Now, before you get all worked up over the word “craft”, let me reiterate what I said in this post. Crafts are not inherently evil. They’ve just gotten a bad rap because too many people have misused and abused them as a substitution for creative art experiences. Open-ended creative art activities should be the mainstay of a preschooler’s experiences, but occasional craft projects can be beneficial as well. There are simply a few things to consider before choosing a craft project for your children.
1) Is it developmentally appropriate? Meaning, you need to consider their developmental levels, their motor skills, interests, and attention spans, and decide if the project matches those needs. Think through the craft project and consider how much of the project the children can do on their own without undue frustration. If you have to do all the work, it really isn’t their project!
2) Do you have the appropriate setting? With young children, large group craft projects can be chaotic and frustrating. Consider utilizing crafts in small groups or in one-on-one situations so that children can get adequate help and work at their own pace.
3) Can you let go? You have to be ready for children who want to do things a little bit differently. And I would almost always say, that’s great! That shows divergent thinking. If a young child doesn’t want to make a turkey but sees the perfect supplies for making a butterfly, are you going to be OK with that? Too often, we (as adults) get so wrapped up in the end-product of a craft, that we forget that the whole purpose of the activity is to benefit the children producing them, not to create high-end collectibles.
So, with that lengthy disclaimer, here are a couple of Thanksgiving craft ideas that may suit your little ones and give them a fun activity to work on about the time the family feast turns into a football-fest!
The Paper Plate Turkey
Here’s the quick and dirty-
Provide these materials:
Paper plates, cut in halves
Brown, egg-shaped heads (eyes drawn on or have the children do it)
Yellow, triangle beaks
Yellow feet (cut notches in the same triangle shapes cut for the beaks)
Strips of colored paper, folded accordion style (or have children do the folding)
Assist the children as they glue the parts together to form a turkey! The above turkey picture is pretty much what I had in mind, but the children may want to do things differently. Maybe the strips of paper should be the feathers, or they may want to color the plates. Maybe they don’t want a turkey at all. Here are some samples that emerged as I did this project with some children recently:
Can you guess what this child’s favorite color is?
A project like this enhances small motor skills, some color and shape recognition, and a bit of creativity. You’ll notice that in the last sample, even though the outcome may not have been the “perfect turkey”, the same fine motor skills were used and shapes and colors could still be discussed. In fact, if you want to talk about creative development, which sample best shows that?
Adhesive foam (brown, black, red, green, orange, yellow)
Non-adhesive foam sheets, or felt sheets cut in half (for background)
Trace the children’s handprints onto the brown self adhesive foam. I can usually get two hands per sheet. Depending upon the skill level of the children, cut out the hands, or have the children cut them out. (If you have a larger group, do this ahead of time so that they can all be traced and cut out before the project.)
The next parts can be cut out ahead of time so that the children can simply apply them. You can “eyeball it” or use the patterns I’ve attached here. Cut a hat from black, and a hat band from red (or other color) and attach the band ahead of time for younger children. Cut a beak from yellow and a waddle from red and attach the waddle to beak ahead of time for younger children as well. Cut feathers from an assortment of colors. Have enough for at least three per child. Prepare the backgrounds by writing, “I am thankful for…” at the top and the child’s name and date on the back.
Help the children peel and stick the hand print onto the background, glue on the eye, attach the beak and hat, and add colored feathers between the fingers. Voila! A turkey! Now, read the top out loud and ask the children what they’re thankful for. Write their thankful thoughts on the feathers. This portion is a whole language activity. Turn their spoken words into written words right in front of them. Talk about some of the letters and sounds as you do. Intentionally think out loud to model the writing process.
One example on red foam. This group discussion focused primarily on people they were thankful for.
This example is on felt. You’ll notice this child is thankful for Christmas and Transformers. It always makes me laugh that preschoolers and retailers are more than happy to skip right over Thanksgiving and head straight for Christmas!
Remember that there is no law stating you must have a Thanksgiving craft. Pull out stacks of paper, scissors, and crayons and just let kids create! If, however, your children love crafts and you are both up to the challenge, maybe one of these two can fit the bill!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!