The first Thanksgiving as we know it was celebrated in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was a celebration that was born from the pilgrims desire to give prayers of thanksgiving to God for giving them a good harvest. Thanksgiving was tied to religious celebrations for hundreds of years, but today there are many secular celebrations as well. Many times, Thanksgiving is over shadowed by Halloween and Christmas because it’s not as flashy or filled with gifts and treats. Here are some ways to teach your kids to be thankful and to enjoy Thanksgiving.
- Create a thankful jar. For this, you will need a jar of some sort. This is a great time to recycle a jar that you have recently emptied. Wash and dry the jar thoroughly and remove any labels that might be on it. Cut a strip of printer paper that is the right size to wrap around the jar. Encourage the kids to decorate the strip with a Thanksgiving theme, making sure to write “Thank you” or “Thanks” some place on the strip with crayons or markers. When the kids are finished, glue the strip of paper around the jar. If you like you can tie a pretty ribbon around the mouth of the jar. Have the kids cut up slips of paper that can be used for everyone to write what they are thankful for during the days leading up to Thanksgiving. During dinner everyone should pass around the jar and take a slip of paper out and read it.
- Read a book. There are many books in the library or at the bookstore that explain the story of the first Thanksgiving. Pick out a book that is age appropriate for the children you are reading to so that they can better understand the story. Use the story to teach the kids how you feel about Thanksgiving and why you think it’s important.
- Perform a puppet play. Gather together several lunch sacks, construction paper, glue, crayons and other things to create puppets. If you’d like, you can also print out characters from clip art, cut them out, and glue them to a craft stick instead. Even a sock puppet will work for this project. Make puppets that represent the pilgrims, the Native Americans and maybe even a turkey or two. As the kids are working on making the puppets you can talk about what the pilgrims wore versus what the Native Americans wore. Keep in mind that historically it is believed that the Native Americans were dressed very simply and would not be wearing a big war headdress. Once the characters of the puppet play have been created you can talk about the first Thanksgiving and then act it out with the puppets.
- Play a game. Create your own Thanksgiving trivia game. Go online and find a bunch of facts about Thanksgiving and put them on cards. Each question should be on its own card. The person who gets the question right can keep the card, that way you can see who wins the most cards at the end. The beauty of this game is that you can gear the questions to the age of the players. You may need to have true and false questions or multiple choice questions for little ones. This game can even be played at the table during Thanksgiving. You can reserve a special set of adult questions to be added to the game. You might want to print out the adult questions on a different color paper or using a different color of ink so that you will know which questions are meant for adults. The game can be fun and challenging, and it will also teach your children a lot about Thanksgiving.
- Cook an authentic dish. There are some misconceptions about what kind of food was served at the first Thanksgiving dinner. Research with your child what foods would have been there and then prepare some of those dishes on the days leading up to Thanksgiving. A few suggestions would be: succotash, corn soup, squash, beans, maple sugar candy and berries (even cranberries). While you are cooking you can talk about how you think the pilgrims and Native Americans would have cooked their food since they didn’t have electricity. You never know, you might find some new family favorites.
Spend some time with the kids talking about Thanksgiving and why it’s important to you and your family. Many people find that adopting an attitude of thankfulness all year long helps them enjoy life more. Give it a try and see what you think.