While the turkey cooks (last-minute Thanksgiving activities for the kids)

Family get-togethers usually involve a blend of delicious aromas wafting from the kitchen, squeals from the kids as they chase each other around the living room, and the adults valiantly trying to speak above all the racket to enjoy a snippet of conversation.

This Thanksgiving, consider these last-minute ideas when the kids are played out and need some structure, cousins need separated, or perhaps everyone needs a drop in the volume and shift in pace. Each activity involves little prep and is simple for younger children. Most likely, you will have most of the supplies at home.

Enjoy your time with family this week! Though often big family gatherings have the potential for stress, remember that you are with the greatest blessings God has given you, and this time is meant to be treasured. I’m praying that you will make beautiful memories with your loved ones this Thanksgiving, giving God the praise He deserves for His love and grace.

Five little Indian cousins

Five little Indian cousins

Indian Costumes
This was a hit at our early Thanksgiving celebration this year! Each child makes an Indian headdress and vest, then can play with the tribe. 

Headdress 
Supplies needed:

  • Brown construction paper, cut into strips (If also making the Indian vests, consider cutting off a strip of paper around the bottom of the paper bag, which would work in lieu of brown construction paper)
  • Colored construction paper, cut into feather shapes / OR, feathers
  • Glue sticks (skip actual glue if possible…less mess!) or double-sided tape
  • Stapler

Prep:
If younger children are participating, pre-cut the brown strips and feather shapes, if not using feathers.

Activity:
Have children attach the feathers to the long brown strip in any order they wish. Use at least four feathers. Measure their head, and staple (or tape) the headdress together. (Idea adapted from Kindergarten Kids at Play)

Vest
Supplies needed:

  • Paper bags (Ask in the local grocery store check-out line for several extra bags. Sometimes you may get them for free, or for several pennies each. Warning: Walmart doesn’t carry these at their registers.)
  • Art supplies of choice: markers or crayons are a must, depending on the ages you could also use colored paper cut into shapes, glitter, paint, etc.
  • Scissors

Prep: 
If younger children are participating, pre-cut the vest. On the side that isn’t folded, cut a vertical line up the center, then along the horizontal edge of the bottom to give the bag a vest opening. Cut a hole in the top for the head, and on the sides for the arms. You may want to use a child as a model before the actual activity to test how to best cut the vest openings.

Activity:
Cut the vest if not already done. Decorate as brightly and creatively as possible. Try on the vest and headdress and join your tribe when finished to play.

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Our turkey puppets

Our turkey puppets

Turkey Puppets
Instead of running around the couch, perhaps the kids would like to do a puppet show behind it, with their personalized turkey puppets. This craft is a snap to make!

Supplies needed:

  • Brown paper lunch bags
  • White, red and yellow construction paper (or plain white paper, colored)
  • Tissue paper in assorted colors (ideally yellow, red, orange, but we used what we had! Construction paper can also be substituted, but it is not as quick)
  • Scissors
  • Double-sided tape
  • Glue stick
  • Crayons or markers (especially black for the eyes)

Prep:
Pre-cut small strips of tissue paper, 3-4 inches long and 1-2 inches wide. Depending on ages, also pre-cut a yellow triangle beak, red gobbler and two white eyes per puppet. Depending on the age of the children, consider cutting off a few inches at the top of the bag so arms fit better to make the puppet talk.

Activity:
With the unfolded side of the bag, take double stick tape and run on the sides and folded edge. Then, arrange your tissue paper strips on the tape so that you will be able to see the “feathers” from the other side. Once tape is completely covered, turn the bag over. Glue on the eyes and beak. Glue on the gobbler under the fold. Color in the pupils on the eyes, and add any other decorations. Plan a puppet show with the rest of the turkeys, and break a wishbone (I mean leg)! (Idea adapted from No Time for Flash Cards)

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Fill Your Plate
Plan your Thanksgiving meal before you eat! Kids can color different foods and put together on their plate while waiting for the turkey to be done.

Supplies needed:

Prep:
Cut out the food clip-art so it’s ready to glue. Or, older kids can cut their own.

Activity:
Choose which food items to include on your plate and color. Then arrange and glue onto the plate. Create your own Thanksgiving masterpiece, without being stuffed afterward!

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Thanksgiving Coloring
Surprisingly enough, this was the activity that took the most time during our festivities. Kids (and adults) really got into the colors in their turkey feathers!

Supplies needed:

Prep:
Print the coloring sheets. I’d recommend two choices.

Activity:
Pick up a crayon and get to coloring!

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We have worked on our Thankful Tree all month, but a smaller-scale version is perfect on Thanksgiving!

We have worked on our Thankful Tree all month, but a smaller-scale version is perfect on Thanksgiving!

Thankful Tree
This activity can involve the entire family. Showcase your thankfulness by creating a tree (or pile) of thankful leaves. You will be amazed at how much your family has been blessed, and be reminded of God’s provision and love. Read more about our Thankful Tree tradition we started this November!

Supplies needed:

  • Construction paper (brown, red, yellow, orange, green)
  • Crayons or markers
  • Scissors
  • Stick tack

Prep:
Cut out leaf shapes in red, yellow, orange and red. The tree shape is limited only by the scale you desire and your creativity (or maybe the resources/time you have).

Activity:
Each person writes one thing they are thankful for. They can fill out as many leaves as the group decides upon or desires. Sticky tack the leaves to the tree or on the wall. Pray together as a family, thanking God for what was written on the leaves. Make sure to take a picture!

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Being a family

Our Family Activity Jar

Our Family Activity Jar

This jar has revolutionized our time together as a family.

As many families experience, we were somewhat stuck in a routine rut: home from school, home from work, dinner, cleanup, scatter, TV, more TV, baths and bed. Often we would play together or talk or take a walk, but we weren’t making the most of the time we had on weeknights.

So, I took a jar, wrote a bunch of activities on strips of paper, put them in the jar, and presto! The Family Activity Jar was born.

I didn’t realize what a sensation this simple jar would be to the kids, or how much it would improve our quality time enjoying each other!

When we have free time in the evenings, we take turns drawing an activity out of the jar. Usually, the kids are begging us to do family activities before we are finished with dinner. They absolutely love being a family, and spending time interacting as one.

Tonight’s activities included taking a walk in the dark (we bundled up in our winter coats and got out our flashlight and lantern to light the path), baking brownies (with each family member contributing in the process), praying for friends who need Jesus, and writing a letter/drawing a picture for a friend. Other activities have included board games, a dance party, building a fort, playing Wii, having a tea party, building towers, connecting train track around the living room, and many more. Some of these activities would have been difficult to get everyone involved or even interested in before, but now if it comes out of the jar, it’s full-on excitement! We are (all) learning lessons in taking turns, sharing, patience and participation.

Family is meant to be enjoyed. God specially gave us to each other to know, love and have fun together.

I realize that our children won’t be young for long, and homework, sports and other events will begin to take a larger role in their lives.  I don’t want to miss the joy of being together now and building a foundation together of trust and devotion. TV, computer and other screen time is a poor substitute, that often separates us rather than providing community.

Our Family Activity Jar is giving us an impetus to make the most of our time as we enjoy living life together.