When I was a kid, one of my proudest moments was when my mom would let me and my sister make either the centerpiece for the holiday table (Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas) or place cards for each member of the family. Since that was back in the dark ages before the internet, our ideas usually came from parenting magazines or a trip to the craft section of the library. But in this wonderful age of technology, a plethora of terrific holiday decorating ideas are only a few clicks away! Thanksgiving decorations generally involve either turkeys or pilgrims, with the occasional cornucopia thrown in for variety, but I have to admit that turkeys are my favorite, so here are ten of my favorite turkey crafts to do with your kids!
Coffee Filter Turkey
I used to do a variation of this project with my 2- and 3-year-old Sunday School class: simply have the kids color on a coffee filter using washable markers, then spray with water from a squirt bottle and hang to dry. The washable markers melt into beautiful watercolors when sprayed, then set again when they dry. For this project, glue the dried coffee filter onto a piece of construction paper, then cut a turkey body and feet out of brown construction paper, add black dots for eyes, an orange triangle for a beak, and a red wattle, glue it all together, and voila! A lovely, festive turkey.
For each gumdrop turkey, you need a bunch of small, multi-colored gumdrops, one large gumdrop, some Nerds candies (or something similar) and a bunch of toothpicks, plus pieces of a marshmallow and red gummy candy (any shape will do; Swedish fish also work nicely). Stick one gumdrop each onto the end of five or so toothpicks and stick them into the large gumdrop to form the turkey’s body and tail. Cut another small gumdrop in half to form wings and attach them to the large gumdrop using their sticky side as glue. To make the turkey’s face, snip two small pieces of marshmallow for the whites of the eyes and stick them to a small gumdrop, then push two matching Nerds into the marshmallows to complete the eyes. Push a larger nerd (preferably yellow or orange) into the gumdrop to form a beak, then trim a bit of gummy candy to form a wattle and stick it on next to the turkey’s beak. Then break a toothpick in half and use it to attach the head to the body. Gobble gobble! These are small enough to make fun favors next to each place setting.
Turkey Hand Family
I love this one because it’s a whole family project. Each family member paints one hand – palm brown and different autumn colors for each finger and the thumb - then carefully stamps their hand on the same piece of paper to make a whole family of turkeys, each just the right size to represent their person. This is a project that can be done and saved year after year, watching the turkeys grow just as the kids do. Don’t forget to label each turkey with the person’s name and include the date!
Paper Plate Turkey
This one is super quick and easy! Simply trace each child’s hand on red paper and cut it out, cut out a peanut-shaped wattle from the same red paper, cut out a large yellow or orange triangle for a beak, and then either cut out two circles from black paper or draw the eyes on with a black magic marker. Glue all the pieces onto a paper plate to form a turkey face. It’s so quick and easy that you can make a whole flock of turkeys to decorate your Thanksgiving table!
If you want to get more 3D using paper, turkey cones are the turkey for you! Cut out a large circle of brown construction paper (trace a dinner place or use a compass), then cut the paper in half. Roll each piece into a cone shape and tape it in place. Draw eyes on white paper with a marker or pen or use plastic googly eyes and glue them on. Fold some orange paper in half and cut a small triangle on the fold to make a beak, add a red paper wattle, and glue on a fancy feather tail. And if you want to go all out, use a large needle to thread elastic cord through the edges and you can wear your turkey as a party hat!
Handprint Turkey Hat
If that hat is a bit too goofy for your taste, here’s another fun turkey hat option. First, cut two wide strips of brown construction paper and tape or staple them together at one end so you have a single long strip. Measure it to your child’s head and tape or staple it to the right size, cutting off the excess paper. Trace your child’s hand on three different colors of paper (red, yellow, and orange are suitably turkey-esque) and cut them out. Cut out a large peanut-shaped turkey head from brown paper; a folded triangle beak, two long strips for legs, and two three-toed feet from orange; a blobby wattle from red; and two round eyes from white (color them with a black marker to finish). Accordion fold the two legs. Glue or staple everything together: eyes, beak, and wattle on the turkey; turkey on top of the three hands glued in a stack; hands on the headband; feet to the folded legs; legs to the headband. Be sure to attach the legs far enough apart that you can see the happy artist’s face peeking through!!
This turkey uses colorful autumn leaves as its base instead of construction paper. Collect various sizes and colors of autumn leaves (be sure they have stems), and pair them together with one slightly smaller than the other. Glue the smaller leaf on top of the larger, turned at just enough of an angle that the stems form two legs. Add a pair of googly eyes (or colored paper eyes), an orange paper beak and a red paper wattle, and there’s your turkey. If you collect enough different sizes of leaves, you can make a whole family of turkeys to match your own family!
Leaf Tail Turkey
If you have lots of different kinds of leaves in your yard, this leaf tail turkey can be a fun way to use them. Cut a large and a small circle out of brown paper to be your turkey body and head. Tear or cut a piece of yellow leaf to form a beak and a piece of red leaf to form a wattle, and glue them onto the smaller circle, drawing on black eyes to form the face. Glue the face onto the larger circle to form the body, then glue only the lower half of the body onto a piece of paper. Draw on a pair of turkey legs, then arrange and glue the leaves to form a colorful turkey tail! If you want to get really creative and use this one as a centerpiece, you can make two turkey bodies and two turkey faces, and use cardstock instead of construction paper for the background. Once you’ve glued the lower half of the body on, fold the cardstock base in half and glue the leaves to the turkey body instead of the paper. Then flip it over, glue the second turkey in place, and you have a nice cardstock base with festive turkeys on either side.
Toilet Paper Tube Turkey
No list of children’s projects could possibly be considered complete without at least one craft made from a toilet paper tube, and this list is no exception. Trace the child’s hand on three different colors of paper and cut them out, then glue in a stack at the bottom of the tube. Using a sharp pair of scissors, snip the tube in a V to form the turkey’s beak, then glue on googly eyes and a red paper wattle. Another craft that makes a cute favor at each place setting.
And last, but certainly not least, let’s end with a good, messy painting project! Get a box (a large shoebox is the perfect depth), line the bottom with light-colored construction paper, and squirt some smallish blobs of various colors of paint right in the middle. Throw in a couple of clean pinecones and roll them around until the paint is nicely splattered all over the paper. Let it dry, then cut it into a large circle to be the turkey’s tail. Add a brown paper body, orange beak, red wattle, and googly eyes (the body can cover up the big blobs of paint in the center of the paper so the spattered part takes center stage). And the pinecones themselves make a pretty addition to your holiday table!
So what’s YOUR favorite Thanksgiving craft??