Thanksgiving Placemats using Balance

Thanksgiving Placemats using BALANCE


Create a Thanksgiving themed project and check off your Elements of Art checklist with this paper placemat. Based on the Tivaevae quilts of Cook Island, this lesson uses BALANCE and SYMMETRY in the creation of the quilt square design.

To learn more about Tivaevae quilts, watch this Youtube video that showcases the Polynesian art collection at Auckland’s Museum of Art.

This is the eighth tutorial in our Series CONNECTING WITH THE ELEMENTS – How to teach the Elements & Principles of Art. This week we’re featuring BALANCE.

What is Balance and why is it important?

Balance is achieved when both sides of a work of art appears to have equal weight. It’s like imagining a scale in the drawing or painting and asking whether both sides of the scale are balanced or if one side is heavier than the other.

When teaching balance to children, using symmetry as a tool is very effective and one of the easiest ways to demonstrate balance.

The quilt patterns in a Tivaevae quilt use symmetry as a guiding principle in their design.

In the lesson demonstrated below, children use paper and markers to create a wreath or basket using the same principles that make up a quilt pattern in a Tivaevae quilt.

Watch this Video to learn how to create this Thanksgiving Placemat with your kids!

What you’ll need:

12″ x 18″ colored sulphite paper

12″ x 12″ colored sulphite paper

Paper Scraps

Drawing tool


Glue Stick

Colored markers

What to do:

Show children pictures of Tivaevae quilts. Notice that the individual designs are not necessarily symmetrical but the organization of the elements within the quilt squares is symmetrical. To achieve a symmetrical pattern, children will fold a piece of 12″ x 12″ paper in half or into quarters depending on their chosen design.

I created two different patterns: a basket and a wreath.

To help children see the pattern these two designs create on a folded piece of paper, download the BALANCE FREEBIE (scroll down to click on download box).

Thanksgiving Placemats using Balance-drawing

If you are in a classroom, it helps to pre-cut the 12″ x 12″ papers and stack them on a table in assorted colors. Children can choose their favorite color and bring back to their tables. After drawing and cutting their pattern, the left-over scraps of paper can be used by the table groups.

Each child should select one 12″ x 18″ colored background paper and one 12″ x 12″ design paper.

Look at the pattern designs in the handout (scroll down to download), and use a crayon or drawing tool to draw the pattern on a folded piece of paper. The paper will need to be folded in half for the basket and into quarters for the wreath.

Thanksgiving Placemats using Balance-symmetrical design

Cut out main design and glue onto background paper.

With the remaining paper scraps available to the child through his table group OR from an extra supply of paper, gather enough paper to create 4 leaves, 4 flowers and other decorative items.

Be mindful of the balanced nature of the quilt design. If there is a leaf on one side of the basket, there needs to be a leaf on the other side of the basket.

After all the design elements have been cut out, arranged and considered, glue them down.

Thanksgiving Placemats using Balance-adding details

Use colored markers to add “stitching” or dotted lines throughout the designs. This detail really makes the design quilt-like.

On the back of the placemat, glue the completed handout “What I’m Thankful For…” (download the Balance Freebie to access the handout).

Thanksgiving Placemats Handout


Click the image below to receive a free handout of the Thanksgiving Placemats. Type in your name and email and we’ll send it to you!

Click here to subscribe

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Ann Johnson

    We are sponsoring a STEAM Night for families of our Kindergartners with materials from a pilot project called Leap Into Science from The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Kids and parents are going to explore the concept of BALANCE with all kinds of hands-on science stations. I wanted to do an art piece, and couldn’t find “Balance” as one of your art concepts yet! AND THIS HAPPENED! Thank you so much. We will be trying this today as a warm-up and a THANKFUL art project.

    • Patty

      Perfect timing!

  • Amaya

    I’ll make it with muy pupils for a thanksgiving project

  • Cindy Vandenburg

    Can’t access the Thanksgiving handout.

    • Patty

      To get the download, do the following:
      > Click the button that says “Click to Access”
      > enter your correct email address and first name
      > we will email you the PDF. The email will arrive in your inbox. Click the blue box that says “Claim my download” and the PDF will open up.
      > save the PDF to your computer


  • Lea Tripoli

    Looks like a great project to do with my kids for the harvest feast we have at our school.

  • Tessa

    Love DDS! I changed schools and need to get a new membership!

    • Patty

      We’d love to have you back!

  • Sue Ford

    Thank you for your awesome art for all ages! I am a elementary Art teacher! 65 years old!

    • Karen Heim

      Middle School art teacher – 66yrs old!:)

  • Karen Heim


  • jo

    great work

  • Renee Baldwin

    I can’t seem to get this download. I have tried it several times.
    Thank you.

    • Bethany

      Hi Renee! I just tested the download link and all seems to be fine on my end. Are you clicking the box that “Click to Download”? When I tested the link, I added my name and email and received the email shortly after. I know the Chrome and Safari browser both work well so try one of those if needed. And be sure to check your spam folder in case our email ended up there! Enjoy

Follow Us

In stores 8/21


The {lesson_title} Lesson is Locked inside of the {bundle_title}

Unlocking this lesson will give you access to the entire bundle and use {points} of your available unlocks.

Are you sure?

No Yes

The {bundle_title} is Locked

Accessing this bundle will use {points} of your available unlocks.

Are you sure?

No Yes



The {lesson_title} Lesson is Locked inside of the {bundle_title}

To unlock this lesson, close this box, then click on the “lock” icon.