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Whether or not they’re being sat at the kids’ table on Thanksgiving, you can keep the youngest family members busy — and out of trouble — while you’re cooking by getting them involved in setting the table! Tell them you need their help (they’ll like that) and then put them to work creating a festive look for the dinner table. The crafts and decorating ideas below are kid-friendly and easy to make with stuff you probably have around the house!

Autumn Leaf Rubbings and Coloring 

The kids’ first task: send ‘em outside to find the prettiest clean fallen leaves they can find from different kinds of trees and bushes. Give them a basket or bucket for collecting them to bring in the house.

While they’re out, set up their workspace with sheets of white paper and crayons in fall colors. They’re going to use these sheets to make rubbings of the leaves! You can even write guests’ names on the sheets beforehand so they can cater their artwork to each friend or family member.

Once the place mats are complete, have them pull out the best leaves that are brown —but not crumbly — and set to them to work decorating them by hand with non-permanent markers! Let their imaginations go wild! The finished leaves will be used as drink coasters to go with each place setting.


Napkin Folding

If leaf shopping and coloring hasn’t kept them busy long enough, making this finishing touch for each place setting should do the trick! Napkin folding is a great project to help the littlest improve their manual dexterity and but it’s also a fun job their favorite older family members can help with if they like. Fancy cloth napkins aren’t required because simple folds work on paper napkins and paper towels, too. These super-easy how-to videos show step-by-step how to make fans and pretty wraps for silverware: How to Fold a Napkin.

Kids love feeling like their contributions are valuable. These kinds of projects are simple and allow them to explore their creativity while they add to the ambiance of a special gathering like Thanksgiving dinner. You can also invite them to create their own look for, say, a normal Wednesday night dinner. With the kids’ help, any family mealtime can be made to feel extra special without costing a dime and that’s truly something to be thankful for.