Since I’ll be busy in the kitchen (i.e. my happy place) next week, cooking and baking and getting ready for our big family dinner, I’m going to put my kids in charge of the Thanksgiving table decorations, which is not my happy place. Craft projects and art are usually a fun way for them to fill their down time when they’re home from school, and what I like about these fairly easy Thanksgiving crafts for kids is that I think they can double as adorable table decorations to make dinner more festive.
There’s something really nice about the kids’ table feeling kid-like, or, if you all sit at one big Thanksgiving table, that it doesn’t feel too stuffy. I think Thanksgiving is one holiday where decorating perfection is overrated. What’s not overrated though, is making everyone feel at home which is just what these crafts do.
Editor’s way too long note: We’d just like to point out is that we’re working hard to find Thanksgiving crafts that are respectful of the First Nations tribes and the true story of Thanksgiving. As we become more knowledgeable about the issues with appropriating Native culture, we’re seeing some of the challenges of traditional Thanksgiving crafts we grew up with ourselves like making an “Indian headdress” or drawing “Indian symbols.” As kids ourselves, most of us never even knew much about the Wampanoag tribe (who created the treaty with the Pilgrims of the Plymouth colony), let alone the differences between their culture and that of other tribes.
It’s hard for us to let go of some of these kinds of traditional crafts too. But in the name of progress, compassion, kindness, and trying to foster better understanding of actual Native tribes and traditions, we’ve tried to focus on crafts for kids that celebrate thankfulness — for family, for friends, for turkeys (!!), and for the harvest of the natural world.
We know that can be a little difficult to process; a good analogy is that if you wanted to honor a Kwanzaa celebration, you wouldn’t have your kids put on afro wigs. That helps put it in perspective for me.
For more info, check out this smart PDF from the Museum of the American Indian that does a good job explaining the Native American perspective on Thanksgiving. We may miss sometimes, but we’re really trying to be more inclusive and sensitive, the more we learn. -LG
a DIY Thanksgiving thankful mat may be my favorite of all crafts because it reminds my kids to think about what they’re really thankful for at Thanksgiving. We found this DIY Thanksgiving placemat craft from Oh My Deer (above), complete with a free printable template to help you make it. I even like the simple silver sharpie pen on leaves to use as simple placecards, and the less perfect, the better I think.
Another DIY Thanksgiving thankful mat tutorial can be found at Mer Mag, that’s a little more kid-friendly. Either way, go around the table and share the things you each wrote while you eat dinner together. This might become a new family tradition.
Take a nature walk with your kids over the weekend, or send them outside while you’re toiling over pies, to collect pinecones. Then you can make this easy washi tape pinecone Thanksgiving turkey craft via Craftholics Anonymous for Thanksgiving.She has some really great ideas but of course, you can just paint the popsicle sticks if you don’t have washi tape on hand. These could even make adorable place card holders if you just stick a small card for names in their backs.
How pretty are the watercolored feathers in this paper feather garland by Krisha Hinkle for I Heart Naptime? You could cut the feathers out ahead of time, then if the weather’s nice, set the kids up on the back porch with their watercolors so they can experiment and not get my kitchen filthy in the process. I might use a darker, more fall-like pattern to represent turkey feathers, though no doubt if there were pink and turquoise turkeys out there, my kids would want to own one.
Or, to make it easier on yourself, try downloading these free printable turkey feathers for Thankgiving crafts from Grounded Mag. You can string them all up, or we’re sure your kids can write each guest’s name on one and lay it out across the plate for a placecard.
If you have older kids at home who want to pitch in too, they can make these Thanksgiving log cabin place card holders we found at Oh Happy Day. They are definitely more advanced, but they’re so, so cute. Or, if you have time, that’s a Thanksgiving craft project you can work on with your younger kids because they’ll need the help.
Put together these printable be thankful Thanksgiving utensil holders found at The Idea Room by eighteen25 ahead of time, and let your kids color them in. Hey, maybe it will even get them excited to pitch in and help set the table by filling them with silverware. Maybe.
If your kids are like mine and love to collect leaves whenever we’re outside in the fall, use them to make this cute leaf turkey Thanksgiving craft spotted at Crafty Morning. We’d probably cut paper for the eyes, instead of gluing on googly eyes, so that I could laminate them to use as place mats at the kids’ table.
This pumpkin pie garland Thanksgiving craft at Say Yes will definitely be adorning our own dessert buffet this year — it’s so much fun! Her instructions are so wonderful, butI may skip the metallic copper paper and just let my kids paint the pie slices the perfect color orange. They may need a little help with the modeling clay pie crust, but once I get it on there my kids can press the indentations with their forks and add the perfect dollop of “whipped cream.” Wonderful.
Put a thankful tree Thanksgiving craft for kids, like this one at A Day with Lil Mama, up on the wall in your kitchen for the whole family to see (and add to) as they come over to visit. Or, make it all on one giant roll of craft paper and spread it out along the table, so that it becomes a table runner of sorts before dinner is served.
If you don’t want to put one directly on your wall, you can attach your leaves to a DIY Thanksgiving thankfulness tree — Meaningful Mama has a really nice tutorial. Then set it on a table where everyone can read what each guests have said. Even more than what we eat, knowing the love we feel toward one another may be the very best part of Thanksgiving and this is a wonderful craft to reflect that.