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Thanksgiving Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Give thanks and eat pie toddler thanksgiving fun

After Halloween we are often quick to jump into all things Christmas. Before you leap completely into Christmas crafts, here are a few fun Thanksgiving activities to do with your younger kids to get them in the Turkey Day spirit!

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Thanksgiving Sensory Bin

For the first couple years of our boys’ lives we were stationed in the DC area. We were frequent visitors to a local nature center in Maryland that offered activities for toddlers. We attended one event at the nature center were they had Thanksgiving themed sensory activity for little ones.

It was so simple, but engaging that we have recreated the sensory bin at home multiple times over the years!

Sensory bins are wonderful for little hands to explore items and play independently while working on fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Moving the filler into cups and bowls with spoons and utensils of varying sizes improves skills through fun exploration.

Materials:

Choose your bin that you will play in. Make sure your bin is deep enough that the items will stay contained while playing.

When playing inside, we have the most success by placing a dollar store washtub on top of a storage bin so that my son can stand and play.

If the weather is warm enough, we love to play outside with the sensory bins so that I am not as concerned if items spill out resulting in more creative play for the boys.

In one bin, empty a large bag of cranberries. In the other bin, place hard corn kernels and pumpkin seeds. Add spoons of varying sizes, interesting cooking utensils, cups and bowls.

It is interesting to watch what your child immediately grabs and how they begin to play. The bin that has more than one filler material (pumpkin seeds and corn kernels for example) provides a great opportunity to explore similarities and differences, sorting and grouping.

Note: If you have a younger child who likes to put everything in their mouth, substitute the pumpkin seeds and hard corn kernels for frozen peas and canned corn kernels, or other Thanksgiving foods. Just remember as always to play alongside your younger explorer when using sensory bins.

Thanksgiving Turkey Hats & Turkey Race Activities

One of our favorite fine motor activities at Thanksgiving time is to make turkey hats. With very few materials needed, it is simple to set up and can be worked on independently by the kids.

Materials:

Simply have the kids poke the quill of the feather through the colander to represent a turkey. This is excellent fine motor practice!

While they could just place the colander on their head, the quills sticking through are uncomfortable. So be sure to have your children put a hat on first, and then place the colander on their head. 

Our boys love to have turkey races when wearing their turkey hats.  Sometimes the winner is decided by which turkey was the fastest, but other times we declare the winner to be the turkey who has the most feathers after the race (because they definitely fall out!) The great part of the turkey hat molting while racing is that means you child gets to do the fine motor part of the activity again as he replaces the feathers into the colander!

Thanksgiving Sensory Pumpkin Pies

Fall is the perfect time of year for all things pumpkin, and pumpkin pie is one of my husband’s favorite. I am one of the oddities that does not swoon for pumpkin. (Truthfully, I can’t think of anything pumpkin I like!)

My children take after my husband with their pumpkin love, so when they were little I considered the idea of allowing them to play in canned pumpkin puree I had no doubt they would enjoy it.

We first used this pumpkin pie play idea with our boys when they were one and two years old. We had been working with both boys on transferring objects from one container to another. Our two year old was of course far more controlled in the process, but practice is key…and in this case, a lot of fun!

Materials:

pumpkin pie sensory bin thanksgiving activity
  • bin (or wash pan)
  • bowls
  • graham cracker (crumbled)
  • whipped cream
  • canned pumpkin puree (If pumpkin isn’t available, you can easily use pudding any time of the year to “cook pies” with kids)
  • mini pie shells
  • spoon
  • smock 
  • floor covering (optional but strongly suggested!) 

This activity took very little time to set up as I simply put canned pumpkin puree, crushed graham cracker, whipped cream and a mini pie shell into small bowls inside of a bin. I also placed a spoon in each bin that could be used to move materials from one container to another.

Our two year old opted to use the spoon rather than getting his hands dirty. The one year old on the other hand, practiced using the spoon to taste the whipped cream (yay for unplanned benefits!) but then opted for his hands to move materials between containers and to his mouth.

The boys had the opportunity to taste and explore the items in the bowls.

I used pumpkin straight out of the can.  Their love for pumpkin did not extend to the unsweetened variety.

They played in the graham cracker crumbs like sand and sprinkled it into the other bowls.

The whipped cream was by far a favorite. The little guy even licked his bowl clean!

As a mom, I dread things that I know are going to be a huge mess and this activity is definitely one that can get messy quickly, but part of the fun is found in the making of the mess.

I have always loved having our kids wear smocks when we are painting or doing messy play. Smocks are perfect for protecting shirts and helping reduce some of the mess. Plus they are so easy to wash!

Our older son stayed fairly clean and only needed to have his sticky hands washed. Little brother on the other hand, immediately needed a bath!

The finished product would definitely not win a prize at the fair for either taste or appearance, but this mess definitely accomplished engaged senses while working on fine motor skills. Plus they had fun!

Sometimes I have to remind myself that a mess is just another opportunity for learning!

tasty sensory bin thanksgiving activity fun

Thankful Turkey Cards and Cookie Delivery Thanksgiving Activities

A couple years ago, when my boys were 3 and 4, we had an abrupt, unplanned break from preschool that spanned the final months of the year. It ended up being a blessing because we were able to use the time in November to focus our learning on kindness and thankfulness.

Together we discussed people who we were thankful for and how we could share kindness with them.

The boys made a list of people who are helpful and kind. In typical 3 and 4-year-old boy thinking, their lists included firemen, garbage collectors, and our mailman. Then they chose to make cookies and thank you turkey cards that we hand delivered.

Materials:

  • Brown construction paper
  • Orange (or yellow) construction paper
  • White cardstock
  • Painters tape
  • Paint
  • Eyes
  • Glue Stick
  • Marker
  • Cookie Dough
  • Cookie Containers

We started by baking sugar cookies. Once the cookies were in the oven, we moved on to painting!

Using painters tape, I fixed cardstock to our table and let them paint each page to their liking. The cookies were done baking and ready to cool as we finished painting. 

During naptime I let the paint dry and then I cut each painted page into leaves.

Next I cut a turkey body out of brown construction paper. With the orange construction paper I made feet and a beak.

After naptime was over, the boys used a glue stick to attach the feet and leaves to the back of the turkey. After the glue dried, we attached the beak and eyes. Finally I wrote a simple note on each turkey and attached the turkey to our cookie containers.

The boys had a blast delivering their cookies and thanking people for their kindness. This thankfulness activity really helped focus our boys on the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Share Your Thanksgiving Activities with Us!

While there may not be too many Thanksgiving carols to get you in the spirit of the holiday, we hope that some of these activities can help your little one have fun with Thanksgiving before diving into Christmas.

We’d love to see your Thanksgiving Activity photos! Tag @militarywithkids in any photos you share on Instagram or Facebook.


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