My students and I went for a nature walk and collected leaves from various trees from around the neighborhood. This summer’s harsh weather really put a damper on the typical vibrant colors of Fall, so we couldn’t name all the colors of Fall leaves (we did get brown and yellow down pat). For older children, you can extend the activity by learning the names of the different trees on your block (maple, oak, gingko, honey locust, etc) and graphing how many of each type you saw on your nature walk.
When we got back to the classroom, we glued the leaves down on a piece of paper to represent the turkey’s feathers. Make sure the leaves are glued down flat, or they will begin to curl (if you have time to dry the leaves overnight, that works the best). My children glued a paper turkey body onto their leaves to complete the project. I have done this activity in the past being more “nature-y” and created the body using a pinecone. However, this gets heavy, so you might need to use a piece of cardboard to glue the leaves onto and a hot glue gun to secure the pinecone. (It also looks delightful with some large googley eyes, however those are banned from my school for being a choking hazard, so use those at your own risk).
This by far is the cutest project I send home for Thanksgiving! We do this activity after discussing parts of our body and compare them to the parts of a turkey (show me your eyes, show me your nose, show me your gobbler!). This project also incorporates naming different shapes and colors. Older children can cut out their own faces, eyes, beaks and gobblers.
Tip: Brown paper bags from the grocery store are lifesavers at Thanksgiving. No need to buy construction paper.
Handprint Thanksgiving cards
I think that the handprint turkey is more traditional than cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving time. But, this keepsake serves as a wonderful reminder of how little your child was at one point – and makes a great place card or gift for relatives.
I set out different colored paints and asked my students to name which colors they wanted to use. For older children, I let them paint their own hands to make it more personal.
The poem I use is the same one from a card I gave my parents in 1989:
This isn’t just a turkey, as you can plainly see.
I made it with my hand, which is a part of me.
It comes with lots of love, especially to say:
I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving Day!
If you’re feeling extra adventurous…
Handprint and footprint turkey
My students loved having the freedom of painting their own hands for this activity, and I enjoyed sitting back and doing nothing while they built up their fine motor skills (haha). The children stamped their hands on a piece of paper to create the turkey feathers. Next is the best part: tickling those little feet! (Make sure you have wet wipes, or a bucket of soapy water handy so you don’t get little painted footprints all over your home). To complete this work of art, thumbprints can be used to create eyes, beak and gobbler.
With all the hubbub of department stores opening their doors at 8pm for holiday shoppers, I have one more activity to remember what Thanksgiving is truly about.
I am Thankful for…
This is an activity I recommend parents do with their children every year from the time that they can answer a question (2 ½ to 3-years-old), because the responses from each year are priceless! I begin the activity by explaining to the children that Thanksgiving is a special day (a holiday) that we spend time with our loved ones and say “thank you” for the wonderful things in our lives. Next I ask them what they are thankful for/what they want to say thank you for, and write down their exact response. (“Thomas the Train” “ my Hello Kitty shoes”).
Though, the best response to the question this year was one my fellow teacher received from a little boy, a very energetic: “I AM THANKFUL FOR POTATOES!”
I hope you enjoy participating in these activities with your child – those moments and keepsakes are definitely something to reserve some time for and to be thankful for years to come. Enjoy your time with your families and friends, and the delicious feasts.