When you envision a family Thanksgiving dinner, you probably have an idealized picture of the kids pitching in with meal prep, relaxing in front of the holiday TV specials, then digging in merrily after the turkey is done. If this is your reality, then more power to you, and count me among your envious fans. But if you know you'll need more ways to keep the little ones entertained, then it's vital to plan some kids' Thanksgiving craft activities that will keep them busy and happy at the children's table on the big day.
As you know if you're a mom, kids don't always see eye-to-eye with us on what's important or exciting, even during the holidays. I couldn't get my own kids psyched about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade until they were well into elementary school; they kept begging me to switch to the Disney Channel instead. I'd try to get them involved in the cooking, but after snapping a few green beans or taking a few stirs of apple pie filling, they'd wander off. As for the dinner itself? They took half a nibble of turkey, then dawdled till dessert. Not exactly the stuff Hallmark movies are made of.
I didn't realize then how much it helps to have a plan b for holidays when you have children. In the case of Thanksgiving, that plan should include some craft activities; not only does this take them away from the TV and tablet for a while, but crafting also engages the imagination and incorporates the fine motor skills that young children need. Try one or more of these simple DIY crafts with your own family, and you'll be making more than paper turkeys — you'll be making cherished memories, along with mementos to grace your holiday table for years to come.
Pine Cone Animals
I personally love the idea of combining a craft with a lesson in the true meaning of the holiday. This idea, from Crafts By Amanda, fits the bill perfectly. The big kids can help the little kids with everything from tracing and cutting their hands out to getting whatever they are grateful for on paper to assembling the whole tree.
Footprint Turkey Wreath
The Non-Toy Gifts blog offers a holiday wreath idea with a personal twist: Cover your child's foot in washable brown paint, then press it onto a paper plate. Once dry, cut around the outside edge of the foot to create a turkey body template. This is probably something you should do before your Thanksgiving meal to give your footprint time to dry (just use your kid's small foot to make a few). Have the kids decorate the rim of the plate in seasonal colors and let them attach the turkey's eyes and beak.
Is there anything Trader Joe's can't do? In addition to their large selection of deelish Thanksgiving foods (including my personal fave, their cornbread stuffing), they sell this DIY gingerbread turkey, which includes icing in a pastry bag to outline the turkey and attach the colorful candy in designs of your child's choice. The price is right, too: just $8.
Pilgrim Hat Cookies
Food crafts are always a hit with kids, and these, from the Sippy Cup Mom blog, will be no exception. Fudge stripe cookies and peanut butter cup candies make the shape of the hat. A little bit of orange frosting (either store-bought or homemade make the details. The kids can assemble them at their table and serve them to everyone at dessert time.
Woven Turkey Craft
An excellent activity for slightly older children to hone their fine motor skills on, this Thanksgiving project from I Heart Crafty Things requires paper plates, paint (or crayons or markers for less mess), card stock or craft foam, and thin yarn in fall colors. Kids will really get into weaving the yard in and out of the turkey's "feathers".
The kids can make their own holiday headgear and wear it at the dinner table. This turkey craft from Kidney Garden requires just a little prep work from you to cut out paper strips, squares, feather outlines, circles for heads, and triangles for beaks (or you can delegate this task to an older, crafty kid). Then the kids can assemble their own headbands, gluing all the pieces together. For a bigger challenge, ask the kids to create a pattern with the squares, such as red-yellow-red-yellow or orange-brown-brown-orange-brown-brown.
Brighten up your windows with this pretty craft from The Best Ideas for Kids. They've got a downloadable leaf outline template on their site, or you can use one of your own to get started. A collage of tissue paper in assorted colors creates a vibrant design, and they'll love seeing it hanging by the window the next day.