November has crept up on us very quickly this year. Try out these educational Thanksgiving projects to get your kids excited for the holiday. Each activity focuses on different skills: shape recognition, fine motor skills, creative thinking, body part placement, and language skills such as learning new vocabulary like, “wattle,” or discussing what you’re thankful for.

  1. You’ll need glitter, clear contact paper, brown construction paper, scissors, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, and feathers.
  2. Place the contact paper down, sticky side up and put the pre-cut brown turkey outline on it (reference our picture above). Then let the kids shake the glitter on and suggest they keep it inside the brown shape.
  3. Next, let the kids pick two colored pipe cleaners and stick them on the bottom of the turkey for its legs.
  4. Show the kids where the back of the turkey is and tell them he needs feathers. Let them put as many or a little as they want; remember it’s their art, not yours.
  5. Finally, place another piece of clear contact paper on, with the two sticky sides together so that all the glitter doesn’t fall out. Once it’s closed up ask the kids where the eye would go and have them glue it on. You may have to explain what a profile view is since the turkey will only have one eye. I showed a two year old child the side of my face and asked how many eyes I had and then the front of my face; she seemed to understand.
  6. For added fun to this Thanksgiving project, read How to Catch a Turkey; point out where the turkey’s feathers are on its body.
  1. I suggest making this activity ahead at naptime or when you have some free time. Start by cutting out the size turkey you want from brown construction paper (view our picture above).  Then cut some feather, each a different color.
  2. Now cut out shapes inside of the feathers; this is the most time consuming. You can’t mangle the shape while cutting it out because your child will use it to match and place on the contact paper.
  3. Lastly, build your turkey right on the sticky clear contact paper. The sticky side will be out so you will need tape to adhere the smooth side to a wall or window at your child’s height.
  4. Place all the shapes out and see how your child does finding not only the matching shape, but also the correct color. Discuss the shapes and colors as you go.
  1. First have the kids go out and collect the leaves falling from the trees. Ask the kids why the leaves are different shapes. Talk about the cold weather effecting the color in the leaves before they fall off.
  2. After the kids have all the leaves they want, go back inside and have them pick their favorite five (the extra can be saved for another project). Place them out on the right side of a wax sheet of paper.
  3. Ahead of time, shave the wax off of crayons with a sharp knife (only an adult should do this part). I don’t suggest using a shredder; the wax gets stuck in the holes and not much falls off to use for the project.
  4. Let the kids sprinkle colored wax shavings all over. Then, fold over the extra wax paper and iron it together. Depending on the age of the children and your level of trust, you can let them help iron. I let a three year old put his hand on top of mine as I ironed (first we talked about how hot it gets).
  5. Now hang up the Thanksgiving project on a window to let the light shine through and admire your child’s beautiful, homemade, Autumn decor!
  1. After you make your colored rice, you will want to add more items to your sensory bin. Think of what reminds you of Thanksgiving. I put in fake leaves and feathers. If you have play food that would be found on the table for the holiday dinner, such as corn, toss that in too.
  2. You can make pumpkins to add in by hot gluing a green pipe cleaner to an orange pompom. You can also easily make little turkeys by painting a wine cork brown and gluing on googly eyes and small feathers.
  3. Offer spoons and cups so your children can scoop, dump, sort, and count. Another great item to add is jumbo play tweezers (sometimes can be found at Dollar Tree) for kids to work on their fine motor and hand-eye coordination skills.
  4. As always to stretch out their learning during play, talk! Talk about why there are turkeys and corn in the same bin. How do they relate? What holiday is coming up?
  1. Ahead of time cut a paper towel roll in half. Also cut a small red wattle and orange feet using pipe cleaners. For the feet, have your child fold the pipe cleaner to create the turkey’s toes.
  2. Using construction paper, cut out different color feathers, a small triangular nose, and a turkey’s body in the shape of a bowling pin. You can do this ahead of time or give your child a chance to practice his scissor skills; it may help for him to have pre-drawn lines to cut on.
  3. Before letting your child glue the feathers on, ask him what he is thankful for. For young kids give examples of what you are thankful for to help them understand the concept. You can also ask, “What makes you happy?” to help explain being thankful. Encourage older kids to write what they are thankful for themselves.
  4. Put out glue, the halved paper towel rolls, pipe cleaner pieces, and googly eyes. Let your child be creative and get messy. Ask your child where each body part goes on the turkey. Explain what the wattle is and maybe show a picture of a real turkey.
  5. To help children understand more about what they may be thankful for, you can read Thanks for Thanksgiving.


Ask older children open ended questions about Thanksgiving while crafting, “Do you know why we celebrate Thanksgiving?” For younger, nonverbal children you can talk about the holiday as you play and learn, “Leaves change color and fall off the trees this time of year, when it starts to get cold.” Have fun trying out all of these educational Thanksgiving projects throughout the month of November! Check back next week for more activity blogs.

About The Author

Kelsey Dickson has over 15 years of experience working with children as a nanny, preschool teacher, and now a mother. She has her degree in Early Childhood Education and works for Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny as the eLearning Manager. Check out our online childcare classes, such as Baby Sign Language and Sleep Coaching 101! In her free time she enjoys gardening with her son, going for walks with her husband and dog, and discovering local wineries in New England.