Educational Thanksgiving Activities

Written by Nicole Dean

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is that it occurs in the fall of the year. The leaves have turned and the weather is crisp and cool. Families make plans to be together for the holiday. Include the children in the Thanksgiving plans and teach them what it means to be thankful.

What was the first Thanksgiving really like? The day before Thanksgiving when everyone is arriving in town, sit the family down and discuss the time when the Indians and the Pilgrims first sat and broke bread together. It wasn’t as glamorous as people make out. Ask the children what they know about that first meal. You will need to fill in any gaps that they leave in their story telling. It is important for kids to understand the true meanings behind the things we believe and celebrate. Observing the practice with no meaning to speak of is a wasted effort. If you know what you are celebrating, it will be easier to pass that knowledge on to your kids.

An important part of Thanksgiving is the harvest. The foods eaten that first Thanksgiving were grown by the Indians and the settlers with help from the native Indians. Take your children to a farm that allows you to harvest your own produce. Show them how to pick the perfect pumpkin and how to tell the difference in apple varieties. Take your pumpkin home and let the children dig out the seeds. Roast the pumpkin seeds for a tasty snack. Use the apples to make a pie for dessert.

Decorate the house. Use the hollowed out pumpkin as a porch decoration. Let the children paint and arrange them on the step. Use fallen leaves to make laminated holiday placemats for the Thanksgiving table. Let the kids gather the leaves, making sure to use ones that have not yet dried out. In the absence of a laminator, use self-laminating sheets and have the children press their leaves between two sheets. When they have created their unique designs place the mats on the table.

There is no time like the fall to teach your kids how to make cozy crafts. Craft stores sell easy to use simple looms that can be used to make scarves and blankets. If your child is old enough (at least eight or nine), teach them to create these items in time for the family to arrive. Anyone would be proud to wear their creations on a blustery fall day.

Give your child a task to complete for the Thanksgiving meal. It could be making the refreshments or helping with desserts. Show them the recipe they will be using first. If they feel like they can work independently, make sure they have all of their ingredients and utensils. The more that a child gets comfortable in the kitchen, the more they will want to learn to do. Keep giving them more involved tasks to do to keep them interested in cooking.

At Thanksgiving, let children show their concern for others by hosting a canned food drive in the neighborhood. They can leave a box or bag on the step with a flyer telling neighbors what they are trying to do. The food can be picked up by you and your child on a designated day and donated to a local soup kitchen or the regional food bank for distribution where it will be needed most. Your children will learn about the importance of service to the community through their efforts.

Thanksgiving is a family affair, so involve your children in the planning of the event that goes on before the big day arrives. They will be so engrossed in what they are doing that they won’t realize they are furthering their practical education. All they will notice is the fun.

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