For me, Thanksgiving invokes feelings of fall, family, food, and, most of all, appreciation. Thanksgiving reminds me of how grateful I am for all the things I have been blessed with, all the things that make my life so wonderful. Not just on this one day but every day.
And, of course, it makes me think of arts and crafts and Thanksgiving activities!
Who among us doesn’t remember doing some Thanksgiving-themed craftivity in elementary school? Most likely, it was turkey hands—you know what I’m talking about. Put your hand down on a piece of paper. Spread your fingers. Trace around them (add a bit of a beak and beard to your thumb), and color it all in. Voila! Hand turkeys to grace your refrigerator for the holidays. Well, not to cast aspersions on this time-honored Thanksgiving tradition, but I think we can do a bit better!
I have compiled this list of 10 easy and fun Thanksgiving activities for kids that go beyond turkey hands. Each fosters thought, engagement, and creativity.
I’ve created these resources with you in mind. I make my lessons as easy as possible. My hope is to minimize prep time, simplify instruction, and reduce monitoring—to help save your precious time!
1. How to Draw: Thanksgiving
My directed drawing activity features Thanksgiving-themed images like scarecrows, turkeys, and Pilgrims. Kids love directed drawing because they are always surprised at how well they can draw something—yes, even those kids who like to say, “I can’t draw.” They CAN draw if they follow my easy directions.
I teach directed drawing art lessons in a unique and specific way that is fun for kids and teachers! It’s call and response, singing and doing. I can guide you through everything you need to know. Even if you think you can’t draw—you can—don’t fret! And the kids will love it no matter what.
This how-to-draw Thanksgiving activity will make your students very proud and happy. Students will get to practice many skills, including fine motor development, hand/eye coordination, sequencing, and direction following, to name a few. I am sure they’ll have a cornucopia of fun!
2. Listening Comprehension
This Thanksgiving listening comprehension activity is a collaboration between my friend Mary Beth of Brain Waves Instruction and me. It is a great combination of content and creativity and a fantastic Thanksgiving celebration!
In this lesson, students will practice the critical skill of listening comprehension. They will also be learning about the origin of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. After a mini-lesson on what to listen for and how to take notes, the students will listen to a passage about Sarah Josepha Hale. She is the woman behind the national holiday. They will take notes during the reading, and then they’ll answer questions based on their passage. Finally, they’ll create a festive piece of art—a “pop art” turkey with designs and shapes based on the answers to the comprehension questions. This activity perfectly celebrates the holiday, keeps students learning, and integrates art into your instruction.
Included in this free Thanksgiving lesson:
- Detailed lesson plan (2 pages)
- Sarah Josepha Hale listening passage for Grades 4-5 & grades 6-8
- Guided notes and note-taking sheet
- Pop Art turkey
- Detailed steps for creating the pop art turkey
More details about this project are available in Mary Beth’s TPT store Brain Waves Instruction and can be found HERE. I know your kids will love this!
3. Thanksgiving Placemats
I’ve had great success with this Thanksgiving placemats activity—the kids love it. It makes an outstanding contribution to their family Thanksgiving table or, as I did one year, to a community Thanksgiving meal event.
In this resource, I explain six different ways to make Thanksgiving-themed placemats with your students. I developed various placemat styles, some geared to younger students and some to older ones. I include images and handouts to save you as much work as possible. You can choose which designs you like and what works best for your students. You could also decide to let the kids pick which one they would like to make. If you have access to a school laminator, you can laminate them when they are finished. Doing this will make the placemats reusable!
My students and I made ours for the Salvation Army during their annual Thanksgiving dinner. Every student in my school made a placemat from kindergarten to fifth grade. We donated almost 600 of them to the Salvation Army to use with their Thanksgiving meal that year.
They were the talk of Thanksgiving dinner that year! It meant a lot to the kids to give something they made to others! It was a great community project, and I encourage you to do the same. You can get my complete resource (which includes instructions for six different placemat designs and techniques) in my TPT store HERE.
FREE “FINISH YOUR PLATE” PLACEMAT RESOURCE
If you want to try one of my placemat activities, I have my “finish the plate” placemat design (the template and all the instructions) available for FREE if you sign up to be on my email list.
I love to spoil teachers, parents, and administrators who sign up for my emails by sending exclusive freebies, tips, and tricks, as well as special announcements of sales. Not to mention, after you join, you’ll get invited to my “Subscribers Library” of freebies like my “Finish your Plate” placemat resource.
It’s easy. Simply sign up (under “share and save” at the very end of this post), and you’ll get my free ebook sent right to your inbox (check your spam folder if you don’t see it).
Then, you’ll get information on accessing my subscriber-only library, where you can download this freebie (along with many others). In the meantime, you can enjoy my free ebook content. If you’d like to get it immediately, you can sign up HERE.
4.Turkey Door Decoration Poster
I know teachers love the “idea” of decorating their doors for the holidays. Still, the thought of actually coming up with an idea, gathering the supplies, and making the door often gets scratched off the “to-do” list before it’s created or never even makes it on the list.
I have a solution to this! My Thanksgiving door project is very easy for teachers. It allows all the kids in your class to be involved in decorating. Have them decorate your door for you! The kids color the pieces (there are 35 pieces). Then they cut each piece out. Finally, the poster gets assembled (perhaps with some help).
You can hang it up on your door, down a hallway, or on a bulletin board! It makes for a great classroom cooperative activity.
If you are using this for your door, I have left room for kick plates at the bottom of your door and soft-close hinges at the top. If you want the entire door to be covered, I recommend using butcher paper. First, cover the door and add then attach the poster to the paper. Once the poster is up, cut around the doorknob and be the envy of your hallway!
Everyone wins with this project—it’s low prep for the teacher, fun for the kids, and will get your door decorated for the Thanksgiving holiday in a snap! Click HERE to see this poster resource in my TPT store.
5. Pattern Pumpkins Paper Project
Whether you are a classroom teacher, art teacher, or parent, this fun pattern pumpkin project (with a free template) is for you. The kids use the supplied templates to cut sections of a pumpkin from various colors of construction paper. Then, they assemble the pumpkin and decorate it using the leftover scrap pieces of paper, which they cut into shapes and patterns. The end product is super cute, and the process keeps the kids engaged while practicing problem-solving, cutting, gluing, and other fine motor skills.
I describe the complete project in this video HERE.
If you prefer written directions, I put them all together in this blog post (HERE). The kids always have fun making these cute, colorful, patterned pumpkins and creating excellent bulletin board displays! Like this one from Fourth and Fritcher!
6. Thanksgiving Interactive and Pattern-filled Coloring Sheets
I have been interested in Pop Art all of my adult artist life. I created my interactive Pop Art-style coloring sheets to allow students to learn about Pop Art Imagery by trying it themselves.
My Thanksgiving Pop Art collection includes pumpkins, turkeys, fall leaves, acorns, dinner place settings, and Pilgrim hats. The great part about my Pop Art coloring sheets is that no two finished sheets will ever be the same! Students can create infinite combinations and patterns when doing these coloring sheets.
I have also included sheets with writing prompts to help align this activity to the common core and provide students with more time to practice writing.
These interactive coloring sheets are one of the most popular items in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Here is what one of my Instagram teacher friends says about my interactive coloring sheets…
“I found that my 5th/6th graders come to me and, because of the focus on testing, never played with color or design or patterns. Your products give them that opportunity, and I’ve seen so much improvement in their attention to detail and noticing patterns, lines, etc. It’s so much more than ‘just coloring.'”
Great for any age! My Thanksgiving collection includes interactive coloring sheets (where the kids add their patterns) and sheets with some patterns already (which are easier for younger kids). They are great for any age kids—from 4 to 104! (Hint: Teachers love coloring these Pop Art coloring pages as much as the kids do!) Click HERE to get these coloring sheets to use in your classroom (via my TPT store).
If you are looking for a group coloring project, I have a set of Thanksgiving-themed “Table Posters.” Think of these as fun, extra-large Thanksgiving coloring pages for your students.
My Thanksgiving table posters are geared toward pre-K, kindergarten, and 1st graders (but older kids love them, too!). They are small posters (or big coloring pages) that you spread out on a table and have small groups of kids work together or apart! They are immediately engaging, lead to great discussion and cooperation, and, most of all, they are fun! You can find them in my TPT store HERE.
7. Thanksgiving Math Coloring Sheets
Art and math naturally combine and make beautiful holiday bulletin board displays. In my art class, I liked to use the arts to help students achieve academic success as often as possible. This made me feel like I was contributing to my school community. We read, wrote, and did math whenever it was applicable. With this goal in mind, I took my interactive coloring sheets (see above) and turned them into math coloring sheets to create a Thanksgiving-themed art and math combined activity. My students and I used them, and they truly loved them. I often snickered and thought to myself, “Did they just cheer when I told them we were going to do math in art class?”
Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, and Times Tables
My set of Thanksgiving-themed math coloring sheets includes pages for addition up to 20, subtraction from as high as 25, and multiplication and division that review all the times tables from the 2s to the 9s.
These math sheets are a great review of math facts and great for “discreet” differentiation. As the teacher, you know which students need a challenge and can do the division sheets and which students might still be struggling with subtraction. You can give out these sheets, and all kids can work on their level.
8. Pinch Pot Turkey Trinket Holders
In my Halloween Art Activities for Kids round-up post, I include a lesson on making clay pinch pot pumpkins. Pinch pots are the easiest of all the clay projects. You take a ball of clay and then “pinch it” to make an opening. This technique can be used with kids during Thanksgiving to make little turkey trinket holders. Classroom teachers can use air-dry clay. Art teachers can use kiln fire clay. Or, the best of both worlds, classroom and art teachers, can collaborate to make these cute little turkeys! The same technique can be used to make cute little clay turkey trinket holders.
- Roll a bit of clay into a ball (maybe the size of a tangerine). Then put your two thumbs on the top of the ball and push them into the clay, thereby “pinching” the clay between your thumb and fingers on both hands. Use your fingers to work the clay into the right size and opening you would like.
- Then start to form the features of the turkey. Pull up a piece of clay for its neck and head and a fan of clay for its tail.
- Add details and texture to the turkey. Using a wooden skewer (or pencil point), you can scratch lines into the clay. You can create feathers and facial features. When the kids are finished, make sure to have them put their initials on the bottom. I love seeing an entire classroom set of clay pieces all sitting out to dry!
- Fire the kiln fire clay (after letting the pieces dry to leather hard). Or let the air-dry clay dry per instructions on the container.
- Next, paint the turkeys using either acrylic paint for both kiln-dry and air-dry clay, or if you have access to beautiful glazes, then go that route. If you don’t have little pointed stilts for the glazed pieces, you’ll need to keep the bottom free of glaze, or else they will stick to the kiln shelf. I recommend you use pointed stilts so you can glaze the pieces on all sides.
The finished products are quite cute.
Note: These directions are not intended to be a complete detailed description of how to use kiln fire clay.
I did a Facebook live video (featuring my 6-year-old daughter) showing how to make pumpkin pinch pots with air-dry clay. The process is the same for these cute turkeys – you just don’t need a top!
So even if you don’t have a kiln, you can still introduce your kids to working with clay! You can see that FB video HERE.
9. “I am Thankful For…” Project
This fun project will produce an eye-catching and conversation-starting display of tessellated turkeys. Who knew you could even do that?!
I developed this resource as an “I am thankful for…” project where students write about things they are thankful for (with several writing options available to cover all ability levels). The writing pages are combined with coloring pages that, when cut out, make a perfectly connected collection of Thanksgiving turkeys. The colorful display can be hung on your bulletin board or used to decorate your classroom door. Or, perhaps, you could get your whole team or even the entire school involved in a large hallway or front entryway “I am thankful for…” project.
The great thing about my tessellation resources is that they work equally well for ten or ten hundred. They show that each individual has a unique contribution and, when combined with their community, produces an even greater whole.
More information about this unique, fun, “Tessellated Turkey” resource is available in my TPT store HERE.
10. Thanksgiving Agamographs
And finally, this brings me to one of my personal favorites, my Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Fall collection of image-changing agamographs. These agamographs pack a huge WOW factor that has everyone who walks by doing a double-take and stopping to explore!
If you want to make agamographs with your kids from scratch, I have a blog post to take you through it step by step. Have kids start with Thanksgiving-themed paintings rather than emojis.
If you are looking for a project that is a bit less involved, takes less time, and is assured of fantastic results, my TPT resource is just the ticket! It has all the templates you need and a complete four-minute how-to video that you can use to teach your students how to create the agamographs – let me do the teaching for you! You can find it HERE.
That’s it! We made it.
My goal is to make your life as a classroom teacher as easy as possible. I want to preserve your precious time and help you by providing art-infused enrichment activities for your students. I continue to write blog posts, produce new resources, film new videos, and try to get information out there however I can with this thought in mind.
Please consider joining my email list if you want to stay informed about all my efforts and new material (including discounts on new products and exclusive freebies). I promise I won’t deluge you with junk. My aim is always to provide you with helpful, time-saving resources, tips and tricks, and other handy bits of information on an occasional basis. I hope you’ll join me on this creative journey.
And, as always, thanks for making art with your kids!