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Thanksgiving Classroom Feast Ideas: Decorating, Activities, Crafts, Food

Thanksgiving Decorations

Decorating | Activities | Reading | Games | Feast Ideas

Thanksgiving is observed annually as a day to commemorate the Pilgrim's harvest of 1621, to give thanks for blessings great and small, and to feast! This is a wonderful party to invite students' parents or grandparents to join your class, and to share with them. Give the children the opportunity to help in preparing the food for the "feast".

The tips that follow will help you pull your harvest look together for the biggest impact. Most will work whether your party location is indoors or outdoors, or whether you are decorating a gymnasium, a classroom, or a cafeteria.

Getting Started

Delight students and helpers with official invitations to your Thanksgiving party! You can use store-bought invites - or make your own. A few ideas: attach notes with the party information onto little pumpkins (real or plastic) or little pilgrim hats. Cutting out holiday shapes (pumpkins, hats, turkeys, etc.) from orange, yelllow, red and brown paper makes a fun way to deliver your message as well. Give out the invites well in advance to generate excitement and anticipation!

Thanksgiving Feast Ideas

The following snack ideas are easy to make, and many are simple enough for children to make. Some can do double duty, and work well as table decorations or crafts…and then gobbled in your harvest feast.

  • Cornucopia of Treats
    Create a centerpiece by filling a horn-of-plenty (cornucopia) basket with healthy snacks such as apples, bananas, little baggies filled with grapes, popcorn, or a variety of mini muffins (cornbread, blueberry, pumpkin). Many specialty and grocery store bakeries are now offering bread in a cornucopia shape. Add little bowls of bread toppings (butter, jam, peanut butter, etc.) to the table, and the children can munch on the centerpiece during the party!

  • Pilgrim Hat Snacks
    Serve dry snacks in pilgrim hats turned upside down. Popcorn, pretzels, or wrapped goodies all look much more appetizing when the presentation is cute!

  • Not-Quite-Turkey Sandwiches
    Make sandwiches using favorite ingredients, (PB&J, balogna, ham & cheese, honey & banana) and cutout full-sized cookie cutter turkeys. For adventurous children, try pumpernickel bread. Sliced green olives, little pieces of carrots, raisins, and chocolate chips make terrific eyes, and no turkey would be complete without a little pimento or red licorice wattle!

  • Cranberry Critters
    Cut a log of canned jellied cranberry sauce into 10 slices. Use Thanksgiving cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the slices. As an alternative, use a pan of set Jell-O® (using the "Jigglers" recipe) to create cutouts.

  • Bountiful Cookies
    This snack doubles as an activity, as children decorate their own sugar cookies. Have a small table set up with plenty of sugar cookies cut out in Thanksgiving shapes with cookie cutters, (turkeys, pumpkins, pilgrim hats, etc.) on individual plates, along with different colors of frosting, sprinkles, candy corn, and other goodies. This activity works equally well with 2 year-old preschoolers and with 10th graders.

  • Teeny Turkeys

    Teeney Turkey

    What you'll need for each turkey: One Nutter Butter™ cookie, one peanut butter cup, 2 chocolate wafers, chocolate frosting, 8-10 pieces of candy corn, and a few mini M&Ms™ or jelly beans. Frost the top of the peanut butter cup, and press it onto the chocolate wafer, lining up one edge of each to the other. Use additional frosting to attach candy corn along the other edge to create the appearance of feathers. Frost one side of the Nutter Butter™ cookie and press it onto the other side of the peanut butter cup. Use small candies to create a turkey face and wattle. Using more frosting, attach the "turkey" to the remaining chocolate wafer. Add candy corn to the base of the turkey as feet.

  • Mini Pumpkin Pies
    Instead of baking one large pie, bake mini pies using ready-made mini pie shells and canned pumpkin pie filling (prepared as directed on the can). The same concept will work with apple pie or an apple crumble pie. Kids love to be involved in baking projects. Recruit parents to help a few days prior to the party, and let each child make their own. Mini thanksgiving shaped cookie cutters can be used to create pie-topping garnish. For each mini pie cut one or two shapes out of ready-made pie pastry, bake on a cookie sheet, and add them to the cooled pies.

  • Tasty Place Cards
    Bake sugar cookies in the shape of rectangles, and let cool. With colored gel or frosting, write the names of party guests on the cookies, and decorate as desired. A miniature Snickers™ bar attached with frosting will make the cookie stand. This is a great table decoration, and a nice personal touch for a small group or classroom of children.

  • Beverages
    Apple cider served warm or cool is the perfect beverage for a Thanksgiving gathering. To fill the room with a delicious aroma, fill a crock-pot with apple cider, and add ¼ cup of maple syrup and two cinnamon sticks. Simmer on low.

Thanksgiving Decorating Ideas

Set the right tone for your celebration by using simple but colorful decorations. Incorporate harvest colors into your decor: browns, golds, reds, yellows and oranges. Thanksgiving Scene Setters are an easy and inexpensive way to decorate your classroom or party area!

  • When decorating tables in a classroom, start by covering tables with orange flat paper . Group tissue pumpkins in the center, and scatter tissue leaves and a few foil wrapped chocolates in fall colors down the center of the table…simple and easy! The orange paper functions as a colorful tablecloth, and the kids can draw on the paper if they finish any activity sooner than anticipated. Add baskets of markers to the table, and encourage them to make handprint turkeys!

  • Create an inexpensive centerpiece using Pilgrim hats. Select balloons and curling ribbon to match your theme colors. Inflate the balloons (always use an odd number-3, 5, or 7) with helium and attach a weight to the bouquet. If you prefer not to use helium, attach the balloons to balloon sticks and press the sticks into a piece of floral foam. Turn the pilgrim hat upside down, add the balloons and tissue paper or metallic shred to complete the centerpiece.

  • Set a table that will make the children feel extra special. Use 12" autumn leaf cutouts as mini placemats. Add gold metallic or thanksgiving theme paper plates and napkins, gold plastic cutlery.

  • Never underestimate the power of decorating with balloons. Balloons can turn any space into a festive and inviting atmosphere in minutes at a very low cost. You need not use helium, and will save money using this tip. Inflate harvest colored balloons, and tie a 5-8 foot piece of yellow, red or orange curling ribbon to the end of each one. Using scotch tape, masking tape, or straight pins, hang balloons down from the ceiling so they hang at different lengths. Curl the loose end of the ribbon with scissors. Group a bunch of them together over a serving table, over a doorway, or in any creative manner you choose.

Thanksgiving Activities and Crafts

  1. Pilgrim Hats
    Create pilgrim hats that double as snack holders. For each pilgrim hat, use one black stadium cup or plastic Solo cup, one 6" circle of black cardboard (adjust size if necessary for size of cup), a gold or yellow "buckle" made from cardstock paper, and tape or sticky pads. Fill the pilgrim hat with a dry snack (popcorn, pretzels, wrapped candies). Attach the circle base and buckle. They make great table decorations!

  2. Napkin Rings
    Make festive feather Native American headdress napkin rings to add glorious fall color to your table. Cut toilet paper tubes into 1 1/2" wide rings. Paint designs in festive fall colors on the "rings". Add construction paper or real feathers. Allow each student to make a set for his/her family if time permits.

  3. Thanksgiving Placemats
    Create personalized thanksgiving placemats. They can be used at the party, and then sent home for Thanksgiving dinner. Use tissue leaves, or leaves cut from construction paper. Give each child 8-10 leaves, and have them write one thing that they are thankful for on each leaf. Glue the leaves to a 12" by 18" piece of paper, and laminate. Clear contact paper also works well for the purpose of "laminating".

  4. Decorated Tablecovers
    Cover tables with orange flat paper. Add baskets of markers to the tables, and allow the children to draw on the decorative table covers if they finish other activities faster than anticipated. This activity is always a hit!

  5. Pinecone Turkeys
    Make turkeys out of pinecones. Add colorful feathers, wiggly eyes, and cut and bent pipe cleaners for the beak, wattle and feet.

  6. Pilgrim Placecards -- You'll need:

    • Black paint pen
    • Wooden clothespin
    • Black pipe cleaners
    • Bottle cap
    • Construction paper
    • Glue

    Use fine tip colored markers to draw faces on the "head" of each clothespin. Color the rest of the clothespin black. Just below the head, wrap a black pipe cleaner around the neck, to create the arms. Wrap another pipe cleaner around the feet, to make the pilgrim stand up in the bottle cap. Glue on a black construction paper hat (complete with yellow buckle), and a white paper vest. Cut nametags from white or yellow construction paper, and attach to the pilgrim's arms. They look really cute with the nametag held above the pilgrim's head.

  7. Mayflower Placecards -- You'll need:

    • Terra cotta colored Sculpey® clay
    • Toothpicks
    • White paper plate

    Fill with M&M's™ or mini candy bars in fall colors. Mold clay into boats similar in shape to the Mayflower. Cut a good-sized sail out of the edge of a white paper plate. Write the names of each child on the sails. Poke two holes in the center of the sail (vertically), and use the toothpick as the mast. Boats should be approximately 4-5" in length when completed.

Thanksgiving Game Ideas

  1. Turkey Calling Contest – Host a turkey calling contest, complete with lots of squawking, flapping, wattle shaking, and pecking. Give each participant a prize with a fun distinction: "loudest turkey", "most authentic", "most likely to be spared", "cutest turkey", etc. This activity can also be turned into a relay race with the class split into two teams. Loud, but fun! (Ages 4-Adult)

  2. Balloon Popping Contest – Divide the children into two equal groups. About 25 yards away place two bags of inflated harvest colored balloons. These balloons should be overinflated to make popping easier. At the sound of a bell, the first two relay contestants, one from each team, run to the bag, and remove one balloon. Each must sit on it until it pops. Once the balloon pops, the players run back to the starting line, and tag the next player in line. The first team to complete the course wins. If you have children who are afraid of the sound of popping balloons, offer a grown-up stand-in. Not a quiet game…but a guaranteed favorite! (Ages 4-Adult)

  3. Pass the Corn – Divide the children into two teams and have them form two lines. You will need two cobs of dried Indian corn. At the signal to "go", the corncob is to be passed from child to child. The catch is that they can use any part of their bodies, except their hands. If the corn touches the ground at any time, it must go back to the beginning of the line again. Whichever team manages to get the corn to the end of the line first wins the game. The corn can also be used in a relay, with the kids putting the corn between their knees, and racing "crab" style". (Ages 4-10)

Thanksgiving Reading Suggestions

To get the kids calm at the parties end, settle them down by reading a book about Thanksgiving.

This article - thanks to: Everything Elementary

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