Let's face it, what would Thanksgiving be without turkeys? As a symbolic part of this holiday, young children should learn about this large fowl (bird) that frolics the farm and most popular during the fall months. Teach the children about its distinct features; a large, bright tail of feathers and the folds of the skin along the sides of the head and neck known as the wattles. Engage your students in these turkey crafts to spruce up the classroom and later to take home to share with their families.
Paint Chip Turkey Fan
The turkey fans his tail with an abundance of feathers. This craft makes use of free paint chip samples that can be obtained at your local paint shop or home decor center. Begin by having the children cut a turkey shape from brown construction paper that has been traced. Next, let them choose six to eight paint sample cards in different colors and arrange them to form a fan. Round the corners of each sheet with safety scissors. Have an adult staple this fan together at the bottom. Now, the children can glue the turkey shape onto the fan of samples. Encourage the preschoolers to use a marker to add eyes on the turkey's face. Cut an orange beak and a red wattle from scraps of construction paper. Adhere these with glue.
A Turkey Made of Shapes
Bring out the art box with a variety of different kinds of paper: construction paper, tissue paper, gift wrap, scrapbooking paper, foils, crepe paper and so on. Discuss the colors of fall (orange, red, brown, yellow and gold) and also review the geometric shapes the children have learned. Encourage the children to use this time to cut out shapes from the various papers provided.
Provide a sample of a turkey made from geometric shapes as a guidance tool. Challenge the preschoolers to make their own turkey from geometric shapes, following the pattern somewhat and yet letting them get as creative as they wish. Glue the pieces down onto a sheet of construction paper.
Mixed Media Turkey Glove
To make this gobbler, you will need:
- A variety of tissue paper in colors along with brown paper (could be a brown grocery bag).
- Popped pop corn
- Disposable latex glove (clear if possible)
- Yarn or string
- Candy corn
- Black marker
Preschool children will need your guidance to make this glove, so do this craft all together step-by-step. Fill each finger of the latex glove with a square of crumpled tissue paper; each finger a different color. These will represent the tail feathers. Stuff the thumb with brown paper for the turkey head. Place cooled popcorn inside the remainder of the glove for the body. Gather the wrist of the glove and tie each one with the string in a knot for the children. Using a black marker let the children draw an eye and then glue a piece of candy corn to the glove to resemble the beak.
Purchase a box of bow-tie pasta and invite the children to paint these dry pieces in a variety of colors with poster paints the first day. Let these dry completely. The following day, choose a round shape, whether a circle of yellow poster board or lunch-size paper plate (painted). Inside the center of the circle, glue on one piece of bow-tie pasta painted brown to replicate the turkey's face. Use a black sharpie marker to make eyes (or glue on googly eyes) and adhere a tiny red pom-pom for the wattle. Finish the project by letting the children glue an arrangement of pasta in a variety of colors around the back end of the circle for the tail feathers. Adhere two small branched twigs at the bottom for the gobbler's legs.
Clothespin Turkey Puppet
Cut circles from cardboard to represent the turkey's body and let each child paint it brown. When this dries, the children can cut out a turkey head, wattle and beak from scraps of construction paper and glue these onto the circle. Glue two craft sticks to the bottom for legs. Set this part aside for the moment.
Provide wooden clothespins (either the spring-type or old-fashioned clamp type). Invite the children to paint the wooden pieces in a variety of colors with tempera paints. Let these dry completely.
To assemble the turkey, encourage the preschoolers to clip several clothespins to the back of their brown cardboard circle to resemble the turkey's feathers. Not only is this a great turkey preschool craft, the children can hold the puppet by the craft stick legs and use it when reciting a verse, singing a song, or playing thanksgiving games.
What Children Learn…
Making crafts is an excellent way to teach children about the symbolic parts of a holiday. The hands-on experience is an excellent tool for developing fine motor skills and teaches about different mediums that can be used in art. Use these preschool turkey crafts as decorations, but incorporate them in as many ways as you can throughout the curriculum, like making up stories about the turkeys frolicking around your classroom, counting them for math, reciting colors and just discussing their existence as domestic or wild animals in a social studies unit. And don't forget to make the sounds – "gobble, gobble."
Personal experience in the early childhood classroom
Adapted crafts from “The Best of Mailbox – Book 2”; edited by Susan Walker; 1999-2003
Photos by Tania Cowling, all rights reserved