Preschool and kindergarten teachers normally automatically have the children create boring, copycat turkeys for their Thanksgiving crafts projects. Why however, do Thanksgiving crafts for preschool have to be like that? Can you see yourself creating a fun project like the one below?
For anyone of you that have been around this blog before, you are well aware that I hate copycat crafts and do everything I can to teach how to do crafts and at that is creative and developmentally appropriate.
I know its’ not easy figuring out a way to do turkeys without giving the children more exact instructions or a model to follow.Which is why when you walk into most preschool or kindergarten classrooms right before Thanksgiving, or into homes that spend time doing crafts projects, you will find the same model turkey strung across the room or hung on the refrigerator.
Children however, need many choices and materials to create their own artwork.Many times they actually can’t be done.
I’ve told teachers in the past “If you want to make a squirrel for fall, forget about it, give it up. Its not worth it and there’s no way that you can figure out a way to make a squirrel in the educational art way.”
Even though a turkey seems like it falls under this same banner of art that should be left by the wayside, a dear friend of mine, who is passionately into educational art figured out a way to do it with her students which is depicted in the image above.
So what did she do?
She found a unifying object that says “turkey”and gave the children lots of material to supplement this plumage, thereby allowing the children to actually create turkeys that are independent of each other.
The way she made this back of the turkey was by having the children trace their hands onto various types of paper, cut them out and IF they wanted to they were able to use them in their creation of turkeys.
This kind of sets the base for the art work and then they continue creating with feathers, thin pieces of paper, crafts sticks etc. (If you look closely at the picture you can determine some of the objects she gave them.)
Even though I was not there, I can assume that she showed them lots of pictures of turkeys in different positions to give them an idea of what a turkey looks like from all angles.
One of the problems when we give kids a model to copy is that we are giving them only one angle and one idea of what any given object looks like which totally limits their choices and creativity.However, there really is a way to make some traditional type of crafts projects and totally incorporating it into the educational art system.
It kind of starts making YOU think a little.
If you want the children to relate a bit more to the times of the Pilgrims then learning how the Indians lived so many years ago is a great way to introduce them to that time period. A wonderful way to do this is by giving them art activities with clay.
I am not talking about play dough, but real clay that comes from the ground and hardens into actual objects. It is a wonderful way to have them see and feel the actually type of clay that the Indians used to make so many necessary items.
Children now days tend to think that milk comes from the grocery store(unless they live on a farm) and apples from the produce section. When they get to use materials that the Indians actually used it is a great learning experience.
The Indians made their jewelry, food utensils and other important things they needed all from clay like the one the children can work with..
The clay I use is usually Marblex and you can buy the gray clay online or at most large art centers. Another thing to realize is that even though I call it gray clays, it’s not always gray but can be white or red as well. (It is of the air drying sort of clay.)
You can find other posts describing better usage of the clay and even how to store the clay.
The clay comes either in one large bag or a few smaller ones and needs to be cut with a string or wire.
It’s always best to allow the children to play with the clay beforehand if they have not gotten a chance to use it yet.
After they have had their fill, I would start with making clay beads first as they are simple and they can really use what they make. Have the children break off pieces and roll them into small balls.
Once that is done, give them a straw or something else cylinder like, not too thin and not too thick.
The children can then make holes in them and leave their beads to dry.
Make sure you store each individual child’s beads on their own plate or tray.
When the beads are dry, the children can paint them. Once the paint is dry they can string them with yarn that you have pre knotted and voila! they have Indian clay bead necklaces.
The second clay item I would do with the children is to have them make clay pots.
Again, the children should be very familiar with the clay before beginning to “make” anything.
To make clay pots, you begin with a large ball of clay around the size of an orange or a grapefruit.
Holding the ball in one hand, take the thumb of the other hand and keep turning the clay around to form a pot.
Even though it sounds like everyone’s will come out the same, believe it or not everyone ends up looking different.
You need to make sure that they children don’t press too hard as the walls will get too thin and then crack when dried.
Allow to dry and then you can have them paint them or just make Indian designs on them.
If you do want them to make some kind of designs on top of the paint, you need to use either thin black paintbrushes and black paint OR black markers. In that case you need to have the children choose a solid color to paint the pot with or else you will not see the designs.
If you are not going to decorate on top of the paint than you can just let them paint them any colors they’d like.
I personally like the natural look and am more likely to leave them the color they came in as you can see below.
Some people like to varnish the the pots after they are dry and some leave them to dry naturally.
If you are leaving them dry naturally you can try this technique:
When the pots are half dry you can shine them up by rubbing the back of a plastic spoon over the pieces of clay. If you do this carefully shining each section carefully, the ports get this really neat shine to them. (you need a lot of patience for this)
If you have any specific questions on the above processes, please feel free to post a comment and I will try to answer you quickly.
You may find yourself hooked on clay work and pottery once you get into the delight of working with clay. You can also see how different each pot is if you look closely even though they all used the same technique.