Set the table for fun

This Thanksgiving, serve up ultra-creative decorations and crafts -- plus plenty of smiles -- along with the festive family meal. Here are seven ideas.


Turn the Thanksgiving table into a giant art canvas to get kids -- and grown-ups -- happily doodling. Cans from the dinner preparations, cleaned and dried, make handy holders for crayons and colored pencils. How it’s done: Use kraft paper, art paper or wrapping paper to cover the table; if needed, use several lengths, taping them to each other. Keep it in place with large binder clips or painter’s tape (test tape on the table’s underside to ensure it won’t damage the finish). With black marker, draw place settings and other shapes to invite coloring.


Sweeten up your table with these turkey pals, quickly and cleverly constructed from cupcake liners. How it’s done: Flatten a standard-size cupcake liner, then draw eyes on a mini cupcake liner. With a glue stick, adhere a beak and snood cut from colored paper. Using a brush or cotton swab, dab white glue around the rim of the mini liner. Set it off-center on the larger liner and let it dry. With the glue stick, attach the turkey to a folded tent card (we used decorative-edge scissors to cut ours from brown card stock). Add turkey feet and a name with marker.


Launch this project with a collecting expedition (no oak trees in your neck of the woods? Order acorn caps at, then craft a bunch of these cuties as napkin ties and table decorations. How it’s done: For a tie, remove the caps from 2 acorns, using a craft knife (an adult’s job). With a glue gun, squeeze a dab of glue into each overturned cap. Lay the ends of a 12-inch length of ribbon into the caps, add another drop of glue and top with a pom-pom (we used 3/4- and 1-inch sizes). To make loose acorns, omit the ribbon and adhere a pom-pom to the cap with a drop of glue.


With disks that catch the sun and spin in the slightest breeze, this project looks so pretty hanging near the table. Plus, its message -- take time to count your blessings -- is powerful. How it’s done: Invite everyone to jot down a few things that inspire gratitude in them, using a white marker on circles cut from translucent report covers (available at office supply stores; a 2½-inch circle punch makes cutting them easy). Write “We’re thankful for ...” on a larger circle. To assemble the mobile, knot embroidery thread onto the inner ring of an embroidery hoop, then extend it across to the opposite side, knot it and trim. Repeat with three more lengths of thread to create eight spokes. Gather the threads together at the center and knot a loop of fishing line around them for hanging. Punch holes in the circles, then hang them from the hoop with thread.


Be sure to grab some pics of everyone in the family modeling this petite topper. How it’s done: Print our template (find it at Cut it out, then trace the hat and brim onto black card stock and the band onto brown card stock. Cut the buckle from gold card stock. Fold in the hat’s tabs and roll it into a tube shape. Use a glue stick to secure the side tabs and to attach the brim, hatband and buckle. With a glue gun, adhere the hat to a black headband. Allow the glue to dry completely before wearing the hat.


Dig up interesting family snapshots to create this sweet conversation starter. For added cheer, ask guests to use the photos’ flip sides to jot down a few words -- any funny or fond memory about the depicted event or person. How it’s done: Brush gourds or mini pumpkins with primer (this step helps the paint stick and the colors pop, but it can be skipped if you’re pressed for time). With a hammer and a thin nail, make a hole in the top of each (an adult’s job). Paint the gourds with acrylic paints. Loop a 12-inch length of floral wire around a marker to make a coil at one end, then slip it off. Insert the other end of the wire into the gourd.


Pay tribute to the voyage of the Mayflower with this finishing flourish. How it’s done: Cut paper into a sail with gently angled sides, as shown. Decorate it as desired and add a simple message such as “Give Thanks” or “Happy Turkey Day.” Cut two small slits in the paper and slide it onto a coffee stirrer. Stick a sail in each pie slice.