How to make a Thanksgiving Children’s Art Mural

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the_first_ThanksgivingAn art mural celebrating the first Thanksgiving is not for the faint of heart.

I am suggesting recreating some kind of art mural with children to remember the first Thanksgiving. (The painting above is just one of many Thanksgiving scenes and paintings like that will be used as inspiration.)

The reason that an art project like this is not for the faint of heart is because its a project that  needs you the adult to do lots of preparation.

But it’s worth it.

I grew up thinking that all artists create out of their own minds and that one never takes ideas from others. It was pretty mind blowing to realize how much inspiration artists get from other peoples work.

(I am not of course talking about the standard copycat arts and crafts that I often rail about)

It’s only recently in that past few years that I learned that most artists use other pictures, and objects for inspiration for their artwork.

I discussed this in an article  8 myths about drawing that was culled from a book by Mona Brooks called Drawing with Children (She has a book for older children an adults also called Drawing for Older Children & Teens)

So this art project for Thanksgiving is going to be one that that will require you do some homework and preparation beforehand to allow for the best of the children’ s creativity to shine through.

I will give you the instructions that are more of a guide rather than exact steps for you to follow.

Step 1

The first thing to do is to begin collecting some Thanksgiving images to display for the children to view. The images should include include images of pilgrims, Indians, their clothing, the mayflower, fall foods etc.

Below are some images that I found online to give you an idea of some of the images you can use..



Of course you do not have to use these images, the point is to start giving them a  background of what some of the symbols of their art piece is going to be.

Step 2

After you have discussed the story with the children tell them that they are going to be making an art pieces that will depict some scene related to the first Thanksgiving scene. You will then give them choices of the scenes they may want to make.

  1. The first Thanksgiving dinner
  2. Pilgrims and Indians planting together
  3. Pilgrim and Indians cooking together
  4. An Indian village scene
  5. A Mayflower scene
  6. Any other Thanksgiving scene that they can dream up on their own.

This project can either be done as a group mural or as individual murals.

If you are doing this as  a group mural, then you need to decide as a group what scene you will be creating.

You actually can do a few scenes on one long pieces of brown kraft paper but it needs to be well coordinated.

Step 3

The first thing the children need to do no matter if they are doing individual murals or a group one, is to decide on the background.

Where will this scene take place? In a forest? A clearing? On the water? Near the water?

Each art piece need to be painted first with a different top and bottom color.

If it is a sea scene, then the sky and the water will be painted. A seaside scene, then the beach or rocks or ground, sky or water for the top. etc.

Step 4

For individual pieces each child should have a large piece of tagboard about 11×17  and for a group mural, you need a long piece of kraft paper.

For the group mural it may be better to paint the background  while  the paper is on the floor and then when dry you can hang it on the wall to finish.

The colors you will be giving the children to paint with will most probably be brown, blue, and green and if you give them some white, they can make different shades of these colors as well.

You can point out to the children in some of the painting the ratio of sky to ground and they can begin to notice how much more of the sky takes up in the pictures space as opposed to the thin little piece of blue that kids usually paint for the sky.

Step 5

You can begin the next step even before the paint is dry.

Give the children pieces of white paper where they can start drawing the people be they pilgrim of Indians that they will need for their scenes.

They can draw anything else they want to put in their scenes like the sun, a table pieces of the ship etc.

Step 6

You must also have an array of materials that they can use to paste on to their pictures like fake grass, pieces of brown paper in all widths that can be used for trees, maybe some skinny white pieces that can be used for birch trees, feathers, pieces of material like burlap or cotton for ship sails etc.

There is nothing wrong with giving some items that are suggestive like tree trunk, pilgrims hats or anything else you feel can help tie in the artwork together.

Once the painted pieces are dry it is time to start arranging the drawn items and pieces of collage materials onto the panted background.

Have the children lay the pieces out first before gluing and once they are satisfied they can glue down all of their pieces to create their scenes.

Step 7

When they are done and their artwork is dry, they can take markers and add any other details they may like to add to their piece of artwork.


  • The more you put into in in preparation the better experience it will be for the children.
  • All of the scenes you will be showing the children can be used for inspiration and they can pick and choose different parts of the pictures to use in their murals.
  • Your job as the adult is to be there organizing, encouraging and offering help and  advice
  • Advice in art has to be given in groups of 3-5…dont give one idea, give3- 5 so they can still choose on their own.
  • Your creativity will probably be challenged as much as the children in this type of activity.
  • Try to remember what ages and stages the kids are at so that you don’t expect to much too soon.

Even though I have done activities like this before, I have never done it with the Thanksgiving theme so if you end up doing this activity I would LOVE to see some pictures.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Leave a Comment:

Lori Shepard says December 6, 2012

Hi I have photos of the Thanksgiving mural our class made and I would love to share them with you! What is the best e-mail for me to do that? My name is Lori Shepard and I work in a kindergarten class in Deerfield, NH

gary says December 6, 2012

Hi Lori,
I would looove to see it. Send it to my email at

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