If you're reading this, I'm assuming you have a few quiet hours to kill before the hellish holiday schedule kicks in. Or maybe your spouse had something better to do and left you at home with the kids on a cold, crappy day. But cheer up! Thanksgiving is close, and there are many a lark to be had. You probably also need something to dress up the holiday table and keep the young'uns happy while you slave away in the kitchen all day. If the heat in my house fails, as is Murphy's Law on Thanksgiving, recreating these projects will give my kids something to do while I scramble for a Denver HVAC contractor on the busiest day of the year for fix-it men. In the spirit of giving thanks, the Schmidts test-drove three crafts for your learning enrichment. You're welcome.
A little background: I have two daughters, ages 4 and 7. We each chose our favorite Thanksgiving craft from Pinterest, based on the following criteria: 1) The craft had to be easy enough for Dad to do without smashing something with caveman frustration or teaching the kids new words, and 2) we had to have all necessary supplies on hand (as your mental health advisor, I strongly recommend limiting your total lifetime trips to Michael's).
Chosen by my four-year-old, the Village People via Spoonful.com is a good, classic craft that yields every kid's favorite thing: a "guy." All kids love guys. Little people they can be in charge of and carry with them on any conceivable errand. New parent warning: Guys are coveted most in the first 24 to 72 hours of their existence. God help you if anything happens to a guy in that initial period of infatuation. After that, most guys begin their steady decent to the bottom of the toy bin, passing through the depths like Dante's circles of Hell. So long, sucker.
This craft wins for best name, of course. My daughter seemed confused when I asked whether she'd like to do the biker with a bushy mustache or the flamboyant Indian chief. The construction is pretty self-explanatory: Wrap a toilet paper tube with colored paper to add background color, clothes, face, hair, hat, and any additional accessories you'd like your pilgrim or Native American to sport.
Presenting the Schmidt People (a.k.a. Village Idiots). My wife created the dapper gentleman. I made the one in the middle, under my daughter's direction. Don't worry; you're not a perv if your mind just suggested "French maid." It does look like a French maid. Or at least a toilet paper tube in a French maid costume.
This pilgrim is called the "Nihilist" or the "Existentialist," take your pick. Perhaps it can represent the thoughts of the first pilgrims on their interminable boat ride across the Atlantic. Seriously, what the hell was going through their minds…? After a brief period of philosophical sarcasm, I decided to lighten up and turn the Nihilist into the French maid.
Thankful Fingerprint Tree
My seven-year-old is a born aesthete, so she gravitates toward all things elegant and balanced (she didn't get it from me). This craft, the Thankful Fingerprint Tree via The Crafty Crow just spoke to her sensibilities. It turned out to be a good project for a self-sufficient first- or second-grader. They can do most of the work themselves, then ask family members to contribute in a controlled way (be very careful here, and follow your kid's instructions to the letter, lest you "ruin" her masterpiece, you incompetent oaf). Did I mention she's a perfectionist, too?
It's a pretty cool project. You draw the trunk and branches of a tree, then create leaves by dabbing your finger into a fall-ish pallete of paints and pressing it onto the ends of the branches and along the ground, to make the leaves. You could substitute stamp pads for the paint, creating leaves with unique fingerprints instead of paint blobs. Choices, choices…
Mini Bow and Arrow
This was Dad's favorite. Mostly because I thought it was cool, yet I doubted it would work as described and thought I could make some design improvements. Which I did, somewhat. The main challenge is that the project involves bending a popsicle stick well beyond its design limitations. As a part-time carpenter, I know something about wood, and let me tell you, popsicle sticks are made with really crap material. Extremely splintery.
The construction is simple:
1. Notch the popsicle stick at each end, then soak it in water for one to three hours, and pat dry.
2. Tie a length of dental floss around one notch of the stick, knotting the string at one side edge.
3. Bend the stick into a bow shape and tie the floss at the other end, keeping the string to the same side of the stick as before.
4. Make each arrow by cutting off one quilted end of a Q-Tip.
The bow works surprisingly well; even a beginner archer can easily sail an arrow across the room. How cool will it be to sink an arrow into the gravy boat from the kids' table (guess where I usually sit)? I started with a colored stick from a crafty fun-pack thing, but the wood either broke during preliminary test bends or it chipped when I cut the notches for the bow string. So I switched to real popsicle sticks from the freezer. I also soaked some sticks for three hours—triple the recommended time. The stick broke when I tried to bend the first stick after soaking it in water for just one hour.
I was forced to get Medieval. I pre-bent a soaked stick around a…well, a ramekin. So maybe it was Medieval, Martha Stewart-style. Clamped up projects drying on the middle of the kitchen counter is an all-too-familiar sight to my wife.
It did made a nice bow shape, though.
The final embellishment of my project involved weighting the tips of the arrows with a small amount of candle wax. This helps keep the business end of the arrow out front for a straighter flight and a smoother trajectory. Smart (or sick) readers might make a connection between hot candle wax and flaming Q-Tip arrows. Just don't say I didn't warn you. But seriously, don't launch flaming arrows at the grownups' table. Or the cat. Or anywhere.