Our battalion recently hosted a FRG Family Night (aka battalion-level FRG meeting). Our theme?  Caution: Deployment Challenges Ahead.  Our message for the evening was that challenges are sure to arise during the deployment but we're all in this together.  We want our FRG to provide as much information and share as many resources as possible to cope with the challenges that are to come.

During the meeting, we showed photos of our Soldiers from downrange, shared information with Families, and earned our "Self Care Cards" from the hospital representative (which allows card holders to receive free over-the-counter medications from on-post pharmacies).  After the formal part of the meeting, we split into company-level FRGs so that FRG Leaders could talk company business with their Families.  Our Family Readiness Support Assistant (FRSA) and Rear Detachment Commander (RDC) made rounds to each group to answer questions and record any issues that needed further review.

For the kids, we wanted to create a memory-making craft.  Hopefully, it would also serve as a tool for the kids to deal with some of the emotions they will experience during this deployment.  Our volunteers started by having the children sculpt with homemade play-dough. Suggestions were given for the kids ... "Make two hearts with your play-dough ... Now try to create a red dragon!" This turned out to be a really good "filler" activity until all the kids arrived.

One of the play-dough red dragons!
Volunteers led the kids in a discussion of our theme for the night, "Deployment: Challenges Ahead."  Each child had a set of peel-and-stick stickers (found at Hobby Lobby) that matched the traffic signs on the worksheet below.  As a volunteer read the worksheet, kids were peeling and sticking traffic sign stickers onto their page.  It was an easy, hands-on way to make sure kids got the message that they always have somewhere to turn when they experience deployment challenges.
Next, a volunteer read from the book, The Wishing Tree by Mary Redman.

The Wishing Tree
The Wishing Tree is a wonderful story about a girl who stays close to her deployed dad by writing to him on yellow ribbons that she attaches to her "wishing tree." 
Afterwards, the kids all chose their very own "wishing tree" and decorated a strip of paper cut to fit the soup can that served as the base of the tree.  For decorations, we provided crayons, markers, and a variety of peel-and-stick stickers.

Children working on their "Wishing Trees."
The kids really enjoyed tying on notes to their deployed Soldiers.
It seemed to be a hit with the kids and they enjoyed writing notes on yellow ribbons then tying them to their trees.  We provided enough ribbon for each child to get started, but Families will have to add to that for the kids to continue to utilize their wishing tree.

This is how we made our "wishing" trees:

Items Needed:
  • sturdy branches
  • empty, clean soup cans
  • Plaster of Paris or "Pottery Plaster"
  • bucket or bowl to mix the plaster, water, wooden or metal spoon
  • construction paper, scissors
  • clear tape
  • decorations for the construction paper wraps: crayons, markers, stickers
  • strips of yellow ribbon (big enough to write a short message on)
A volunteer cut branches from her back yard and donated 35 sturdy tree limbs for us to use.  One afternoon, a couple of us got together and used empty soup cans and something called "Pottery Plaster" to create the base.  (I went to Hobby Lobby in search of Plaster of Paris but this is what I found instead.)  We followed the directions on the "Pottery Plaster" container to create a pancake-batter-like mix, poured the mix into the clean soup cans (to a little over half full), then inserted one tree limb per can.  It dries fairly quickly so we had to make sure the trees were standing straight as they dried.

Before the meeting, we cut several strips of construction paper to fit around the soup cans.  At the meeting, we let kids pick their strip and decorate it before wrapping around the soup can base.  We also cut yellow ribbon into strips so the kids could leave with 3 - 4 yellow ribbons on their trees. 

Other ideas for Families to do on their own:  add stones, glitter, marbles, or other decorations to fill up the rest of the soup can; add more decorations to the construction paper wrap; add more ribbon or tie notecards to the branches with notes to the Soldier on them.

We were pleased with the outcome of our wishing trees and look forward to more fun projects in the future!


  1. I love this idea! Thanks so much for sharing. How nice to have activities that let the kids know they are a meaningful part of the FRG!

  1. Hi- I was just wondering what type of pens you used to write on the ribbon. I'm going to have our ladies make this as well but the sharpies bleed on ribbon. Was wondering if I should have them make wishes on construction paper leaves instead, or write the wishes in a little journal and just tie plain ribbons on the branches? Thanks!

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