Parents, do the holidays find you up to your eyebrows in kids and work? Why not put those vacationing youngsters to work making Crafts, greeting cards and decorations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, or whatever winter holidays you celebrate? These cheap, green homemade crafts save money using recycled materials while keeping preschool kids productively busy and helping prep for your celebration.

Fall centerpiece crafts

Have preschool kids collect autumn leaves, acorns, seed pods, and pine cones and create a homemade fall foliage centerpiece.

Instruct children to arrange leaves and acorns in bowls or make a Thanksgiving candle holder centerpiece. Spray paint foliage gold and glue on a plastic butter lid. Leave space for a green, red, gold, silver, or white taper candle for Christmas or Kwanzaa.

Holiday potpourri crafts

Make homemade potpourri using leftover fruit peelings from apples, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes. Save peelings and tear into small pieces. Allow to dry and add cinnamon sticks, dried cranberries, and whole cloves. Cut circles of holiday fabric and place potpourri in the center. Tie with colorful ribbon and use as fragrant decorations or Christmas gifts.

Holiday paper chain

Cut one-inch strips of red, yellow, orange, brown construction paper 10 inches long.

Or make strips from wrapping paper scraps or recycle bin paper. Weave recycled gift wrap or ribbon into the chain. Preschool kids can write or draw what they are thankful for and poll siblings and parents on what they are giving thanks for. To form a chain, make a loop and tape shut, then place the next strip through the loop and taping closed and so on.

Read each link at dinner or use it in a family game of charades.

Holiday countdown calendar crafts

Have children make a chain as they did the chain paper crafts above, except that each link should have a holiday activity written on it. Make enough links to countdown to a holiday, for example, start a Thanksgiving chain in early November.

Countdown from Thanksgiving to Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa. Each day, remove a link and do what is written. This paper chain is a good counting and calendar lesson for children and helps them answer "how many days till...?"

Holiday craft table

Set up a table for holiday crafts, with art supplies readily available. Provide crayons, markers, construction paper, scissors with fancy cutting edges, stampers and stamp pads, tape, stapler, and decorations. Set out a bin of recycled paper and plastic scraps. Have children make one of these free printable holiday craft projects each day.

Thanksgiving crafts for kids

Design a homemade Thanksgiving welcome banner for guests. Hang with where people can reach it.

Have them write things they are grateful for. Make place cards for Thanksgiving dinner and greeting cards for senior neighbors, friends, and family. Decorate recycled grocery bags for a food drive. Fill with canned goods, packaged foods, toilet paper, shampoo and laundry soap for the food pantry. This is a service project and craft project rolled into one!

Make a family tree

Teach children how to trace handprints on scrap construction paper to make leaves. Kids write or draw what they are thankful for on each leaf. Cut a trunk shape with branches and place leaves on the family tree or arrange handprints in a circle wreath "holding hands." Ask each family member to contribute things they are grateful for.

Thanksgiving tablecloth

Get a large roll of recycled newsprint from the local newspaper office (they will often give you the roll ends). Or make a quilt of paper from recycle bin. Make a paper tablecloth for dinner table. Have children decorate with messages, stickers, and works of art. Have them draw place settings on the tablecloth to help younger siblings learn to set a table.