Thanksgiving Crafts for Adults with Mental Disabilities

Many who work with adults with disabilities are tasked with finding activities that are both fun and educational. For many teachers, craft time must tie in with learning social skills or understanding more about the world around them. These crafting ideas are a beginning point for anyone needing help finding creative ideas for Thanksgiving.

Using Stencils For Thanksgiving Decorating

A great way of introducing the subject of Thanksgiving dinner and its traditional foods is by making items to use during the meal. Specifically, art classes can use stencils and fabric paint to print designs on napkins, tablecloths, and hand towels that the artists can then use on Thanksgiving.

Teachers can assist the class with choosing designs, such as foods, the cornucopia, turkeys, pilgrims, or even leaves or fall flowers. Stencils can be bought pre-cut, but a cheap stencil can easily be made out of thin cardboard or construction paper. Ideas and pictures can even be found online and printed out on heavy paper. Resume paper will work if you only plan to use the stencil a couple of times.

Start out by protecting the work surface in case paint bleeds through the fabric. Using any cloth – white is best – and any color of fabric paint, use a sponge or heavy paintbrush to dab the paint over the stencil. Try to use a small amount of paint to start with. Allow the paint to dry completely, and hot set the paint by ironing on the back side of the fabric, before washing the fabric.

While painting, the teacher can explain what each shape represents in the Thanksgiving meal. Instructors also can explain how different colors are used for each different design. This may help the student understand colors, textures and how shapes can represent a real object. It also allows students to unleash their creativity. Try asking what other things stenciling can be used to make. They may come up with plans to stencil holiday cards or bookmarks.

Instead of paint, students can also use a paper tablecloth and color over the stencils with age-apporpriate coloring sticks, colored pencils or markers.

Thanksgiving Dinner Table Centerpieces

On the subject of Thanksgiving dinner, a centerpiece could be just the thing to liven the party. Two simple centerpiece ideas are to make either a flower arrangement or a wreath to place around a vase or candle.

For the flower arrangement, either live or silk flowers can be used, keeping in mind many live flowers and plants like holly berries are poisonous. Stick the stems of the flowers, tree branches, leaves or other items in a piece of crafting foam and arrange the collection until the artist feels it is complete. Smaller items like nuts can be glued to the foam as well. This is a great way to introduce fall colors and explain why leaves turn color or some flowers only bloom in the fall.

Another idea is to create a simple wreath surrounding a candle. A cheap and simple way of making a wreath is to use a piece of cardboard or heavy construction paper and hot glue leaves, flowers, nuts, pine needles or pine cones. Again, real natural materials can be used as well as silk or plastic ones. Be sure that if real materials are used and the group wants to add a candle, use candles that are tall with thick bases or use a flat candle holders to keep the flames well away from the wreath as natural materials tend to dry out and can be flammable.

Telling Thanksgiving Through Collage

A collage is making a work of art by collecting pieces from different places and putting them together to make a brand new piece. Using some pictures, glue, poster board, and a little creativity, a group can make a collage that explains the story of Thanksgiving step-by-step. Then, anyone can tell the story simply by pointing at the pictures.

Using magazines, clip art, pictures from the internet, or even photographs taken by the students, plan out the Thanksgiving story from the pilgrims arriving in Massachusetts to the meeting with Native Americans to the harvest and the feast. It can even be turned into a kind of treasure hunt, with each student asked to find a specific image to add to the collage. These pictures can then be glued onto a poster board or large piece of cardboard and put on display.

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