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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

How to Prevent Meltdowns during the Holidays

family dressed for holidays working togetheron cookies

By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

What is not to love about the holidays? There are acres of food, the anticipation of celebrations, traditions and, in some traditions, gifts. From a child’s perspective, it is a winwin. Routines are thrown to the wind, the rhythms of the day (like, say, bedtime or school) are changed over to the holiday pace and, for those who may be quarantining or podding with family or friends this year, there may be guests visiting your home. There’s so much going on and so much novelty. When do we open presents, again?  

From a parent’s perspective, the holidays may feel like a seasonal conspiracy designed to precipitate that dreaded event in any parent’s journey: the meltdown. Parents may have trouble recognizing who their children become when put into the breach of the overstimulation the holidays can bring. The joy of big meals, the hubbub of shared traditions, the sharing of the home and toys and the need to get along with everyone may be too much, leading to tears, yelling, thrown toys and children showing their families that they can go full supernova when they fall apart, spectacularly. (Hey, these can make for some funny memories for years to come, or you may take videos to put aside to embarrass your future high school senior.) In some cases, they can be pretty upsetting or take a while to get past for some children.  
Fortunately, with all of this in mind, there is a lot families can do to prevent the meltdowns in the first place. With a little bit of planning, one can lower the risk of witnessing fruitcake made airborne in a fit of pique or hearing salty oaths muttered to a cousin or houseguest.  

When humans of any age are sufficiently stressed, it can challenge their ability to cope and absorb annoyances or inconveniences. For adults, we have learned to adapt and extend ourselves during the holidays to be at our most polite and on our best behavior (wellmost of us have). We have an enhanced ability to roll with the stresses and quirks of the holiday schedule, leading to our ability to engage in small (or big) talk, connect with our relatives and prepare and deliver on the celebrations. We can behave, usually.  

For infants to children of school age, shifts from the normal patterns of sleep, shifts in meal and snack times and new surroundings or company may lead to them becoming crabby and more emotionally fragile. Whether you are hosting a celebration at home (via Zoom or in person) or whether your family is traveling afar to stay with others, I counsel families to bring some routines and special times with you to support your children emotionally over the holidays. There are some key ways to keep them on track and help them be more likely to hold it together. Have a go bag ready to go this holiday season. 

Are you worried about your picky eater not eating well and getting hangry? Bring his favorite snacks or food items. For my daughter, energy bars and some fruit were a handy goto that kept her smiling and willing to roll with whatever life threw her. 

Are you concerned your child will become edgy if she sleeps poorly? Bring the items that may optimize sleep in a busy time, including a noise machine (or app on your phone), noisecanceling headphones and some favorite books, and create a dedicated space you can escape to for siestas and downtime.  

For older toddlers and schoolage children, alone time may be as important as nap timeGiving children a chance to be on their own or just with their siblings may allow them to recharge and be ready to reenter the holiday fray.  

Preparations to head off meltdowns can start before the holidays themselves begin. I advise that parents talk with their children of all ages in a way that is right for their ages and stages, and give the children a sense of who is coming and what will happen. Keep the dialogue going, and even have them help get decorations or items ready for family members or guests. Praise them for their good work and, in the process, plant the seeds for their enjoyment of this busy time of year.  

For children who may hit the point of no return, there may be some lastminute techniques to head off a meltdown. Keep an eye on the clock, and be mindful of people or situations if you think your child may be having difficulty with them. Like a coach on the sidelines, consider having them take a moment in a quiet place to let them talk through what they are feeling or why they are upset. Redirect and distract them if you think it may help—bust out some crayons or head outside for a walk or a romp to work out the feelings physically if time and weather allow. Take time or make time if you need to. Like us adults, children may have an overflow of energy, but they are just better at playingusing their imaginations and dispelling that frustration. 

You might do all of that. Chances are, you do a lot of this consciously and unconsciously in your daytoday already, but even the most attentive and vigilant parents may find that, in spite of all of their preparation and research, meltdowns may happen anyway. If they occur, do what you can to help yourself and your children leave the crowded area and find some private space. Give children time to emote, and be supportive—it can be tough when you are a child and things don’t go your way. If necessary, delay a return to the bigger group and make some intimate fun – read a book together, sing a song or cast a spell and send those bad feelings packing. If your children are willing to talk about it, let them know that meltdowns happen and, like holidayscan be pretty intenseand it is okay. After a while, they too shall pass, and life will get back to normal.  

Choosing Toys for Little Ones

testing-blog-graphics-6By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

When I was a boy in my home state of New Jersey, we often stopped at roadside diners where I would stare gobsmacked at the delights posted on menus that went on for days. “Your eyes,” my dad liked to say, “are much bigger than your stomach.” He was right, of course. I’d order some big special, take only a few bites and leave piles of food behind.  

So it was when I became a parent. This was AFTER I had finished pediatric residency, mind you, so I was supposed to KNOW THINGS about choosing the right toys for my oldest when he was born. Going to the toy store or looking at listings online was like the diner all over again. I was inclined to buy the things that LOOKED great, without really thinking whether they were the best choices. So, when I showed up with a really cool LEGO Star Wars setup for my 18monthold, my wife was very much in the right to give me some sideeye. I reflected that I may have brought home a kit far past his developmental level and, even worse, might have allowed him to swallow up to 148 separate small pieces. Indeed, what was I thinking?  

Let’s learn from my mistake. When choosing a toy for an infant or toddler, it pays to keep a few simple ideas in mind   

  1. Keep it simple.  
  2. Build on what they love.  
  3. Go age appropriate.   

Of note here for this pandemic year, I am not inclined to recommend that folks buy additional tech or screenbased gifts for children, as I think we should be inclined to get our children outside, off the couch and away from screens to the extent that it is safe and possible.  

Keep ISimple.  

If anything, many households suffer from an overabundance of toys and playthings. I recommend gift shoppers avoid buying items for children at any age that might lead to what we might think of as the LEGO problem: toys with too many pieces or toys that are too complicated for the child. Do you really want the parents of the giftee to be stepping barefoot upon an item from a science kit at midnight? Remember, we often muse as adults that children love to play with the boxes of pricey items more than the toys inside them. Let us learn from that example and seek to offer up toys that tend not to have accessories that can be lost, misplaced or swallowed.  

Instead, consider a teething toy for an infant, a simple box with a latch a toddler can sort and dump stuff from or even an oldschool Nerf hoop for a preschooler. Ask yourself how easy it is to use and how much it will add to the clutter factor. This leads us to our next guideline. 

Build on What They Love. 

Think about the ages and stages of the apples of your eye. What enchants them and might keep them delighted over a long period of time?  Babies are easy. It is hard to go wrong. The world is full of things they love to grasp, squeeze and use to make noise. As a parent, I advise wellmeaning uncles and aunties to go light on the battery-operated stuff or noisemakers. They become annoying before they are out of the box. If it is a child you know well, then think about items that would allow the child to pursue a passion, such as sorting and packing activities for toddlers (consider a series of measuring cups or resealable plastic bins) or balls and wheeled carts for any active startingtowalk children. For children approaching their second birthday, think about simple items that will allow them to engage in pretend play. Consider kitchen items, sidewalk chalk and play cars and trucks. Don’t forget an often overlooked item in the 21st century: books. Therein lies a trove of opportunity as these gifts will go on giving long past the holidays as children reread them and share them with their families (or steal moments under the covers with a flashlight). 

Go age appropriate. 

Don’t be seduced by the grandeur or wow factor of a big purchase. I have made these mistakes in my parenting career. Just as you would not buy a twowheeler for a twoyearold (I hope), we should be guided by the recommended ages on the box or packaging of any toy. These recommendations are made with careful consideration for the safety and appropriateness of the ages and stages of each child. Buying a puzzle recommended for children five and up for a threeyearold may lead to frustration or even a child choking on puzzle pieces. Fortunately, that leaves PLENTY of room to run for the toy shoppers out there. I do find that reviews on Amazon and other sites (e.g., ToyInsider.com) can be helpful as you do your diligence about the safety, quality and suitability of many toys. 

In addition, one can do some additional reading, including materials from the wellregarded authorities at the American Academy of Pediatrics (one such example ishttps://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/What-to-Look-for-in-a-Toy.aspx). For further inspiration and insight about what makes a toy both desirable and timeless, make your way to the Toy Hall of Fame and get lost there (https://www.toyhalloffame.org). 

When you have made the right choice, the gift wrapping is off and the new item is there on the living room floor, why don’t you get down on your knees with your sondaughterniecenephew or best buddy and share the fun?  

 

Managing Gift Expectations

child with gifts

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Why shouldn’t our children see the holiday season as the high point in a year awash in retail celebrations? It is in everything they see, hear, and taste, starting after Halloween. What’s a parent to do in the face of this tsunami of acquisition? Is there any kind of life jacket that is helpful as the tide of consumption rises around your family?

Spend a few moments in your own head about what you want to convey to your children through your own behavior about this event, especially the relationship between giving and receiving. Then share it with your partner and see where they are on this issue. Are there any values or beliefs about the holidays in your ensuing discussion that are not related to consuming? If so, that’s a good place to start an actual conversation with your kids.

Most holiday traditions mix sacred and secular elements which are sometimes hard to reconcile, but it’s worth a try if you are going to help your children (and you) keep their sanity in the coming weeks. Asking for their holiday wish list sets the stage for disappointment and budget-busting in most cases, often amounting to online retailers having more power than the parents. Asking if they need your help with their holiday giving lists helps set the stage for more of a balance, and is often a good place for them to learn from your behavior.

5 Ways to Calm Holiday Stress

stressed mom holding new born baby

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

It seems a given that the holidays will be overdone yet again this year. Kids are only young once, right? After the year many families have had, who wants to cut back? Furthermore, parents have their own ideas and images about how the holidays should or should not go, and if there are two parents, it is unlikely that they are identical ideas and images. Throw in a limited budget and visits with extended family and things can get pretty exciting/tense pretty quickly. Most of us tend to focus on keeping our kids and their schedules – especially of the young ones – under some kind of control to limit the damage and hurt feelings that frequently accompany this overdoing. But the most effective way to calm holiday stress is to manage our own. Kids will learn far more about staying calm when we get there first.

1) Manage your own expectations. Perfect holidays do not exist in real time. So expect some happiness, delight, surprises, disappointments, fatigue and the occasional meltdown. Tell your kids to expect the same. Families are just like that during the holidays, even when they are at their best.

2) Make a list. Well ahead of time, sit down and make a list of holiday things you’d like to do or achieve, then cut it in half and proceed. One or two special events spread out over two days, with a generous dose of hanging out and ‘just being time’ (as our teenagers labeled such inactivity), is a pretty good pace. Get some sleep with the time you save instead.

3) Accept help from others. Remember, you have already yielded on perfection as a goal. So let people bring some food and distribute chores on the bigger events. People old and young typically love being useful, even it adds to the chaos.

4) Watch the sweets, fats (kids and grown-ups) and fermented spirits. Your (and your kids’) tensions can all be exacerbated by lousy dietary indulgences, not to mention the guilt and the weight gain, which only add more stress. Having fewer of them in the house or apartment to begin with tips the scales toward success.

5) Get out of the house and exercise (kids and grown-ups). It helps to repair the damage to routines and relationships by freshening the internal and external environments. Once, when I was in 5th grade, my parents (who were not typically jokesters) actually faked a power outage between the main holiday meal and dessert, just to get everyone away from the TVs and out of the house for a while. It was one of our favorite holiday gatherings ever. Lesson learned.

Preventing Screen Brain for Children Over the Holidays

Toddler Looking at Screen

By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

As in changing any behavior, one might anticipate howling protests prior to separation from devices from children or teens. The equivalent of the primal yawp, or NOOOOO!. I advise parents to be steadfast and clear, and define the limits (no screens means…zero screens), and make these borders non-negotiable when possible. Pushback from the peanut gallery may amount to carryings-on, kvetching, complaining, loud grousing, grumblings, mumblings and bitter statements meant to be overheard. I’d recommend meeting these with the professional cool of an airline attendant sharing a long delay. “We apologize for the hardship, but let’s do the best we can to work together to make the journey enjoyable…” is the vibe I’d go for. Whinging is best ignored, quote the law and move on. Kids will eventually follow.

Card play, board games, or lively ‘parlor game’ type activities, like pictionary or team based activities can get kids out of their grouchy headspace and distracted (or dragged) and into the shared activity. In the case of my kids, this could sometimes take a round or two of play,  to clear the cobwebs and distraction of getting back to their device. Like many kids, they didn’t always want to, but they should be committed to a reasonable amount of time to engage that feels sufficient (15 minutes), and soon enough they moved on and got lost in the game. During such evenings, I’d argue, that ALL screens are best valet parked for the duration, and at least for the evening.

 

How to Limit Children’s Sugar Intake During the Holidays

young girl eating donut outside winter

By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

As the holidays come upon us, and the cornucopia of delectable desserts and candies and sweet offerings become ubiquitous from late October through Valentine’s Day, consider the following strategies on managing how much is too much for young children in terms of junky food and sugary snacks.

Is it excessive to sequester them to the kids’ table, where they might only access kale chips and dried fruit? Perhaps.

What is most important is stepping back for a moment, and thinking holistically. How many sweet or junky (and no doubt, delicious) foods or drinks do children consume on a typical day? Parents should have a sense of what a child eats. Keeping a food diary for 2 to 3 days may provide an informative snapshot towards that end.

For those kiddos who consume a larger amount of sweetened drinks, candy and junk food (say, several times a week), their parents may want to be more mindful and more vigilant in general, and work as a family to define what is reasonable. Resources like myplate.gov offer some nice resources to start that conversation. And, I’d reckon, a fair number of families may find that their children take in more sugary calories than they think.

So what to do for the holidays, then? A more pragmatic and sustainable approach of limiting sweets and sugary foods tends to eliminate free-range access to candy dishes and cabinets of findable goodies. Simply, don’t buy or leave these items around. They will be found!

Rather, during holiday gatherings, when the breaking of bread and sharing of food becomes a focal point of many family bonding sessions, buy them then, and perhaps in less mega quantity than wholesale brands would have you think you need. And, for the day or two that friends and family are about, set some ground rules and ease up a little. Perhaps if a child finishes a reasonable portion, then they earn a reasonably portioned dessert. Keep it conversational, and children will engage–and even cherish–times when the treats are allowed, and they are given a little liberty to indulge. Done thoughtfully, perhaps sharing that ‘special rules apply’ on these special days, children will understand. Limits will be set. Goodies will be had!

Bon appétit!

Our Top 10 Toys for Children, Just in Time for the Holidays

town

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

This is the time of year when children are compiling or chatting about their wish lists. It is also the time when grandparents and other friends and family members need ideas for gifts.  The Goddard School has conducted an annual toy test for ten years. We thought we would put our top ten in a new list for you and your loved ones.

The top ten toys are for children in the early years, from infants to kindergarteners. These interactive, engaging toys will keep children’s attention. Your children may still play with the boxes they come in, which is great for creativity and innovation, but the toys will stand the test of time.

  1. Count Your Chickens from Peaceable Kingdom

Count Your Chickens from Peaceable Kingdom

Board games are perfect for social-emotional development. Children learn to take turns, cooperate with others and communicate. This colorful and easy game also supports the development of counting and problem-solving skills. Plus, it is a great deal of fun!

  1. Giant Roller Ramps from Lakeshore

Giant Roller Ramps from Lakeshore

We love toys that help our littlest engineers build and create in a big way. The ramp materials can be used in many different configurations so your children can stay busy designing their own ramp courses. After constructing the ramps, use a ball to test them out.

  1. Lite-Brite from Hasbro

Lite-Brite from Hasbro

This creativity tool is now a classic. Children use colorful pegs to design an image and then scream with delight when they switch the lights on. Children really enjoy making funny faces or silly expressions on the design pad. It is also great for collaborative play because you and your children can create something together.

  1. Baby Animal Sounds Pals from Learning Curve

Baby Animal Sounds Pals from Learning Curve

These lovable and huggable stuffed animals make wonderful sounds to engage our youngest learners. Animal sounds are some of the first sounds babies make. This is true across all cultures. These toys are also great to help calm babies at fussier times.

  1. On the Farm from HABA

On the Farm from HABA

Children love both the threading and stacking games. These are perfect for developing fine motor skills and understanding spatial relations. Children can work together to complete the tasks. We found that children make the animal sounds during play and build vocabulary while naming the animals.

  1. Take-Along Town from Melissa & Doug

town

The folks at Melissa & Doug really know children. The Take-Along Town is a terrific toy that goes indoors or outdoors for lots of imaginative play. This type of free play supports children’s application of skills and what they see in the world around them.

  1. Gymini from Tiny Love

Gymini from Tiny Love

These are our favorite baby gyms. The toys and gadgets in each gym keep babies in exploration mode. Older infants will can crawl in and out of the gym as they play with the hanging objects, which can be taken off the gym for more play as children get older. The guide is wonderful for giving new parents lots of ideas on using the gyms with their babies.

  1. John Deere Gearation Board from TOMY

John Deere Gearation Board from TOMY

Children love to tinker and explore how things work. Families voted the Gearation Board as one of the best toys to support these explorations. The gears can be moved with the on/off switch. Children create patterns while they develop fine motor and creative thinking skills.

  1. Railroad Pals Building Set from K’Nex

Railroad Pals Building Set from K’Nex

Did we say that children love building and construction play? Well, they do, and this is another interactive set that will keep children’s natural curiosity and creativity going for hours. Spend some time playing with these materials with your children, and you will get hooked as well.

  1. Star Diner Play Set from Melissa & Doug

Star Diner Play Set from Melissa & Doug

We love dramatic play toys, and this set is from our friends at Melissa & Doug.  Children use dramatic play to develop social-emotional skills and to apply what they have learned. Dramatic play is also important for language development as children learn to express themselves. Starting up their own diner allows your budding entrepreneurs to create their own restaurant.

 

 

Taking on the COVID-19 Holidays – Together

children trick or treating

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Many of us are feeling uncertain about the holidays this year. Should we pretend everything is normal and take our children trick or treating? (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shared some fun alternatives to trick or treating this year.) What do we do about the winter holidays? Should we continue our traditions and host the annual extended family gatherings? As parents mull over their options, children take notice. They are astute and sensitive to their parents’ emotions and are experts at listening, even when we think they aren’t.

Children have no problem asking direct questions, which often puts us on the spot. If children have overheard someone say, “No Halloween this year,” they will turn to their family for answers. How parents choose to respond is critical because children can quickly tell if their parents are acting as a team or are divided.

Take the following scenario between a child and father as an example of how an answer may signal a divide. A child asks, “Dad, mom says no Halloween this year! Why not?”

Our pretend dad could say any number of things at this point. How and what he decides to say will clue the child into whether mom and dad are on the same page or even in the same book.

Just for fun, choose the best response for our pretend dad from the following options:

  1. The punt – “I don’t know – ask her.”
  2. The challenge – “What? Halloween is definitely happening this year!”
  3. The consensus – “Your mom and I have talked about this. Let’s go get her and discuss it together.”
  4. The dodge – “Not now, kiddo, I’m busy.”
  5. The subject change – “Hey, did you see all of the pinecones on the ground out front?”

The best answer is one that both parents have already agreed upon. It’s paramount to try your best to reach mutual decisions about your family’s safety during the COVID-19 holidays. Children are looking for secure anchorage during this bizarre time, and they need to know that the anchor line is taught, not dragging along.

It’s completely normal for parents to disagree on certain approaches toward parenting. However, they should agree on the best way to keep their families safe. According to recent research by my wife Marsha Kline Pruett, discrepant parental attitudes and behaviors about COVID-19 safety are toxic for children of all ages. If parents want to survive the approaching influx of holidays, they need to pull together on the following non-negotiable topics.

Agree on schedules and routines. By now, your original routines have likely been worn to a nubbin thanks to the disruptive pandemic. Get ahead of the holidays by brainstorming a new daily routine. Be sure to discuss food, hygiene, play, sleep and screen time, and keep the plan flexible so that holiday celebrations don’t destroy the routine.

Loosen up on some discipline. Agree to loosen the reins a little during the holidays, and pick your battles carefully. Letting certain non-harmful behaviors slide will help ease your stress levels during the holidays.

Practice what you will say to your children. Align your messages about how to discuss the holidays and your children’s feelings during COVID-19. “We’ve never had a [insert holiday or ritual] quite like this one. Some things will be the same, and some will be different.” Each parent may choose to empathize different aspects of the conversation, and that’s fine as long as they are actively listening to what their children are feeling.

Model your expectations. Parents should agree on and model the non-negotiables, such as handwashing, wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings, practicing social distancing and telling someone when you feel sick.

Consider safe socialization. Support reasonable efforts for your children to socialize with their peers and friends. If your child has a friend whose family is just as cautious as yours, it may be okay to arrange a playdate. Virtual playdates are always a safe option but can be tricky for young children with short attention spans. Unfortunately, our protective urges can lead to social isolation for children, which may upset and sadden them more during the holidays.

Share the love. During times of uncertainty and excitement (COVID-19 holidays), children may experience larger-than-life emotions. Sometimes, all they need is an extra big hug and lots of affection. Be sure to praise good behavior when you see it. Say, “You are a terrific teeth brusher!” or “I love how you helped with the laundry today.” Praise does wonders for children’s well-being and mental health.

Along the same lines, work with your partner to focus on any immediate health and safety concerns that may affect the holidays. Other problems that won’t matter afterward aren’t worth your time and energy.

Remember to care for yourself and each other. No one will look after you or you and your partner except yourselves. Take a deep breath, grab a snack or beverage from your secret cabinet, curl up on the couch and unwind. Remember, the holidays are about your families, so make space to relax and enjoy your time together

 

Learning and Appreciating Cultures during the Holidays

books lined up on christmas background

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

A good place to begin a dialogue with young children about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is through reading stories. It is especially important to engage young children with stories of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Stories help children extend their understanding of familiar emotions and social behaviors by presenting them in new contexts, and they provide opportunities for children to encounter emotions and social behaviors that they may not be exposed to in their everyday interactions within their families and communities. Sharing stories of how different families celebrate their holidays will help children learn more about their community and the world.

The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board has five favorites to help you begin:

Walk This World at Christmastime by Debbie Powell

Book Cover

We love this beautifully illustrated book that shares family traditions around the world. It is a great book, and your little ones will enjoy exploring each page as well as counting down the days with the interactive calendar built into the book.

Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Ho Baek Lee

Book cover

A little girl is excited to make a traditional Korean dish and share it with her extended family.  Your children will love learning about the ingredients and the fun this family shares. It may encourage you to get in the kitchen together and make some bee-bim bop.

N Is for Navidad by Susan Middleton Elya and Merry Banks, illustrated by Joe Cepeda

Book cover

You and your children will read this colorful and inviting story over and over again.  The book helps children explore a holiday in Spanish. Children can learn new words while following the alphabet and discovering wonderful traditions.

Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

peace

The entire community comes together with the hope of peace for all as Maya Angelou’s beautiful poem comes to life in this book. It’s perfect to share with the whole family at bedtime or during a quiet time after dinner.

Winter Candle by Jeron Ashford, illustrated by Stacey Schuett

winter

Children will be curious about the lump of wax and the light from the candles in the small community of one apartment building. The story shares the hopes of the multicultural residents and how they celebrate their holidays. This story always brings joyful tears to my eyes.

We hope you enjoy these wonderful stories as much as we do, and happy holidays!

Thanksgiving Crafts

There is so much to be thankful for this time of year, and what better way to explore the concept of thankfulness with your child than through activities you can do together? These Thanksgiving-themed crafts are the perfect place to start.   

Turkey Tracks 

Where did the Thanksgiving turkey go? Follow the tracks to see! Your child will enjoy this activity while learning spatial relationships, developing fine motor skills and getting creative. 

Materials 

  • Pipe cleaners; 
  • Paint in assorted fall colors; 
  • Paper plate; 
  • Paper. 

Directions 

  1. Help your child bend a pipe cleaner in half to make the turkey’s legs, and then bend the ends of the pipe cleaner on each side to make the turkey’s feet. Make one set of turkey feet for each color of paint you use. 
  2. Pour each color of paint onto a paper plate to create a palette.  
  3. Have your child dip the pipe cleaners into the paint and make “turkey tracks” on a piece of paper. 

Thanksgiving Place Cards 

Help your child get involved with the Thanksgiving festivities by creating place cards for the dinner table. This activity supports writing, counting and creative skills while connecting to those you love. 

Materials  

  • Cardstock; 
  • Scissors; 
  • Crayons and markers; 
  • Glue; 
  • A variety of craft supplies. 

Directions 

  1. Talk with your child about the family members and friends who will be attending your Thanksgiving dinner.  
  2. Cut the cardstock to twice the desired size of the place cards, and then fold them in half to make tents. Slightly larger place cards will be easier for a little one to decorate! 
  3. Help your child write each person’s name on a place card. 
  4. Let your child get creative and start decorating them any way your child would like. 
  5. When setting the table for Thanksgiving dinner, let your child put out the place cards. 

 Leaf Letters 

From learning to identify letters to spelling simple words, the number of activities you can do with this simple fall craft are endless. You’ll love spending time outdoors with this fun way to help build your child’s knowledge of letters along with developing their fine motor skills. 

Materials 

  • At least 36 leaves; 
  • A black permanent marker. 

Directions 

  1. Go on a nature walk with your child and collect leaves. You will need at least one leaf for each letter of the alphabet and some extras.  
  2. Write each letter of the alphabet on a separate leaf. 
  3. Have your child identify the letters, put them in order, trace the letter shapes with a finger and spell out different words. If your child can recognize uppercase and lowercase letters, make a set of each, and have your child match the uppercase letters with the lowercase ones. The possibilities for language and literacy lessons are endless!  

 Fall Mosaic Wreath 

Your child can help you decorate for the season with this fun craft. Besides the fact that children simply love to tear up paperthis is a great way for them to get their creative juices flowing while strengthening their fine motor and pre-writing skills.  

Materials  

  • Construction paper in fall colors; 
  • A paper plate; 
  • A glue stick; 
  • Scissors; 
  • String or yarn to hang the wreath. 

Directions 

  1. Cut out the inside of the paper plate so that the outer ring is left.  
  2. Have your child tear up pieces of construction paper. 
  3. Help your child glue the pieces of construction paper around the paper plate, and talk about the difference between a mosaic, where the pieces of paper don’t touch one another, and a collage, where they can overlap.  
  4. Once the glue is dry, tie the yarn or string around it to hang it up 

 

Autumnal Luminaria 

These festive lights are perfect for cozy fall nights, and they are a great way to bring nature indoors. Your child will build fine motor skills while following a sequence of steps to create a special candle. 

Materials  

  • Leaves; 
  • Clear glass jars; 
  • Mod Podge; 
  • A foam paintbrush; 
  • Battery-operated votive candles. 

Directions 

  1. Have your child paint one side of the leaves with Mod Podge and place them against the insides of the jars.  
  2. Allow the leaves to dry, and then help your child paint another thin coat of Mod Podge on top of the leaves to help seal them to the jar.  
  3. Once the Mod Podge dries, place a battery-operated votive candle inside the jar and enjoy!
     

Pine Cone Turkeys 

This fun fall craft is a great way to get little ones involved in setting the holiday table and sharing their thankfulness.  Along the way, you’ll help your child build processing skills through sensory learning while supporting their development of self-awareness 

Materials  

  • Large, unscented pine cones;  
  • Construction paper;   
  • Washable markers;  
  • Googly eyes;  
  • Child-safe scissors;  
  • Glue.  

Instructions  

  1. Trace your child’s hand on a sheet of construction paper, and cut out the handprint.  
  2. Ask your child to share at least five things he or she is thankful for, and write one thing on each finger.  
  3. Write your child’s name on the palm of the hand.  
  4. Draw a small diamond on an orange or yellow sheet of construction paper, and cut it out.  
  5. Fold the diamond in half to create a beak for the turkey. Repeat as necessary for multiple turkeys.   
  6. Glue googly eyes to the tapered end of the pine cone 
  7. Glue the beak below the googly eyes.  
  8. Insert the handprint between the back scales of the pine cone so that it stands up. If it won’t stay upright, glue the hand to the bottom of the pine cone 
  9. Have everyone who is coming to your Thanksgiving dinner create a turkey, or make them ahead of time to use as place cards.

Picture Frame Collage 

This craft is a wonderful way to help your child understand the concept of thankfulness. Before you begin making the frame, talk to your child about someone your child is grateful to know, and explain that the frame will be a gift for that person. Gift giving supports your child’s development of social awareness and relationship skills.

Materials 

  • An unfinished picture frame; 
  • Glue; 
  • Assorted fall-themed materials, such as leaves, acorn caps and  colored paper ; 
  • A picture to include in the frame, such as a photo or a piece of your child’s artwork. 

Directions 

  1. Remove the back of the frame and the glass, and keep them away from your child’s reach.  
  2. Help your child arrange and glue the fall-themed materials around the frame.  
  3. Set the frame aside to dry, and help your child choose a photo or create a drawing to place in the frame.  
  4. When the glue is dry, replace the glass, place the picture inside the frame and replace the back. 

Whether you and your child try all of the crafts on this list or just a few, you’ll both be most thankful for your time together.