As turkey day approaches, you may find yourself scrambling to find new and fun ways keep your brood busy while you clean out the guest bedroom (slash junk storage, slash “office”) for the family members who will flock to your home for the holiday. Don’t worry, with a little planning, none of your kids will need to trace his or her hand to make a generic turkey this year. Instead, get your kids to focus on what they’re thankful for and fire up their creativity with these craft suggestions.
Put a personal twist on collaging. Any old magazines and newspapers will be helpful here. Give each child a big sheet of paper, or poster board. Have them think of a person in their life for which they are thankful, and place this person in the center of the paper. If possible, use a photo of this person. If one isn’t available, kids can draw the person. Then, the mini artists can find and cut out images that remind them of their muse. What things does their person like? What things remind them of this person? When the collages are complete, your kids have a wonderful gift to present to Grandma/Cousin Jamie/Dad, or an art piece to hang up at Thanksgiving dinner.
Kids can start by making a list of things they are grateful for. There is no wrong answer, so everything from baby brother, to brownies, to favorite shoes will end up on the roster. Cut up the words; then kids can draw them out of a bowl. Have the little poets write a sentence or two about each word, in the order they are drawn. It doesn’t have to be linear or even make sense. Rhyming and silliness are encouraged. After the writing part, kids can illustrate or decorate their poems. If the poems take up more than a page, consider binding them with ribbon or yarn.
This one will take some prep if you have wee ones. Kids can craft an edible alternative to the holiday bird, or just a tasty side dish. Peel several potatoes—varying sizes is a plus. Slice some red and green bell peppers, chop a couple carrots into rounds and slender sticks, and add any other veggies you like. Older kids can do the knife work too. Using toothpicks, the small chefs then stick veggies together to build some gobblers. Having a picture of a turkey at hand for reference is helpful. Lay the birds in a baking dish, pour half a cup of vegetable broth over them (and any spices you wish) and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Early American Paper Dolls
Thanksgiving is traditionally a harvest festival, and nobody was happier with a good harvest than those who lived before grocery stores. And, almost all of these people had interesting styles of dress. If you have young fashion designers in your house, this craft is for them. Researching the costumes of the Native Americans, Pilgrims and other early settlers is a good starting place for older kids. If you can get some books with pictures from the library beforehand, the artists will have some designs to trace. Simple dolls can be cut out of cardboard or poster board; clothes can be drawn, colored or painted on regular paper. Help kids remember to put tabs on the clothes, to hold them on once they are cut out. The resulting creations can be used to decorate the dining room.
If your children have any old socks lying around—and you know they do—or you have any extra mittens or gloves, this craft is perfect. With just a few feathers, pipe cleaners and some fabric paint, kids can make anything from a talking turkey, to a preening pumpkin, to a small, woolen Uncle Larry. Eyes turn an inanimate object into a puppet, so get some plastic googly ones, some buttons or even some small stones. If you can’t make a trip to the craft store, use materials you find around your house. Encourage kids’ wackiness: just because it can’t talk in real life doesn’t mean it can’t become a great puppet. To let them shine, give each puppet time to speak at the top of dinner, to tell everyone what it is grateful for.