Instead, bundle up the kiddies and set out into the neighborhood, a local park or a walking trail to scout for cool things to make a natural, inexpensive table decoration.
Bring along a basket and help the kids find colored leaves, acorns, pine cones and grasses. They can arrange the items in a vase for the dinner table or turn them into an art project while they wait (patiently) for the big meal.
Use the walk as an opportunity to talk with your children about nature and observe the things around them.
Explain the difference between coniferous and deciduous trees.
Pine cones come from coniferous trees that stay green all year long. Christmas trees are coniferous.
Colored leaves are from deciduous trees that change color when they stop producing a chemical, chlorophyll, in cold weather.
Acorns are from oak trees. "Helicopters," those little seeds the spin in the wind, come from maple trees.
Your craft store shopping list:
•Glass hurricanes, 13 by 15 inches
Flameless pillar candles
Roll of kraft paper
Carefully rinse leaves and lay them out to dry. Rinse acorns and pine cones, then spread them on an old cookie sheet or one lined with foil. Dry them in the oven for about 30 minutes at 175 degrees to remove sap and to make sure that insects don't make it to the dinner table.
Place a fat candle in a clear glass hurricane or cylinder vase and let the little guys arrange the items inside and around it.
If you take the kids on the leaf hunt ahead of time, they can make placemats to keep them busy and not underfoot.
Flatten the leaves between phone book or magazine pages and weight with something heavy on top for at least three days.
On Thanksgiving Day, set the kids up with the glue and paintbrushes, and show them how to arrange the leaves into shapes, flowers or even animals. Have them coat the backs of the leaves with glue and place them on heavy stock or kraft paper. Or cover the whole "kids' table" with kraft paper and let them loose decorating it.
If you want to preserve their work, coat the leaves with Mod Podge when they're in place.
Where to go
Centennial Trail: Trailheads with parking in Snohomish on Pine and Maple streets; Pilchuck on Machias Road; Machias near Division Street; Lake Stevens on 20th Street; near the Highway 92 overpass on 127th Street NE; Lake Cassidy (disabled parking only), 6216 105th Ave. NE, Lake Stevens; Rhododendron, 10911 54th Place NE, Lake Stevens; Getchell, 8318 Westlund Road, Arlington; Armar Road, 15333 67th NE, Arlington; Bryant, Highway 9 and Stanwood-Bryant Road; and CT North, 32328 Highway 9, Arlington.
Forest Park: 802 E. Mukilteo Blvd., Everett.
Langus Riverfront Park: 400 Smith Island Road, Everett.
North Creek Park: 1011 183rd St. SE, Mill Creek.
Thornton A. Sullivan Park at Silver Lake: 11405 W. Silver Lake Road, Everett.
More tree facts
1. Trees can live for hundreds to thousands of years.
2. California Redwoods can grow to more than 300 feet high (that's half as tall as the space needle).
3. The American Indians used pine resin as an anti-inflammatory.
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