How do you talk to kids about being thankful? Try making a “Thankful Turkey” this Thanksgiving to help explain gratitude. With just a few basic supplies, like construction paper, this easy Thanksgiving activity is a viral sensation and yearly tradition for thousands of families.
What is a Thankful Turkey?
The Thankful Turkey is the simplest, easiest, and cutest way to discuss thankfulness and gratitude throughout the Thanksgiving season.
Using this easy Thanksgiving activity helps children and families connect and engage in conversations that otherwise might not happen naturally or frequently.
Think of the Thankful Turkey as a reverse advent calendar to Thanksgiving – and it doesn’t cost a thing to make it.
RELATED: Looking for more Thanksgiving activities to try with kids? See my list of easy and fun ideas.
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This isn’t a big supply list when you really look at it. It’s probably mostly things you have at home – which is one of the best parts about this activity. No need to run out and buy any fancy or one-time-use supplies.
How to create a Thankful Turkey
I cut out the turkey from a brown paper bag. Brown kraft paper or wrapping paper works awesome too.
I use construction paper to create a funny little face and then cut out a bunch of “feathers” from colorful paper.
- You can create one family turkey
- You can create one turkey per child
- You can create one turkey for each family member (you included)
Over the years, I’ve learned to make my turkey feathers small so they fit on my wall.
Explaining “thankful” to toddlers
Introducing the concept of thankfulness and Thanksgiving to toddlers isn’t the easiest. I know that from experience.
“Thankful” is a pretty abstract idea for their growing minds – and really, not just for toddlers but all kids.
Here are some of the phrases I discuss with my kids around “thankful.”
- What does it mean?
- What does it look like?
- What do we have to be thankful for?
For little littles, talk about things they love and rephrase it into thankful. That might sound like this:
“What is something you love?” “You love grandma?” “Oh, so you’re thankful for grandma.”
When I started this activity with my kids, they were 3 years old and 22 months old. I specifically called out things they owned or people they loved as things to be thankful for.
Growing the Thankful Turkey each day
Each morning after breakfast, we sit down to add to our turkey. I let each of my kids (I have three) say something they are thankful for.
As the days go by, the turkey grows and we review what we are thankful for and why.
Every day, we first read through all the feathers we’ve added and remember what we are thankful for. We talk about being thankful and then I ask my kids what they would like me to write on their feather for the day.
My kids are now 10, 8.5, and 7. They’ve been doing the Thankful Turkey activity for eight Novembers. They each have their own turkey, created by them, and they write their own feathers each day.
Frequently Asked Questions
All ages. I started this activity in 2016 with a 3 year old, 22 month old, and a newborn. It looked different back then but it’s become a tradition my kids delight in each November.
Some families do a thankful tree and write on leaves instead. It’s really amazing how beautiful these thankful fall trees turn out.
You can! My son has used the same turkey body for three Thanksgivings now. Some families laminate the project and reuse all parts each year.