Jennifer Bryant of Small Hands Big Art says that research indicates art education is one of the most important experiences you can provide for your child. Children who participate in the arts every week for a full year have been found to be much more likely to be recognized for their academic achievement and school attendance, to participate in science fairs, and to be elected to class office. Art education stimulates interest in group activities, music and dance, community service and reading for pleasure. Thanksgiving, with several days off from school, is a great time to get started on arts and crafts projects at home that may spark a lifetime of creativity.
Small Hands Big Art
8025 Ardrey Kell Road, Suite 103
Charlotte, NC 28277
A refugee from the corporate world, Jennifer Bryant founded Small Hands Big Art: A Children’s Art Studio to help children and their parents discover the benefits of art education. Classes at the studio located at The Fountains in the Ballantyne neighborhood offer age-appropriate projects in pottery, painting, sculpture, printmaking, collage and other media for kids ages 18 months to 14 years old. In addition to classes and open studio sessions, Jennifer and her talented staff host parties, camps, workshops and offsite sessions at other locations. She shares some easy projects for different age groups that your children can do at home to make the Thanksgiving holidays more fun.
Related: Ask A Charlotte Expert: Easy Crafts To Do With Your Kids
Thankful Mobiles (Courtesy of Jennifer Bryant)
This easy project is suitable for all ages, and makes a great decoration to hang from your Thanksgiving mantel. Most of the items can be found in the yard or around the house.
- Thin sticks or fallen branches
- Card stock in a variety of sizes, with holes punched for hanging
- Tempura or watercolor paints, crayons, colored pencils
- Embellishments: buttons, beads, anything that can be hung by strings or tied to the branch; colored yarns; colored pipe cleaners; aluminum foil
- Have the children paint or color cards with things they are thankful for (pets, family, food, etc.). Or they can write out their thanks for different things (“I am thankful for …”).
- Attach a long piece of string to the branch at two places, so the branch can hang from a hook or doorknob.
- Let the kids decorate the branch with paints or wrap it with yarn or aluminum foil.
- Hang the cards and other embellishments from the branch to make a mobile.
Pumpkin Spice Sensory Play Dough (Courtesy of Jennifer Bryant)
Pumpkin Spice Sensory Play Dough
Create this homemade play dough with the scent of Thanksgiving cooked in and let kids from toddlers on up create decorations for the table. The directions make 3-4 balls of about fist-size.
- 1 cup salt
- 2 cups flour
- 4 tbsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups water
- Food coloring
- Mix the dry ingredients together in a large pan.
- Make a depression in the center, and add the wet ingredients. Add food coloring now, or wait until the mixture is cooked and knead the food coloring into the dough to make different colored balls.
- Cook over medium heat stirring constantly over medium heat until the dough turns very lumpy. Continue cooking and stirring for about four minutes until the mixture becomes too stiff to stir. Remove mixture from the heat. It should be soft but only a little sticky.
- Let mixture cool for several minutes, then take it out of the pan and knead it into balls on a flat, cool surface. Add different food colorings at this time if you want several colors.
- You can store the dough in a ziplock bag or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Related: Kid Friendly Crafts For Thanksgiving
Kid’s Chef Apron (Courtesy of Jennifer Bryant)
Kid’s Chef Apron
This project is perfect for the pre-teen who likes to help out in the kitchen at Thanksgiving. A variety of looks can be achieved using different patterns of cloth. The apron takes just 5 minutes to sew up.
- A 20 inch x 30 inch piece of cotton (an old pillow case will work)
- Two pieces of ribbon, each about 10 inches long
- Needle and thread or a sewing machine
- Pre-wash your fabric.
- If the fabric is crooked or wrinkled, “block” it by stretching it so the finished piece will hang straight.
- Beginning at the long end, fold the fabric up to form pockets of the depth you prefer, then fold it back down to make the top edge of the pockets.
- Stitch two straight seams down each edge of the apron, starting at the top of the pockets and ending at the bottom edge of the pocket. To form additional pockets, sew straight seams parallel with the side seams. Two additional seams will form three pockets.
- Sew pieces of ribbon to the top corners of the apron so it can be tied around the waist.
Baby Owl Pendant (Courtesy of Jennifer Bryant)
Baby Owl Pendant
These cute necklaces are made entirely from recycled materials you probably have around the house. A bit of creativity can turn the owl into a Thanksgiving turkey or even a kitty cat.
- Cereal box or piece of light cardboard from the recycle bin
- Caps from water bottles
- Buttons and beads
- Twine or yarn
- Small hole punch
- White paper glue
- Colorful patterned paper (try gift wrap or pages from a magazine)
- Trace a circle 3 to 5 inches in diameter on the recycled cardboard and cut it out. Make a hole near the top edge with the hole punch to string twine or yarn through to make a necklace.
- Wings: Cut a small circle from patterned paper, then cut the circle in half to form wings.
- Beak: Cut a triangle or diamond shape from the patterned paper for the owl’s beak.
- Belly: Cut a circle that matches the curve of the body, then cut a curved shape out of one edge.
- Eyes: Cut small white circles with scalloped edges a little larger than the water bottle caps to be the fluffy feathers around the owl’s eyes. Glue the water bottle caps to the white circles flat side down. Glue buttons inside the caps and then glue a small bead in the center to form the pupil.
- Place dots of glue on the cardboard body and attach the belly, wings, belly, beak and eyes.
- Tie the ends of the twine together and thread it through the hole in the cardboard. Loop the other end through the twine and pull it tight forming a pendant knot.
No Melt Snowballs (Courtesy of Jennifer Bryant)
No Melt Snowballs
Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season and the time when kids start to anticipate the first snowfall. Let them help you get a head start on the holiday decorations with these easy-to-make snowballs.
- Newspaper, scraps of gift wrap or any paper ready for recycling. Color doesn’t matter, although you will be able to see it faintly through the plastic wrap, so experiment.
- Plastic wrap (a 200 sq. ft. roll makes 8-10 eight-inch snowballs)
- Scotch tape
- Wad up sheets of paper into very loose balls a little bigger than you want your snowballs.
- Using the plastic wrap still on the roll, start to wrap it gently around a paper ball. (Don’t pull too tightly on the wrap, or your snowball will “melt.”)
- On a table or other flat surface, gently roll the ball as you continue to wrap it in the plastic wrap. To keep the round shape, rotate the ball as you roll it so the wrap goes in different directions every turn around the ball.
- Keep turning and wrapping the ball until you have about 10 layers of plastic wrap and can no longer see the paper clearly through it. The ball should be fairly opaque and have a glistening sheen.
- Secure the ends of the plastic wrap with scotch tape to prevent the ball from unraveling. (Alternately, you can use a blow dryer to soften the plastic so it adheres to itself and forms a seal.)
With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.