Leaves.

Lay your cutout on the paper that will be your leaves. Trace a big, wiggly circle around the branches of your tree. Lift away the trunk and cut out the leaves.

Step 3: Glue the Tree Together.

Put glue on the back of the hand part of the tree trunk, but not the arm. Stick it down on the leaves.

Step 4: Plant the Tree in the Ground.

Take the scrap paper left over from your leaves or your branches, and cut out a shallow half-circle. This will be the ground your tree sits in!

Put some glue on the bottom of the trunk and stick it down.

You can add grass with markers, if you like. Or maybe even flowers!

Step 5: Cut Out Apples.

I decided to make my apples yellow. What color will your apples be?

Fold the paper back and forth like an accordion three times. Now you have four layers of paper!

Draw a row of apple shapes on one of the outside folds, then cut through all the layers.

Admire your pile of apples.

Step 6: Write on Your Apples.

Now comes the thinking part.

Think of some things that you feel happy to give to other people, whether it's things that you do or things that you have. For instance, I wrote down things like "Helping with chores," "Volunteering," and "Cooking food." I feel comfortable and happy helping people and giving people food sometimes, or giving up some of my time or money to others.

Glue the apples in the tree. These are apples others can take, in the same way that the tree in the second version of the story said that she would share her apples with the boy, because she could always grow more.

Step 7: Write on the Branches.

Next, think of some things that are so important to you that you couldn't give them up. For instance, some of my hobbies are very important to me, so making sure that I have time to do these things that I enjoy is one of the boundaries I set in my life. Having space to myself is something that I need to feel safe and do well, so that's not something I would ever give up.

Write these things on your branches or trunk. These are things for yourself, in the same way that the tree in the second version of the story refused to give up her branches to the boy, because that would cause permanent damage to her well-being.

Step 8: Admire Your Tree!

Was it useful to think about your boundaries like this? You could keep it as a reminder to always set healthy boundaries in partnerships of all kinds!