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Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids

Updated on January 16, 2015
Julian assisting me in the assembly of our paper turkey army.
Julian assisting me in the assembly of our paper turkey army.

After writing Halloween Crafts and Games for Kids I thought it might be fun to do a whole series of holiday craft and game hubs for all of the holidays. I will go in order of the holidays starting from Halloween. So, next up for us here in the US is Thanksgiving!

As I have mentioned in my previous Hubs, I am interested in helping my toddler sons develop through play. So each craft, game, and activity here was designed to help preschool aged children, in particular, learn, grow, and develop. Even though these games are meant to be toddler-friendly, I've tried to make them fun for everyone, no matter the age.

I've divided them up by what skills they are meant to develop, though many activities will apply to multiple skills:

  • Personal and Social Development
  • Language Development
  • Cognitive Development
  • Physical Development
  • Creative Development


Rather than look at the history of Thanksgiving, I focused on our modern approaches to Thanksgiving and what it has come to mean for us here in the USA.

The activities here will focus on themes of family, togetherness, unity, food (of course), diversity, and friendship. There will be no Native Americans and no Pilgrims here (but there will be lots of turkey!). So, even if you aren't an American citizen, I'm sure you can incorporate some of these crafts and games into your own family gatherings.

Personal and Social Development

Key Points:

  • Approach to Learning
  • Self-Control
  • Interactions with Others
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Self Concept

Looking at pictures will be fun for you as well!
Looking at pictures will be fun for you as well!

Look at Pictures

Find pictures of yourself and the Thanksgiving guests from when you all were your child's age. Your toddler will be amazed (and doubtful) when you show them their relatives past and present.

Show your child pictures of him/her too. I always find it amusing when I show my son baby pictures of himself and he says, "No, that's a baby. That's Blaze (his little brother)."

Showing little ones pictures of themselves will help them develop their sense of self.

Micro Thanksgiving

Here are Thanksgiving staple food item alternatives you can use for Turkey Sandwich Day if you want to use real food.

Turkey - Turkey Sandwich

Mash Potatoes and Gravy - Chips and Dip

Cranberries - Berries or Cranberry Juice

Apple Pie - Apple Turnovers or Apple Slices with Honey

Pumpkin Pie - Pumpkin Seeds

Sweet Potato Pie - Baked Sweet Potato


Turkey Sandwich Day

Tea Party Activity

If this Thanksgiving is the first time you are bringing your little one to a place with lots of people, you might be a bit nervous. Even if that's not the case, you may still be nervous about how your toddler will behave--especially at the dinner table.

To prepare your child (or children) for Turkey Day, have a Turkey Sandwich Day before Thanksgiving.


Need:

  • Food (real or pretend)
  • Place settings
  • Lots of guests (friends or stuffed animals will do!)


Show your preschooler the correct way to set up a table and encourage him/her to help you put down all the place settings for your guests.

When you're done, help your guests to their seats. You could have fun referring to your guests as family members, like Uncle Teddy Bear or Aunty Dolly. Juggle pretend conversations with your fuzzy relatives and encourage your kids to do the same.

When you serve your (real or pretend) food, use this as an opportunity to go over manners such as:

  • Pass the food around, so everyone can have some.
  • Don't take too much at first, so there's enough for everyone.
  • Say "Please" and "Thank You."
  • Don't whine or cry for something, politely use your words.
  • Try a little bit of everything, even if you don't think you will like it--you may be surprised!
  • If you don't like something, just pass it along or leave it on your plate. There's no reason to make a big fuss.

And any other things that you think will be useful to know when spending Thanksgiving with your family.

After your lunch is through, thank your guests for coming and help them home. Then encourage your toddler to help you straighten up.


Even if your little one doesn't end up being a perfect lady or gentleman at Thanksgiving, at least you will have had a fun time learning about table etiquette.

Thanksgiving Activity Sheet
Thanksgiving Activity Sheet

I'm Thankful For...

Drawing Activity

Materials:

  • Sheet of paper or "Thankful" template
  • Crayons, markers, color pencils, or whatever your child like to draw with.
  • Pen or Pencil

At my house, Thanksgiving is a time to express gratitude for and to celebrate all the wonderful things in our life. This is not limited to superficial things, but for friends, family, food, love, happiness. I want my kids to feel like every day we wake up to enjoy another day is something that we should be thankful for.

For this activity, talk with your little one about all the things they're thankful for and share things you're thankful for as well. Then pick one and write it on the paper. After something has been picked, your child can draw a picture relating to the thing they are thankful for.

Language Development

Key Points:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Literature and Reading
  • Writing
  • Alphabet Knowledge

Juju loves to help cook every chance he gets.
Juju loves to help cook every chance he gets.

Chef's Assistant

If you're cooking for Thanksgiving, here's a few exercises you can do to get your child involved and learning.

Exploring Sense of Smell

Line up different spices on the table. Let your child smell each one and practice saying the names of the spices together. After a few rounds, see if your child can identify the spices on their own. If not, it's okay! It's just for practice and fun.

Little Helper

As you're cooking, give your toddler small tasks to encourage them to be a good helper and improving their listening skills.

Identifying Foods

Before everyone begins to eat, point out and name the different foods.

When eating, encourage your child to describe what they're eating; is it sweet? Is it salty? Is it mushy? Is it crunchy? Etc.

Thanksgiving Alphabet

Here are Autumn and Thanksgiving words A - Z.

A - Acorns

B - Baking

C - Corn

D - Dessert

E - Eat

F - Family

G - Gratitude

H - Home

I - Invitation

J - Jam

K - Kitchen

L - Leaves

M - Mashed Potatoes

N - Nap

O - Oven

P - Pumpkin Pie

Q - Quilt

R - Reunion

S - Squash

T - Turkey

U - Unity

V - Vegetables

W - Wishbone

X - XOXO Hugs and Kisses

Y - Yams

Z - Zucchini

Leaf Stencils

Here are some leaf stencils we made using leaves we collected one day at the playground.  I apologize for it not being high quality!  I'll try to update this sheet with a nicer looking one when I get the chance.
Here are some leaf stencils we made using leaves we collected one day at the playground. I apologize for it not being high quality! I'll try to update this sheet with a nicer looking one when I get the chance.

Watercolor Leaves

Craft Activity

Need:

  • Watercolour paper or white paper plants
  • Markers
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Leaf Stencils
  • Pencil
  • Scissors and Safety Scissors

First have your toddler colour in the white paper plate with the markers. Then spray the plate with water in a spray bottle to make the colours run. All the while, give your child opportunities to make choices (such as picking a marker to color with), ask for help (such as opening the ziplock bag containing the markers), describe what they are doing, and identify the materials they are using.

I recommend colouring the paper or plates in autumn leaf colours, but of course that's up to you.

After the paper plates or water colour paper is dry, trace the leaf stencils and cut out together. Let your little one practice cutting some more with the scraps that are left over.

Cognitive Development

Key Points:

  • Patterns and Relationships
  • Number Concept and Operations
  • Geometry and Spatial Relations
  • Measurement

Tips

  • You can also vary the pattern in how you place the leaves. Instead of placing them in a straight line, try high/low or upside down/right side up or vertical/sideways.
  • Practice shapes by gluing your leaf patterns in various shapes such as circles, triangles, or squares.
  • Create a wreath by gluing the pattern around a paper plate with the middle cut out.

Leaf Patterns

Craft Activity

Need:

  • Construction paper/Color Paper
  • Leaf stencils from previous activity
  • Scissors
  • Gluestick


Cut out leaves from color paper and make a pile of them in front of your toddler.

Create a basic pattern (i.e. red leaf, brown leaf, red leaf, brown leaf...) and let them identify which colour should come next.

Gradually make the patterns more complicated by using 3 colours, then 4 colours, then varying the pattern by using a colour more than once (i.e. red leaf, red leaf, brown leaf, orange leaf).

Once you've done this a few times and feel that your preschooler is grasping the idea of patterns, work with them to create their own patterns with the leaves. When they've made one that they like, glue it on a piece of paper.

How to draw a turkey.
How to draw a turkey.

Shape Turkey

Follow the thumbnails in order to learn how to draw turkeys step-by-step using only basic shapes.

To learn how to draw more things using shapes, check out my hub How to Teach Kids to Draw Using Shapes.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Start with a circle for the body.Add a few squished ovals for tail feathers.Erase the oval lines that overlap in the circle.Add a circle for the head (it does not have to be in the position I put it).Add a triangle for a beak.Add two circles, then fill in with two smaller shaded circles for eyes.Add lines for legs and feet.Add two slanted ovals for wings.Erase the areas that overlap.Color and add detail as desired.  You can add more movement to your turkey by changing the position of the head.  If the turkey is looking sideways draw the triangle outside of the circle head and only draw one eye.
Start with a circle for the body.
Start with a circle for the body.
Add a few squished ovals for tail feathers.
Add a few squished ovals for tail feathers.
Erase the oval lines that overlap in the circle.
Erase the oval lines that overlap in the circle.
Add a circle for the head (it does not have to be in the position I put it).
Add a circle for the head (it does not have to be in the position I put it).
Add a triangle for a beak.
Add a triangle for a beak.
Add two circles, then fill in with two smaller shaded circles for eyes.
Add two circles, then fill in with two smaller shaded circles for eyes.
Add lines for legs and feet.
Add lines for legs and feet.
Add two slanted ovals for wings.
Add two slanted ovals for wings.
Erase the areas that overlap.
Erase the areas that overlap.
Color and add detail as desired.  You can add more movement to your turkey by changing the position of the head.  If the turkey is looking sideways draw the triangle outside of the circle head and only draw one eye.
Color and add detail as desired. You can add more movement to your turkey by changing the position of the head. If the turkey is looking sideways draw the triangle outside of the circle head and only draw one eye.
Paper Turkey
Paper Turkey
Julian picks out the perfect head for his turkey.
Julian picks out the perfect head for his turkey.
Turket foot stencil if you want to cut out turkey toes.
Turket foot stencil if you want to cut out turkey toes.

Paper Turkey Sculptures

Craft Activity

Need:

  • Pencil
  • Color paper/Construction Paper (Red, Orange, Yellow, Brown)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Clear Tape
  • Gluestick (optional)

This activity involves a lot of measuring and constructing. I did this with my oldest son when he was 2-years-old, but his physical participation was a little limited. I talked him through what I was doing, traced his handprints, and let him stick the pieces together. When we do this activity again this year, I will probably let him cut pieces out with safety scissors and measure with me too to make it more interactive.

I've described here how to make the paper turkeys, it's up to you on how you would like to create them with your toddlers.

Tail Feathers

Trace your child's hand with their fingers spread on a piece of paper and cut it out in orange and red. If you are just making one or two turkeys you can trace your child's hand each time you need it. If you want to make a bunch of turkeys, you may want to use their hand print to create a stencil.

Tape the red and orange handprints on top of each other so a thumb is sticking out on either side.

Beak and Wattle

Cut out a 1 inch square in yellow. Fold it at a diagonal.

Cut out a small tear-shape in red.

Feet

When I made these I drew a little foot pattern and cut it out. I regretted this because cutting out those little toes was quite time consuming, and of course required dexterity my son did not have so he couldn't participate at all. If you like the little feet, I've included a pattern. Otherwise, I think an 1 inch oval or diamond shape would suffice. Whatever you choose, make it yellow or orange.

Head

Measure and cut out a 1in. x 2in. rectangle in brown. Tape it into a circle.

Glue or tape the beak and wattle. Add the eyes with a marker.

Body and Construction


Measure and cut out a 1 in. x 5 in. rectangle in brown. Tape it into a circle.

Tape or glue the tail feathers to the back.

Tape or glue the feet in a V shape on the bottom.

Tape or glue the head on top.


Gobble gobble!

Physical Development

Key Points:

  • Gross-Motor Skills
  • Fine-Motor Skills

Another option is to let your little one cut up strips of scrap fabric for collage pieces.  Snipping at fabric kept Julian entertained for a good 20 minutes.  Take care that your child knows how to handle scissors first.
Another option is to let your little one cut up strips of scrap fabric for collage pieces. Snipping at fabric kept Julian entertained for a good 20 minutes. Take care that your child knows how to handle scissors first.

Tips

  • Alternatively you can used dry food items like pasta and beans to fill in your collages--though this will make them more of a mosaic!

Turkey Collages

Craft Activity

Need:

  • Construction paper (red, orange, yellow, brown)
  • Paint (red, orange, yellow, and brown)
  • Markers
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Crayons
  • Heavy duty paper or paper plates
  • Scissors
  • Gluestick
  • Turkey Coloring Pages


This is a messy activity! If you would like to minimize the mess, cut out painting.

Crayons

Let your little one colour in full pages of a single colour; red, orange, yellow, and brown.

Markers

Have your toddler colour in paper plates in red, orange, yellow, and brown (one plate for each colour). Then let them spray the plates with water like in the watercolour leaf activity.

Finger and Foot Painting

Using hands, feet, elbows, and whatever else, let your little one paint red, orange, yellow, and brown paintings. Try to keep the colours distinct and separate.

Assembly

Once everything has dried, help your toddler cut up their paintings and drawings. Cut up some construction paper as well.

Make separate piles for each color.

Using your turkey coloring pages, colour in your turkey by gluing the paper pieces to the colouring sheet.

The Turkey Pokey

Hokey Pokey Game

This is essentially the same game as the Hokey Pokey (if you don't know what that is, check out the animated music video I've posted.)

All I've changed is the lyrics just a bit and set it to a theme.

Everyone pretends to be a turkey, the adult sings, but after each verse everyone shouts, "Gobble! Gobble!"

Lyrics:
You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out;
You put your right foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Turkey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!

Gobble! Gobble!

You put your left foot in,
You put your left foot out;
You put your left foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Turkey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!

Gobble! Gobble!

You put your right wing in,
You put your right wing out;
You put your right wing in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Turkey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!

Gobble! Gobble!

You put your left wing in,
You put your left wing out;
You put your left wing in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Turkey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!

Gobble! Gobble!

You put your beak in,
You put your beak out;
You put your beak in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Turkey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!

Gobble! Gobble!

You put your whole self in,
You put your whole self out;
You put your whole self in,
And you flap all about.
You do the Turkey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!

Gobble! Gobble!

Creative Development

Key Points:

  • Art
  • Music/Dance
  • Dramatics

Super easy paper roll turkeys
Super easy paper roll turkeys

Paper Roll Turkey

Craft Activity

This is like my Paper Turkey Sculpture, but a bit easier.

Need:

  • Leaves, leaf cutouts, or hand cutouts, or a combination of them all.
  • One toilet paper roll per turkey, or a paper towel roll cut in half for two turkeys
  • Construction Paper (Red, Orange, Yellow)
  • Scissors
  • Glue or Tape
  • Black Marker


Stand the paper roll up.

Glue leaves, handprints, or leaf cutouts to the back of the roll to create the tail feathers.

Cutout a square, fold it diagonally, glue to the front of the roll for a beak. Cut out a tear shape from the red paper, glue on the roll for the wattle. Draw on eyes with a marker.

Cut out little oval or diamond feet in orange or yellow, or use my foot template for the paper turkey. Fold the tip of the feet and glue or tape it in the inside of the paper roll.

Our Thankful Tree
Our Thankful Tree

Thankful Tree

Craft

Materials

  • Brown construction paper and autumn leaf construction paper
  • Pen
  • Scissors
  • Tape

Create a tree on a wall using brown construction paper. Cut out leaves and/or hand prints in the leaf coloured paper. Write family member names and things you all are thankful for. Stick them to the tree. When guests come over for Thanksgiving, have them do the same.

Thanksgiving Garland

Craft

Materials

  • Yarn, string, or twine in autumn colours
  • Large beads in autumn colours
  • Other things that can be strung on the string

Alternative

  • Shower rings
  • Beads big enough to go on shower rings
  • Ribbon

String beads to create a Thanksgiving garland to decorate your house with.

Alternatively, you can adorn shower curtain rings with ribbons and beads large enough to fit on them and link them together to create a garland.


Ten Little Turkeys

Musical Activity

Learn the song in the video with your preschoolers. Then when you sing it start off by holding up ten fingers. Then as each turkey flies away, put one finger down.

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    • breathing profile image

      Sajib 22 months ago from Bangladesh

      A nice post on how to do thanksgiving for the kids. Actually kids love presents all the time and they feel very much enjoyed with anything new and innovative. With the thanksgiving crafts mentioned in the post, the kids will get a few gifts and also use them to execute some of their wildest imaginations! This will help them being creative which will good for their future. Also you will be able to build up a good relationship with the kids. Doing crafts with the kids, having some fun and building up good relationship- what more can you expect of thanksgiving crafts!

    • followthestray profile image
      Author

      Samantha Harris 2 years ago from New York

      Haha! Thank you. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Loved the Thanksgiving alphabet and the thoroughness of this offering, especially as it focuses on the child/children and all too rare togetherness.

      Fine Hub. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. This should have been the Hub of The Day (maybe next year?) Hubbers should try your "Turkey Pokey" after the big meal, or stick to the condensed version of the meal (very clever.)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      I like these family-fun and educational thanksgiving craft ideas. I find the Thankful Tree very easy and meaningful.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I love the paper turkey scupltures and the leaf tree of thanks. What novel ideas and so simple for children to make. I know families out there will appreciate these wonderful suggestions. It would be fun and makes lovely memories.