“i spy” tree

In 2005, I was perusing the book Mary Engelbreit’s Christmas Companion and saw a picture on page 68 of a little tree that the author called a “collage tree.” I knew right then that I was going to make one. The hardest part of this project is assembling the bits and pieces to cover the tree. It takes longer than you would imagine it might. And it takes more pieces than you dream it will!

My tree is taller and skinnier that Mary’s was, but it’s just as cute and has been the source of many compliments over the years. I call mine an “I Spy” tree. Everyone is captivated by it!

I Spy Tree

My tree is a styrofoam tree, originally spraypainted gold (now silver), and glued to a lazy Susan base so it turns easily.

Even Cedar finds it interesting!

Cedar checks out the "I Spy" tree

I collected items from toy boxes, junk drawers, sewing supplies, my craft room, the tool drawer, desk drawers, kitchen drawers, etc. Any small gluable item was fair game. I also hit the Dollar General store where I could buy bags of small plastic animals for $1.00. I purchased a bag of farm animals and a bag of animals from the ocean. Those added a lot to the I Spy tree. Do you spy the horse?

I SPY...an acorn...

And the starfish? (Not to mention the macaroni…?)

"I Spy" tree

A hot glue gun worked fine for attaching the items to the styrofoam base, though it might work even better to first cover the styrofoam with burlap or fabric. Whether you cover the styrofoam or not, do spray paint the base tree before you glue items to it. After the tree is full, there will be a lot of little nooks and crannies than can be hard to cover with spray paint.

I SPY...a button...

I spy a pump! And a toothbrush!

I SPY...a shark...

Because my tree was going to serve as a Christmas tree, I added small round ornaments and a string of tiny plastic Christmas lights I found in the miniature tree aisle at Hobby Lobby.

I SPY...a rooster...

I SPY...a bird house...

And a star to the top.

top of the tree - back

I added a wooden block with the initial of our last name.

I SPY...a lobster...

After everything was glued to the tree base, I spray painted the tree. Making it all one color makes the “spying” a little harder for the little ones which makes the game more fun. And it also unifies the tree so it isn’t a crazy quilt of color. It becomes pretty enough to grace a side table, a child’s desk or some other special spot in your home.

I made the tree for my daughter when she was seven years old. She loved it then and our granddaughters love it now. They will be seven this fall.

I Spy tree

We take turns spying objects for the others to find. They will play this game for 30 minutes or more at a time, even though they know where many of the objects are. It seems they always find something new.



My sister Genny took the idea to work with her. She is the parts manager at a car dealership. She collected odd bits and pieces of small car parts and made her own themed tree. It is displayed in the parts department each Christmas and gets a lot of attention from both customers and parts crew. I like the way her tree sits up on something (not sure what it is…). Mine sits right on the lazy Susan. I may have to change that. Maybe I’ll use a flowerpot…

I Spy tree

If you want to make one of these for Christmas, start your collection of little items now. It can take a while to find enough to cover the tree, depending on the size of your tree. A lot of different themes could be used…a baby tree, a kitchen tree, a craft room tree, a sports tree, a fishing tree, etc. If you make one, I would love to see a picture!



  1. Carmen Lewis
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Did you make up a list of things for people to try and find? Or do people just have a great time sitting and looking at it? I really do like this idea!

  2. Posted August 5, 2014 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Carmen, no, I don’t have a list. If there are children looking at it, it’s easy to start off the “I Spy” game by stating what you spy, then letting them take turns as they find the items. Always fun! And it was really a lot of fun to make, too. I think you’d enjoy it!

    Christmas is coming! 🙂 Maybe you and Mona can come again! ~~Rhonda

  3. Genny
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    When I went to find mine to photograph it today, I realized how much I need to spruce it up. The base I started with was actually a cone already attached to a foam flowerpot. I found it at Hobby Lobby several years ago. A regular flower pot would be nice, also. It would not get dinged up like my parts dept one has.

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