It’s the best time of the year… the holiday season! While all of the holidays are special in their own way, I would say Thanksgiving is the misfit. While most of us love potatoes, rolls, and grandma’s pumpkin pie, this holiday doesn’t often top the list as a favorite. Not to mention, the history of Thanksgiving is often glossed over and inaccurately portrayed. Below are some ways to make Thanksgiving fun + teach your little one some history.
How to Talk About Thanksgiving with Your Child
To say the least, Thanksgiving has a complicated history. It seems insufficient and unfair to just serve up our favorite dishes and make hand turkeys and call it good. Not to mention, the oversimplified story that we all came to know as kids in our first-grade class needs more than just a few tweaks. So, what can you do to make sure your little one is introduced to a more accurate version of history?
Keep in mind, these lessons are going to vary greatly depending on age from toddlerhood through elementary school but we believe it is never too early to start discussing subjects like this with your little one!
Focus on Gratefulness
While Thanksgiving in America is typically tied to the story of the pilgrims landing in Plymouth Rock, there are other countries that have a Thanksgiving holiday which instead focuses on giving thanks for all that we have. We love switching out the traditional American Thanksgiving focus for this instead.
Don’t Leave Out Native American History
Native American culture is rich and beautiful, however, their history is extraordinarily painful and includes genocide, slavery, and disease. Of course, it’s up to your discretion as a parent how you introduce this history and when. BUT we think it is extremely important you talk about the Indigenous people’s experience with the pilgrims accurately.
If you are looking for some tips on how to have these discussions and educate yourself, check this article out from Mother Magazine.
There are tons of adorable Thanksgiving books out there for toddlers. Here are our favorites:
- Llama Llama Gives Thanks
- I Am Thankful
- Peyton Picks the Perfect Pie
- Apple Cake: A Gratitude
- Sleep Tight Farm
As your child gets older, the books may focus a little more on the “history” of Thanksgiving. We recommend talking with them about myth vs. history. Much of what we hear about the first Thanksgiving celebration in America is simply folklore and leaves out a lot of what was actually happening between Indigenous people and the newly arrived pilgrims. Below are 2 books that do a great job of being accurate!
We recommend you always read the books first and make sure they are presenting factual & appropriate information.
Look at the Big Picture
A lot of times as parents, we over complicate things in our heads. If you feel lost on where to start, we recommend just asking your child questions. What do they know about Thanksgiving? What do they think about it?
You may be surprised by what you hear, even from a toddler! They have many different influences coming from all over and seeing where they stand will help open doors to guide the discussion how you would like.
Keep in mind, these are conversations that can and should be brought up more than just one week a year. It’s important to help your child understand Indigenous people still face injustice today. Discussing current events and history with our children empowers them to be world changers and we could use some more of those!
Fun Fall & Thanksgiving Crafts to Teach Thankfulness
Below are some crafts that you can do together that encourage thankfulness and good discussions!
- Potato Masher Corn Craft: Native Americans did grow and eat corn. You can talk to your little one about how they grew the corn and taught settlers to do the same.
- A Thanksgiving Tree: Who said trees are just for Christmas? This is an adorable way to encourage children to think about what they are grateful for.
- I am Thankful for A-Z: This printout will help you and your little one brainstorm everything you are thankful for… probably including some wacky ideas for letters like X and Q!
- Corn Painting: Painting with corn is like finger painting, only more fun! It might get a little messy but it is a great way to make memories with your little one.
- Thankful Pie: This craft is fun & easy. Your little one will love to spin the wheel around to reveal their different reasons for being thankful.
The Hostest with the Mostest? Here’s How to Celebrate on November 26th
The talking and the reading and the crafts will most likely occur earlier in November. So, what is left to do on actual Thanksgiving day? Besides eating yummy food, this is a day we get to spend being thankful for our friends & family. It is a time to cherish them and make special memories.
This year it will probably look a little different for each of us as we may be apart from many of the people we love. Below are a couple of ideas for celebrating regardless!
You might not be spending Thanksgiving traveling to a relative’s house and having dinner with extended family, but that doesn’t mean you can’t carve out some time to spend with all of your family. Before Thanksgiving comes around, set up time slots with various family members and friends. You can even do dinner together via Zoom!
Playing games is also a good way to keep your kids engaged on your Thanksgiving Zoom. We love this print out which you can grab on Etsy!
Thanksgiving Dinner… but make it a picnic!
If you live somewhere that has nice weather even in November, consider having a socially distanced picnic on Thanksgiving. It might not be your usual meal, but it will be an extra special memory to look back on!
Break Out the Christmas Decor
You might find that you have a little extra time on Thanksgiving this year, making it the perfect day to break out your Christmas decor! You can decorate the tree, have a Christmas music dance party, and hang the lights. Let the little ones get involved by having some shatterproof ornaments ready to go or even a tree of their own.
How will you be spending Thanksgiving this year? Let us know in the comments!
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