Thanksgiving Jewelry Craft – Educational & Fun!

by Rena Klingenberg.

Thanksgiving Jewelry Craft - fun educational activity and tutorial by Rena Klingenberg

This Thanksgiving jewelry craft is a perfect activity for elementary school students or homeschool students.

(Or for anybody who enjoys history and beading!)

Thanksgiving Jewelry Craft - putting together kits  - Rena Klingenberg

How This Idea Got Started:

I led this Thanksgiving craft project at my son’s elementary school for several years, and it was a big hit with students and teachers.

Thanksgiving Jewelry Craft - Educational and Fun!  - Rena Klingenberg

The school held a Thanksgiving Festival every November, out in the school yard.

Each class came into the festival by “landing at Plymouth” (after being pulled slowly around the school parking lot on a “Mayflower” trailer with a mast, hooked up to a volunteer dad’s pickup truck).

Then each class toured through a series of games and activities reflecting both Native American and Pilgrim culture in the 1600’s.

My Thanksgiving necklace craft was one of the activities in the festival.

Painted Wooden Beads  - Rena Klingenberg

Purchased painted wooden beads

How I Did This
Thanksgiving Necklace Activity:

At home I put together kits with an assortment of natural beads (made from wood, shell, bone, horn, etc.) plus a leather cord for stringing the beads into a necklace.

I packaged the kits into individual mini jewelry ziplock bags.

I made a necklace kit for each student, plus one for each teacher, and a few extras for other folks who might want to participate.

For each class I also printed out a one-page sheet I wrote on How Beads Were Used in Early America for the class to read before the festival, so the necklace project would be more relevant and meaningful to the students.
Putting together kits for Thanksgiving jewelry craft - Rena Klingenberg


  • An assortment of natural beads with holes large enough to string on a leather cord.
    Look for wood, shell, bone, horn, and other natural materials.
    For small quantities, you can probably find these kinds of beads in a local craft or bead store.
    But I needed a lot of them, so I ordered big assortment packs of these kinds of beads from Fire Mountain.

    Alternative: Have the students make their own beads out of paper, cork, clay, or other natural materials.

  • Leather cord that will fit through the beads – a 30″ (76cm) length for each necklace (so the finished necklace can be put on over the wearer’s head, with no clasp needed).
    (Available at most craft or bead stores, or through most online jewelry suppliers.)
  • Small ziplock bags for packaging the kits.
  • My How Beads Were Used in Early America free PDF page (you can download it and print it).
    Depending on the students’ ages, the teacher can read this sheet to them, or each student can have a copy and read it to themselves.
    It’s actually an interesting read! 🙂
Shell beads for Thanksgiving jewelry craft - Rena Klingenberg

Shell beads

How I Taught the
Thanksgiving Necklace Craft:

At the school’s Thanksgiving Festival, I had a big blanket spread on the ground for the students to sit on, with a tarp underneath it to ward off the damp grass.

While the students got settled on the blanket, I asked them a few questions from what they’d read on my “How Beads Were Used in Early America” sheet, to refresh the information in their minds.

Horn beads for Thanksgiving jewelry craft - Rena Klingenberg

Horn beads

Then I showed them a couple of example necklaces (plus I was wearing one myself), so they could get an idea of what we were making.

I handed each student a necklace kit, and asked if they could show me a bead made from seashell, one from wood, one from a horn, and one from bone.

With the horn and bone beads, I explained that our ancestors didn’t waste any part of an animal they killed for food.

I also asked the students what they thought the leather cord came from.

Colorful natural beads for Thanksgiving jewelry craft - Rena Klingenberg

Colorful natural beads

After the students identified what their beads and leather cord were made from, they started stringing their necklaces.

Most of the beads in my kits were fairly large and easy to handle – and easy to find if dropped.

When the students finished stringing their beads, I had them tie the ends of their leather cords into a simple knot – and then put on their necklaces to wear.

Most of the students – both girls and boys – loved these necklaces, and often when I was volunteering at school later for other things, students would come up to me and say,

“Look, Ms. Klingenberg, I’m wearing my Thanksgiving necklace today!” 🙂

Necklaces made for Thanksgiving jewelry craft - Rena Klingenberg

FREE - Get 7 Super Jewelry Making Hacks

Get Rena's 7 Super Jewelry Making Hacks, plus the Jewelry Making Journal Newsletter - all for FREE.

We Respect Your Email Privacy

  • Linda says:

    Thanks, Rena, for the tute. Always great tutorials. Linda

  • Wonderful craft idea! Thanks for sharing it with us!

  • Thank you for your lovely comments! I love helping children with creative activities, and this one was particularly fun for me. 🙂

  • Beverly Holman says:

    What a lovely idea. It’s always heart warming to see the children’s faces when they create something on their own. Rena, you and this newsletter is wonderful and full of suggestions and ideas.

  • Cathy Stewart says:

    Great idea as I also am a substitute teacher. Easy and educational. Thank you. Cathy Stewart

  • Trina says:

    So fun! I love making necklaces and I could get the kids in on this!

  • Sarah R says:

    Great idea! Pretty necklace and love the educational aspect.

  • Marlies says:

    A really good article and thanks for sharing our Native heritage with others. I am Cherokee and this is how history aught to be taught especially about the original people here. Thank you for adding ” How Beads Were Used in Early America.” I plan on laminating my copy to use when doing craft shows- I do jewelry using those items plus seed beads.

  • Delia Stone says:

    What a fantastic project! I love that it’s fun and educational. Thanks for sharing this with us. I will use this for my own children as a fun Thanksgiving day project.

  • Renae says:

    I love this activity. It’s not only educational but so beautiful. I’m pinning for future use. Thank you for taking the time to share. (I know it definitely takes time.) 🙂

  • Renae says:

    What a beautiful activity. I’m pinning for future use. Thanks for sharing!

  • Linda says:

    Great idea and I love the history of it!

  • Gosia says:

    Beautiful and great tutorial!

  • Natalie says:

    Creativity is a wonderful way to educate! And, what a beautiful creation!!

  • Ursula says:

    Super creative! I love the wood beads too 😉

  • Allison says:

    I love how well all of the beads work together and I have to say they do look autumnal!

  • Claire says:

    Turned out great 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    I love how educational this is! I live in MA so I’ll be taking my son to Plimouth Plantation soon to learn about the first Thanksgiving.

  • T'onna says:

    Cute necklace! I love the wooden beads! I have some of the same beads in my bead stash from when I used to make jewelry years ago.

    Navy Wifey Peters

  • Bonnie says:

    What a great project for school! Thanks Rena!

  • Diane says:

    I love when art makes history come alive! Those kids will remember the activity and information forever.

  • how totally awesome and you have made a memory those children and teachers will cherish!

  • Cool project! My daughter would love doing this with me- I’ll have to add it to our DIY list. 🙂

  • Hello cute lady! Your creations always look incredible. Pinned.

  • Kyla says:

    Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing!

  • Kezzie says:

    These are SUCH beautiful beads, I can understand why your students were so enthusiastic and appreciative! Loved your post!

  • Cathy says:

    Such a pretty necklace. I collect beads and think maybe I should get them out now. Thank you for sharing.

  • Laura says:

    What a great idea for elementary students! I’ll bet they love wearing the necklaces or giving them away as gifts.

  • Leslie Nikulka says:

    What a wonderfully creative and educational way for the children to have fun. Even I learned the meaning of “wampum”. Thanks so much for sharing, Rena! 🙂

  • zoraida says:

    What a wonderful, fun project! I’m sure the children loved it and sneaking in some history was brilliant. I did a similar thing (without the history lesson) with a group of girl scouts some years ago. It was fun! I would enjoy being a student at your class.

  • Cheryl says:

    What a great story to share and what a nice memory and history example to give the kids.

  • Izabel says:

    Love your craft idea. So easy!

  • Laura P says:

    Great idea and fun to do over the holidays!

  • Jennifer says:

    Very pretty! Thanks for sharing!


  • Glad I found you! I’ve done beadwork with kids too. That school is lucky to have you, you even give them information to prepare the kids for the beadwork!

  • Jann Olson says:

    Great idea! My grandkids love doing beading as well. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tiffany says:

    Fun idea! And I love the educational piece.

  • Beautiful natural beads and I love the outcome of putting them together.

  • Thank you, Irith! 🙂

  • Pam says:

    Liked the pdf, I had my information about Wampum totally wrong. I thought it was the native american people that used the wampum as a money exchange option, I guess we are never too old to learn. Neat about the teaching project as well, not only about getting them started beading, but thinking about how they are made and what they came from plus the respect that comes from working with animal “gifts’ is invaluable. Thanks for all the good things you do Rena, you’re a special person..

  • Pam, thanks so much for your lovely comment! 🙂

  • Gabi says:

    Rena , this is so special!
    I used to do crafts with a group of seniors. I used to design the necklaces, then string half of the necklace, take pictures and print them. After all that, I would put the half strung necklace with the rest of the necessary beads in a plastic bag, including also the picture. I cannot describe in words the joy this activity was bringing to these ladies. Age is not important when we are talking jewelry and women!
    Unfortunately, the center closed. I miss it, it was a happy time!

  • Gabi, what a blessing you must have been to the senior jewelry making group! Maybe you can find another group. Thank you so much for your lovely comment, and for sharing the joy of helping the ladies create jewelry.

  • My daughter is taking a year off before starting college. She got a job as a Nanny in Madrid, Spain. She watches over a boy, 8 yrs old and a girl 5 years old. I wanted to send them something from the USA as a gift. This project would make a great idea for them to understand our Thanksgiving holiday! I can’t wait to send it to them.

    Thank you for all you do!

  • Oh, that’s wonderful to hear, Virginia! I’m sure your daughter’s charges will enjoy this project.

  • Alysen says:

    Rena, What a great idea!
    Reading this brought back memories of when my daughter was younger and had birthday parties. Her birthday is at the end of November and of course, prime decorating time for the Holidays. We would collaborate on some theme and since she’s always been ‘artsy’, it gave me a chance to use some stash too.
    Then they would all work on a project (ornament, decoration, etc.) using what we made available that day! They always looked forward to next year’s party and also learned some new techniques.

  • Alysen, thank you for sharing that lovely memory – a wonderful way to create a birthday party.

  • >