Last week, Donald Bell ran a piece here covering projects you can do on Turkey Day to duck out on any uncomfortable family dynamics. “Sorry to have to bow out of this fascinating discussion about how the Illuminati control the world, Uncle Pete, but I have got to finish building this solar-powered marble machine!” Such a clever dodge might go over in some families, but not in others. One way to at least take a break from the main action is to propose some fun projects with the kids. This will not only get you away from Thanksgiving antics, but the adults will appreciate you entertaining the nieces and nephews. Plus, you’ll be sharing some of the joys of making with them.
Here is a selection of projects that are simple enough to do in an afternoon, with minimal tools and materials, but engaging enough to hopefully hold the kids’ attention. It is recommended, if you decide to do this on Thanksgiving day, that you bring everything you need with you (if you’re not at your own home).
Build a Foam Plate Flyer
Here’s a quick project that’s fun and easy to build. It will also get you and the kids outside for some fresh air.
Create “Stained Glass” Suncatchers from Old CDs
Kids will be fascinated by the fact that you can strip a CD or DVD down to its plastic substrate and then paint it to create a very effective stained glass suncatcher. Wait, do kids even know what CDs are anymore?
Make Harry Potter Magic Wands from Chopsticks
Believe it or not, you need little more than chopsticks, hot glue, and some brown paint to create these very enchanting little fantasy wands. The kids in your family with think you’re a regular Dumbledore after you all conjure up these beauties.
Make Your Own “Drawdio” Musical Pencil
If your young family members are science and tech-minded, and you don’t think they’d be intimated by a soldering project, the Drawdio will certainly offer an exciting payoff. You’ll wow the whole family with the finished project, a simple sound synthesizer on a pencil that generates musical tones as you move the pencil.
Make LED Greeting Cards
Paper circuits are fun to create, and a very low-stress way of introducing kids to the basics of electronics.
Share the Chaotic Fun of Vibrobots
There is a reason why the vibrobot remains a perennial Maker favorite kid project. They are very easy to make, but have just enough substance to them that kids feel like they’ve made something “technical.” And they love the wacky movements of them in action.
Assemble Some Marshmallow Shooters
Another perennial kid favorite is the PVC marshmallow shooter. If you decide to do these as your Thanksgiving project, you’ll probably want to have all of the pieces cut beforehand. That way, the kids can have the fun of assembling their own shooters without having to wait for you to cut dozens of pipe segments. Don’t forget the mini marshmallows!
Make Some Exploding Kinetic Art!
If the young members of your family are more of the active type, they might really appreciate what are called “stick bombs.” Basically, they’re nothing more than some Popsicle sticks held together under pressure. Remove one of the sticks and the whole assemblage flies apart. You can build everything from quick and simple assemblies all the way up to much larger, more spectacular arrangements. And all you need to get this party started if a big package of Popsicle sticks (available at any craft store).