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Decorate Your Own Dinner Tray

Updated on April 12, 2012

Inspired by the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

Every fall since my oldest was two, I have found a craft my children can create with my mother. My mother's favorite holiday is Thanksgiving so this "Nana Project", that we lovingly call it, normally takes place a day or two before. It has become a challenge of mine each year to find a new and creative craft that not only will look wonderful at Thanksgiving, but something my mother can show off throughout the year. This task is not always and easy one, especially when the kids were younger.

Last year, while I was volunteering in my daughter's kindergarten class, the teacher introduced me to the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. She then told me how the year before the kids hunted for fallen leaves to be able to make their own Leaf Man art. While always being on the lookout for another great "Nana Project", I thought this a wonderful idea and then brainstormed how to make it a lasting masterpiece she can display for years to come. I decided that giving each of my children their own "canvas" to work on, they could create to their own personality. DIY ready made wooden trays were the perfect size without breaking the budget and fake leaves would last longer than dried real leaves.


  1. The book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
  2. Wooden, unfinished, serving tray
  3. Leaves of different sizes shapes and colors
  4. Yarn
  5. Stain (what ever darkness you desire)
  6. Modge Podge
  7. Paint brush

Creating Your Tray

After deciding what color stain you want your tray to be, you need to stain it. Before using the stain be sure to mix it well. Using a rag,an old sock works great for this, and wearing gloves, dip the rag into the stain and rub it onto the wood working with the grain. Cover the whole tray, front and back. The wood will soak up the stain so a few coats may be necessary to get the look you desire. Be sure to do this in a well ventilated area where your project can sit and dry without getting debris stuck to it.

I let the kids look through the book Leaf Man to choose what creature they wanted to recreate. They then laid out their leaves in the correct placement on the table next to their tray. We then covered the whole bottom of the tray with Modge Podge. While the Modge Podge is wet place the leaves onto the tray in your desired placement. The Modge Podge will act as a glue minimizing the "slippage" of the leaves but not permanent so mistakes can still be corrected. We used the yarn to create bird legs and butterfly antennae. The kids wanted to make their trays a little more personalized so they each added a few pictures taken through out the year. After everything is in the desired place, carefully paint Modge Podge over the whole created picture. We found it easier to dab on top of the leaves and then brush over the rest. Which ever way you choose that works for you is fine, just be aware that brush strokes can be seen in the dried Modge Podge. Let sit until dry.

Buy Leaf Man at Amazon


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