Thanksgiving Math for Preschoolers: Simple Number Game with Thanksgiving Theme for Kids

Looking for something exciting yet educational to do in the weeks before Thanksgiving with a preschooler? A great way to have fun and improve math skills at the same time is to embellish a straightforward sequential board game using a Thanksgiving theme. The result: a turkey race that can be constructed from common household craft items.

Board Games Improve Math Skills

Board games can improve a young child’s ability to recognize numbers and understand the concept of sequential order. At least that is what a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University shows. It was conducted in March 2008 with a group of 124 preschoolers from low-income families who were instructed to play a numbered board game several times over a period of two weeks. As a result, the preschoolers went on to perform better in math.

Ingredients for Thanksgiving Turkey Race Game

  • Roll of paper
  • Colored markers
  • Ruler
  • Feathers (or construction paper cut to look like feathers)
  • Construction paper
  • Felt
  • Safety Pins
  • 2 coins
  • Masking tape and glue stick

Turkey Race Set Up

Unroll approximately twenty feet of paper and cut. Measure ten equal squares lengthwise with ruler. Number them from 1 to 10. Tape the paper to the floor if necessary.

Make a turkey tail using the feathers and felt. Cut out a curved strip of felt and glue feathers to it. Attach safety pins so that during the game it can be secured to the back of the child’s shirt.

Construct a turkey crown by cutting a long strip of sturdy construction paper and attaching the two ends to form a circle. Draw eyes and a beak on the front of the crown, and glue feathers around it.

How to Play Turkey Race

For two players, one will wear the crown and be on the “heads” team while the other will wear the tail and be on the “tails” team. Each player will have a coin and take turns flipping it and moving along the game board. The player to reach ten first wins.

Decide who will go first by flipping one coin. If it lands on heads, then the player with the turkey crown goes first and if it lands on tails, the player with the turkey tail will go first.

Whenever a coin lands on heads, the player with the turkey crown moves up one space and announces the number that is landed on. Whenever the coin lands on tails, the player with the turkey tail does the same.

For a larger group of kids, separate them into two teams representing “heads” and “tails”. Then, each team can choose the player who will wear the crown or tail and move along the game board. Players can then take turns flipping the coin.

During the race, ask questions such as, “Which team is currently on the higher (or lower) number?”, and “How many more moves are needed to reach the end?”


If more of a challenge is requested, move two spaces instead of one whenever the coin flips in a team’s favor. Alternatively, if team “heads” flips a tail, force team “tails” to go back one space and vice versa.

Celebrate Thanksgiving with children this holiday season by incorporating into the festivities a proven method to enhance preschool math abilities. Craft a handmade turkey race board game using easy to find items and watch the excitement mount as kids have fun and get smarter too.

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