How to Draw & Paint a Thanksgiving Turkey



Need a quick and easy 40-minute art lesson for your Kinders or first grade class? For the last day of my Fall rotation, Kinders each creates an adorable thanksgiving turkey. I hadn’t done a guided drawing lesson with this group yet, but since they have all settled down and have become quite good listeners, I figured a directed line drawing lesson was due.

You’ll need a 12″ x 18″ piece of sulphite paper, black oil pastels, colored oil pastels, liquid watercolor paint, craft feathers, white glue and a small plastic container lid.

A fun Thanksgiving arts and crafts project for kids that teaches boys and girls how to draw a turkey using easy techniques.

Watch this short how-to video:

How to draw a turkey…

A fun Thanksgiving arts and crafts project for kids that teaches boys and girls how to draw a turkey using easy techniques.

I must admit that my own version of a Thanksgiving turkey looks more like a peacock than a turkey, but at the time, it was the best I could do. I experimented with a few body shapes before deciding that tracing a container top was the best way to begin this lesson with my Kinders. I was not alone with this assessment. A group of students who like to help me prep in the morning all agreed that tracing a circle was not only far cuter than my previous sample, and they liked the simpler lesson for their little buddies.

Who’s to argue with sixth grade girls?

Another KEY component in helping this project along was to fold the paper in half to create a crease line. You might think this is silly but for my group of Kinders, many have low spatial awareness and although we’ve been working hard on this, many drawings tend to start way at the bottom of the paper. Have you experienced this? Thought so.

So, to draw a Thanksgiving turkey….

  • Fold paper in half to achieve a crease line and place container template on top of the crease line. This helps not only center the turkey but sets the stage for the turkey’s size.
  • Trace container top with a black oil pastel.
  • Draw two dots for eyes and an upside down triangle for a beak.
  • Place oil pastel on crease line right next to the head and draw a BIG, FAT belly. Go all the way around to the other side of the head. Most kids (75%) got this so it really helps to use both the container top and the crease line.
  • Draw a GOBBLE GOBBLE WIGGLY neck under the head.
  • Add two legs by drawing two straight lines connected by claws. Repeat for second leg…or third as some Kinders did.
  • Now draw the tail feathers. Like I said before, I must have been thinking peacocks because we made some very long tail feathers.  Start by drawing a straight line above the head and go all the way to the top of the paper.
  • Draw a big curved line around the line. Repeat around the sides of the body until you have as many tail feathers as you desire.
  • With colored oil pastels, add lines, dots and patterns to the tail feathers and even to the body.
  • Painting the turkey is easy-peasy with liquid watercolor paints. I place mine in baby food jars and give each child a brush. Not sure what it was with this group of Kinders but boy-o-boy, did they keep the paint clean. That’s usually the problem with little ones and liquid watercolors but this group really got into cleaning their brushes. I must have inadvertently threatened them somehow….
  • Paint each area or shape with a color of paint. No one listened to this. Some children used one color for the entire turkey and others painted rainbows. I love them all.
  • When the children finished painting, add some white glue to the top of the head and allow each child to place a craft feather on the head. This is just for fun but a very good motivator to finish painting.

A fun Thanksgiving arts and crafts project for kids that teaches boys and girls how to draw a turkey using easy techniques and what to expect tips!

Things don’t always work out the way you hope. Many Kinders have a very hard time with shapes and lines. It’s not only hard to control their little fingers but most often they don’t connect the shapes with an object like a turkey. I get a few strange looking creatures in each class and this is almost always from a younger Kinder. But, how precious does each students Thanksgiving turkey look?

A fun Thanksgiving arts and crafts project for kids that teaches boys and girls how to draw a turkey using easy techniques.

A fun Thanksgiving arts and crafts project for kids that teaches boys and girls how to draw a turkey using easy techniques.

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  • Lauren

    I can’t believe what a great job with CUTTING they did! I love this! So did they do it ALL in just one class?

    • Patty Palmer

      Sorry…too good to be true! Although my Kinders usually cut out their projects, this was their last project until next year, so I cut them out with the help of some 6th graders. But they did draw and paint in one 40 minute class.

      • Robinamyb

        I was wondering about the cutting out! Think I’ll have the Mom’s help the kids with the cutouts…Most of them are pre-k, as this is a playgroup.

      • Lauren

        Ok I just thought of another question. I clicked on the link and read all about your liquid water colors, but I’m curious what the benefit of using them is. Can you explain that? Thanks!

        • Patty Palmer

          I use liquid w/c mostly for younger grades. The colors are rich and stay unmuddled. Trays tend to get a bit sticky, messy and muddled…which is what they should do but sometimes a pure color is what you are seeking.
          It’s just so easy for a child to dip a paintbrush into a colorful liquid then to extract the color form a dry cake. You should try them. You’ll love them.

          • Lauren

            Thanks! I did use liquid for a robot drawing painting but I didn’t buy it liquid, I diluted the small oval in some water and they dipped that way. I don’t have baby food jars, I’m collecting so I can use liquid w/the little ones! I am going to start this project next week so I’ll just use what I have. 🙂 Thanks for responding and thanks for your tips!


    Thanks for sharing this darling lesson Patty. How exciting for your trip and holidays with family! We are thankful for your inspiration 🙂

  • Casey

    I just did these today with my Kinders! They turned out awesome! In my school district, we do not have art teachers, so classroom teachers are expected to teach art (yikes!). I’m so glad I found your blog!

    • Patty Palmer

      Good for you! And yes, aren’t these turkeys super cute?

  • E.S. Ivy

    I just love it when the art teacher is skilled enough to make all of the kids’ art look so good – it really makes the kids proud and inspires them. This pin has been doing really well for me on Pinterest! I hope you’re getting some traffic back from it!

  • Tracy Conley

    I am reading through the directions but I don’t see where you cut the turkeys out but I can tell they are cut. Was that the last step?