King Features Syndicate
Puzzle place cards can be made out of cardboard, construction paper or craft foam sheets.
Place cards are an indispensable addition to a Thanksgiving meal. They're a little like croutons on a favorite soup, because they add style and pizzazz. They can even be whimsical! This year, let the kids' inspirations for artful place cards enhance your Thanksgiving table decor. Long after you've ladled the gravy over the mashed potatoes for seconds and then thirds, your kids will remember the special contribution they made to the festivities. Here are two ideas:

Simple place cards

Homemade place cards can be as easy as cutting strips of nice paper or cardstock into 1 1/2-by-1-inch strips and writing out each person's name with a special pen.

Decorate by drawing a simple portrait of the person to the side of the name, or add Thanksgiving-themed stickers. Set them on each plate over a folded napkin, or insert them in standard place-card stands. (Tip: Larger index cards give young children more space to write and draw.)

Puzzle place cards

Make each puzzle place card out of cardboard, construction paper or craft foam sheets. Draw and cut out the shape of an object with a Thanksgiving theme, such as a pilgrim hat, an ear of corn or a pumpkin pie. Paint or color the shape with markers if you wish. Make a different Thanksgiving design or symbol for each place setting.

Cut out a portion of the shape, which will be a puzzle piece. The cutout could be obvious, such as a feather on a turkey, or more complicated, like a random wavy shape typical of a traditional puzzle.

Set the Thanksgiving table with a place card at each setting, minus the cutout. When guests arrive, put children in charge of giving a missing place-card piece to each guest. When they meet Grandfather at the door, they'll be bursting with excitement. Will he find his place at the table? Kids love to know a special secret that grown-ups have to figure out!

At mealtime, it's a fun and memorable moment for all when each person finds the place card that completes the puzzle to discover who they will sit beside. Don't be surprised if your kids ask to play the place-card puzzle game with new creations for December holiday gatherings.

Donna Erickson's new award-winning television series "Donna's Day" is airing on public television nationwide. Visit to find out when it airs on your local PBS station and to sign up for Donna's e-newsletter. Her latest book is "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families." © Donna Erickson

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