This Thanksgiving, enjoy these simple crafts and ideas for encouraging friends and family to give thanks. A special bonus: Some ideas help keep kids occupied while the adults are busy.
Make decorating the table a group effort. For the centerpiece, fill a serving platter with unshelled nuts, arrange colorful fruit on top, and insert artificial berry sprigs. Then ask guests to add to the arrangement by writing what they are thankful for on paper leaves and tucking them into the centerpiece.
To facilitate the thankful spirit, create gratitude cards using scrapbooking paper and supplies. Cut out cards from scrapbooking papers using decorative-edge scissors and embellish with stamps, stickers, etc. Give the cards to guests before dinner and ask them to write what they are thankful for. As the meal begins to wind down, ask people to share their thoughts.
Print out our free leaf-shape pattern onto fall-color papers, cut out, and punch a hole at the base of each leaf. Ask guests to pick a leaf and write a word or short phrase describing something they're thankful for, such as "family" or "good health." Attach leaves to the wineglass stems using lengths of gold cord or raffia.
Express your gratitude for individual guests with a quick note of thanks. Write a guest's name on the front of a thank-you card (look for affordable boxed cards at crafts stores in the stationery aisle. Write a heartfelt note to the individual inside the card and use it as a place card for the table.
Light up the table with candle place cards. Wrap a wide strip of patterned paper around a glass candleholder, securing the overlapping ends with double-sided tape. On a narrower strip of complementary paper, write the guest's name, along with a simple sentence expressing your gratitude. Layer the strip over the patterned-paper strip and secure the overlapping ends with double-sided tape. Insert a candle and light right before dinner.
Spark a discussion about gratitude with these small cards. Print inspirational quotes onto cardstock and cut into rectangles. Place the cards in sleevelike envelopes (available with cardmaking supplies at crafts stores). Add a card to each place setting and have each guest read aloud at the Thanksgiving feast.
Pot a bare sculptural branch (we used Manzanita from a florist's shop) in a decorative pot, securing it with florist's foam or rocks. Cover the top with moss. Make color copies of fall leaves, cut out, and decoupage to cards. Punch a hole in the top, loop a piece of raffia or twine through the hole, and secure ends with a knot to make a hanger. Ask guests to write a Thanksgiving greeting on the cards and hang on the tree.
Gather favorite snapshots of family and friends to decorate a small potted tree for Thanksgiving. Use binder clips and pieces of twine to hang the photos on the tree as shown.
No potted tree? Stick bare branches into a pitcher filled with sand. Make ornaments from paper cutouts by punching a hole in the top of each one and tying ribbon through it. In addition to asking guests to share their thankful thoughts, ask them to sign their name and date their ornaments. Save the Thanksgiving ornaments as mementos for the coming years.
Editor's Tip: Tie ribbon to sprigs of greenery to fill in bare branches and add a touch of color to your tree.
Craft a paper journal to record a Thanksgiving celebration. Pass the journal among guests to capture their sentiments and memories. Start your own anthology and make a journal each year. When Thanksgiving comes around again, bring out the old journals and reminisce.
Share poetic sentiments as artwork for the Thanksgiving season. Print meaningful poems or sayings (typed in an elegant font) onto cardstock. Place in frames and hang on the wall as a reminder of the season's meaning.
Editor's Tip: Adapt this idea for Christmas by printing the lyrics from favorite Christmas songs or lines from favorite Christmas stories. Display the new printouts in the same frames used for Thanksgiving.
Create a Thanksgiving time capsule with a three-ring binder scrapbook. Keep it easy by sticking with simple pages that focus on memories, rather than intricate scrapbooking designs. Use blank white pages for adding photos. Lined cardstock works well for recording recipes and memories.
Use mismatched salt and pepper shakers to create memory-focused Thanksgiving decorations. Start with heavy wire (slender enough to fit in the holes of the shakers) and coil one end to hold a photo. Insert the coiled wires into the shakers and secure photos to the coiled ends. Arrange on your Thanksgiving table or another prominent place where guests can admire the photos and reminisce.
Editor's Tip: Insert the wires into the shakers at an angle, which will keep them stable.
Mount pictures of guests as children onto squares of paper and use as place cards. Guests will have to search for their youthful face to find their seat at the table.
Attach guests' baby pictures to metal-rim tags. Hang a paper tree silhouette to a wall and pin the ornaments to the tree. Write each guest's name on a slip of paper, then ask guests to draw names and figure out which baby face corresponds with the name. Tack their best guesses to the wall next to the faces.
Editor's Tip: If you are reluctant to stick pins or tacks into the wall, use a removable glue, such as Avery's Removable Glue Stick.
If you're hosting little ones this Thanksgiving, keep them entertained with Thanksgiving-theme art projects. Ask kids to write what they are thankful for on paper leaves. Provide crayons, markers, and stickers to use for decorating the leaves. Keep the leaves to stir conversations about Thanksgivings past.
Simple pieces of construction paper become expressions of thankfulness. Ask kids to write the things they are thankful for on the pieces of paper, which they can use as place mats for the Thanksgiving meal.
Keep kids occupied while they wait for the Thanksgiving meal by letting them color this special place mat. They can draw the face and fill in the blanks with interesting information to share, including what they're thankful for.
Editor's Tip: Crayons are a better choice than water-soluble markers because the place mats won't bleed if soiled with food or drink.
More fun for the small guests: a special Thanksgiving place mat with crossword clues related to the day.
Editor's Tip: If time allows, cover the place mats with contact paper or laminate them so they can be reused each Thanksgiving.
Extend the generous spirit beyond your gathering of friends and family. In the weeks before Thanksgiving, pick a charity to contribute to, such as a food pantry or homeless shelter. Ask guests to bring items to donate. (Be sure to give advance notice about the project so it's not a last-minute surprise.) Place a large basket for collecting donations near the front door or close to the main Thanksgiving festivities.