Our Not-So-Cute, But Oh-So-Important Turkey Tom

Thanksgiving is approaching…fast. And up until about three years ago, I struggled this time of year to find a way to turn my children’s heads from the Christmas toy catalogs to the blessings of people and things they already have around them. In the past, my husband and I made sure our kids “had the chance” (aka: forced them) to express their gratitude on Thanksgiving day, but I was left wanting with that one-and-done tradition. After much thought, I hit upon a reusable and fun way for the kids (and us parents) to count our blessings every November day leading up to Thanksgiving.

Meet Turkey Tom, the Norton family’s thankful turkey.

The process is simple, really.  Our family goal is to make Turkey Tom the most plumaged styrofoam ball turkey anyone’s ever seen by Thanksgiving day (not too hard since he’s usually the only plumaged styrofoam ball turkey anyone’s every seen, haha). We pull our featherless and freaky-lookin’ Tom from the depths of the Fall decor bin on November 1st, place him in the main living area of our home where he can serve as a visual reminder for daily thankfulness, then proceed to impale him all month long with our feathers of written gratitude! Fun, right?

On Thanksgiving day, we each pull our own color of feathers out of Tom, then sit down together as a family and read them aloud to each other. It warms my mother heart to hear them spout off objects, relationships, moments, and people they’ve thought to be thankful for throughout the month. When it’s time to put Turkey Tom away for the season, we wipe off our feathers then stash them in a Ziplock baggie, ready to be used again next year. I laughed out loud when I pulled Tom out of the bin this November and heard excited shouts from my kiddos’ mouths. Apparently, he’s been missed.

Over the past three years, I’ve grown very fond of Turkey Tom, and it’s not because he’s a stylish piece of fall decor–he’s woefully short in that area, poor guy. 😉 I’m in love with Turkey Tom because he dutifully reminds us all to look for and express our gratitude every day of the often overlooked “Thanksgiving season.” So if by chance you’ve found your Thanksgiving holiday season to be lacking in the gratitude department, I highly recommend adding a “Turkey Tom,” “Turkey Tina,” or “Turkey You Name It” to your family Thanksgiving traditions.

If you’re interested in making your own thankful turkey to use for the remainder of this thankful season (or in preparation for Thanksgiving 2017), I’ve included a few instructions below. Enlist the kids’ help for a family craft night!

Disclaimer: I’m not a super crafty person so if you read something below and think, “That non-crafty girl could’ve saved herself two hours and twelve hot glue gun burns doing it this way instead,” then please–do it your way. 🙂

Turkey Tom: Tom’s head and body consist of one giant styrofoam ball (about 8-9 inches in diameter) and one smaller styrofoam ball (about 3-4 inches in diameter) that’ve been wrapped 1.7 million times in two different colored yarns. If you get overzealous and wrap too many layers of yarn on your styrofoam balls, the feathers will have a hard time finding the styrofoam when it’s time to stick him. So go for a happy medium–enough wrappings in different directions that cover the ball without adding three inches of girth! I also found it helpful to use a bit of hot glue to secure the starting end of yarn to the styrofoam balls, along with any other string that found itself slipping off the edge.

I attached his head to his body with a bamboo skewer. Stick the skewer halfway into the body first, then while holding the skewer near the base, slide the head on. (I tried putting the skewer in his head and then attaching his skewered head to his body. With the force of the push into his body, that darn skewer kept coming out through his eyeball and I had to do emergency glue surgery to re-attach it. Haha. Sounds so gross…)

His eyes, beak, feet, and little gobbler thingy-a-jig are cut from felt then hot glued to the wrapped balls of yarn.

Tom’s round little body balances precariously on a roll of masking tape to keep from rolling around my entire house. (lame, I know–I’ve yet to find a better solution). Maybe you can think of a better way?

Feathers: I made a cardstock template of an easy-to-cut feather, then traced that feather 1.8 million times on colored printer paper (not cardstock). More specifically, I traced about 30 feathers for each member of my family, using one color for each person. (In other words, I have six members in my family, so I traced 30 feathers on blue paper, 30 feathers on red paper, 30 feathers on orange paper…until I had 30 feathers in six different colors.) His different colored plumage serves as a great visual reminder when someone in the family has been slacking on the thankfulness (aka: his tail of feathers is lacking a specific color).

After I traced all the feathers I needed, I laminated them, then cut them out and used masking tape to secure halved bamboo skewers to the back of them. They need about 2 inches of skewer showing on the bottom in order to get a good puncture in the styrofoam.

Feather and Marker Storage: I hot glued some twine to a wide-mouth pint mason jar to hold blank feathers and expo markers. This jar sits next to Turkey Tom all season long and is refilled with more feathers as they’re used up.

Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Debbie Norton
    Posted at 10:18h, 16 November

    I love thankful turkey Tom and I love that you are teaching my sweet grandkids these important messages. Thanksgiving does seem to get bypassed as Christmas decor and toy catalogs come out right after candy filled Halloween. So awesome Jodie. Love it

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