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Keep kids busy at Thanksgiving gatherings with a craft table


In many homes, the Thanksgiving gathering stretches for hours. It's not an eat-and-run kind of day — you're all in it for the long haul.

And while adults have an acquired ability to make their own entertainment (catching up with Uncle Ivan, tossing around a football, helping in the kitchen), kids sometimes need a little more direction to fill those hours before the turkey hits the table.

In our house, that's where the craft table comes into play. About 10 years ago, my mother, Carolan Workman, set up a table where the kids could pull up a chair and draw, colour, cut, stamp and paste.

"The nicest thing about it was its one-size-fits-all universality: boys and girls, old and young, either artistically adept or ... not," she says. "And there was something wonderful in seeing a high school linebacker cousin gluing sparkles or cutting felt squares next to a toddler."

It's not all about the kids, of course. Sighs of happiness can usually be heard from the parents, freed up to enjoy that glass of wine and bit of quiet conversation.

For starters, you'll need a large folding table that you don't care about. Or do as Cate Geiger Kalus, visual styling director for Good Housekeeping magazine, suggests: "Roll out some craft paper for a kid-friendly tablecloth." (www.goodhousekeeping.com )

You'll also need chairs — ones without dry-clean-only cushions.

Craft supplies can include any of the following:

— Glue sticks (avoid liquid glue if you can)

— Construction paper in all sizes and colours (particularly autumnal colours)

— Felt or foam for cutting into shapes

— Thanksgiving-themed stamps with washable ink stamp pads

— Washable markers, crayons, colored pencils, paint (avoid chalk)

— Popsicle sticks

— Printed or colored tape, such as washi tape

— Googly eyes (optional but recommended)

— Childproof (or safety) scissors. These also come in packages with cool edges so you can cut patterns into the paper.

— Thanksgiving-themed stickers, cut-outs and foam shapes

Online, you can fine all kinds of cute and inexpensive holiday craft projects, like kits for making pilgrim hats, Thanksgiving wreaths, woven placemat kits, etc. The mail-order company Oriental Trading provides make-your-own foam turkey kits, and has a ton of well-priced DIY craft projects ready to go. (www.orientaltrading.com )

And of course there's now Pinterest, where many clever people have come up with cute DIY projects for Thanksgiving, most using items easily purchased at a craft store or online.

Geiger Kalus recommends searching for printable coloring pages online, and points to Etsy.com for more cute Thanksgiving-themed options.

Now that the kids at our holiday gathering are all getting older, my Mom, like me, waxes a bit nostalgic:

"The craft table was no less important than the turkey at our Thanksgivings," she says.

Final tip: no glitter. If you don't know why already, just trust me; you do not need to learn the hard way.

Katie Workman, The Associated Press

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