In most houses, the Thanksgiving gathering stretches for hours. It’s not an eat-and-run kind of a day, you’re all in it for the long haul. And while adults have an acquired ability to make their own entertainment (catching up with Uncle Ivan, tossing around a football, helping in the kitchen) kids sometimes need a little more direction to fill those hours before the turkey hits the table.
In our house, that’s where the Craft Table comes into play.
Every year there are at least half a dozen kids at our Thanksgiving, and their ages might range from 1 to 18. There are always a handful of little guys, too young (and too uninterested) to help peel the apples, and frankly how many kids do you want “helping” in the kitchen anyway? Not half a dozen, I can tell you that.
About 10 years ago, my mom came up with the clever idea of setting up a craft table where the younger kids could pull up a chair and draw, color, cut, stamp, and paste to their hearts content.
I asked my mom how she decided to start this tradition, and this is what she (her name is Carolan Workman, by the way) had to say: “The nicest thing about it was its one-size-fits-all universality: boys and girls, old and young, either artistically adept or…not. And there was something wonderful in seeing a high school linebacker cousin gluing sparkles or cutting felt squares next to a toddler.”
Adorably, and organically, bigger kids help younger kids with their projects. A constant flow of chatter flows from the table, about the craft projects, about school, about friends, whatever. This is also fun to eavesdrop on.
And it’s not all about the kids, of course. Audible sighs of happiness could be heard from the parents, freed up to enjoy that glass of wine and a bit of quiet conversation. Occasionally a child will pop up to show you their beautiful macaroni turkey. The parent will gasp with amazement at such artistic skill. The child, satisfied, will leave the adult with their gift and return to the table to create another masterpiece for another lucky relative.
Here’s what you need for you craft table (pick and choose):
A large folding table you don’t care about, or a table that you can cover well with a plastic tablecloth, or heavy paper taped securely over the top. And chairs (ones without dry clean only cushions).
Craft supplies can include any of the following:
• Glue Sticks (avoid liquid glue if you can)
• Construction paper in all sizes
• Felt or foam, for cutting into shapes
• Thanksgiving-themed stamps with washable ink stamp pads
• Washable markers, crayons, colored pencils (avoid chalk)
• If you are going for paint, make very sure it’s washable, maybe even provide washable water colors (easier to clean up, less likely to spill)
• Popsicle sticks
• Printed or colored tape, such as washi tape
• Googley eyes (optional but recommended)
• Childproof (or safety) scissors (these also come in packages with cool edges so that you can cut patterns into the paper)
• Thanksgiving-themed stickers, cut outs, and foam shapes
(Let them make place cards if you like!)
Online you can fine all kinds of cute – and cheap! – holiday craft projects, like kits for making your own pilgrim hats, Thanksgiving wreaths, woven placemat kits, etc., etc. A mail-order company called Oriental Trading Company (slightly archaic name) provided many of our make-your-own foam turkey kits, and has a ton of well-priced DIY craft projects ready to go (also great for little kids’ birthday parties).
And of course now there is the magical portal called Pinterest, where many clever people have comes up with cute DIY projects for Thanksgiving, most of which call for items easily purchased at a craft store or online.
Now that the kids at our holiday are all getting older, and we are not quite at the next generation of little people, my Mom, like me, waxes a bit nostalgic: “The Craft Table was no less important than the turkey at our Thanksgivings.” We still have a smaller version, but way fewer little kids. We’re imagining this will circle back.
Final tip: no glitter. If you don’t know why already, just trust me; you do not need to learn the hard way.