Monday, October 28, 2013

Thanksgiving ~ Teaching our Kids Why We Celebrate

Since I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year, and the holiday is less than a month away, I can't help but think of all of the little details I want to create to make it a special time for our family.  For our family, preparations for Thanksgiving go far beyond the menu and the table scape.  Preparations really begin with the kids in the classroom, as we strive to learn about and appreciate the roots and meaning of the holiday.  Last year I wrote a post specifically on that topic, and thought I would share it again this year...

A couple of days ago, I was suprised  irritated to see a Yahoo headline that read, "Thanksgiving is no longer a Christian holiday, but a secular one...." Oh, really? Who decided this? Every American is thankful for something, and so now is there really no substantial reason to recognize the fact that the holiday is rooted in the celebration of religious liberty? Well, I'm pretty sure that every American loves presents too, so why don't we just dissolve the whole "Jesus is the reason for the season" idea and chalk Christmas up as being secular too? (Oh wait, we're already doing that.  Another rant for another time...)  

I don't know about you, but I not only want my kids to celebrate our nation's traditions, but I want them to KNOW and to UNDERSTAND the meaning behind the holidays that we honor and the purpose for which they serve. A couple of years ago, I came across an audio version of an historical account of the Pilgrim's courageous journey to a America and the first Thanksgiving meal that they celebrated in honor of their new found religious freedom .  The story was very well presented, and a wonderful listening experience for the whole family.
You can order the cd and accompanying story book here:

In our classroom this year, I have decided to use spend a little bit of time each day the week prior to Thanksgiving listening to a segment of the story while the kids color or work on activity pages that I have assembled for each of them in their own little book using a clear sheet cover with plastic binding (you can find these at office supply stores, Wal-Mart and Target).  Here is the simple cover page that I created for their booklets:
If you would like to create a Thanksgiving activity book for your own kids, and would like to use our cover page, you can view a Printable Version Here(Thank you for Pinning!)
After listening to the cd, I went online to USA Printables and found several coloring pages that matched up with the story's timeline.  Just print the pages you prefer and place them in timeline order in the booklet. Then, to enhance the lessons, I added several additional activity sheets for the older students. Here are just a few of the pages that I was able to print (for free!) from ABC Teach:
Crossword Puzzles
Venn Diagrams
Themed Essay Paper
Word Searches
Memory Games
Word Scrambles
(There are so many more!)

In addition to our booklets this year, we will be viewing a You Tube clip from the Plimoth Plantation website on the early Pilgrim settlements. (Note: "Plimoth" is spelled correctly.  We often see it spelled "Plymoth," but not in the case of this historical venue. I'm trying to avoid a slew of comments kindly informing me of my spelling errors, can you tell??)
Here's the link to their website: 
Virtual Field Trip at Plimoth Plantation.
If your children enjoy listening to recorded stories, they will love the dramatic representation of Squanto from Focus on the Family Radio Theatre.  The recording can be purchased in CD form from Focus or Amazon, or you can upload the MP3 version from Focus or iTunes.

After a little browsing on Pinterest, I found a few ideas that I think will help make this Thanksgiving an even more memorable one for our kids:
Indian teepee cupcakes from These Are a Few of My Favorite Things. Aren't they cute??
This is one of the most unique ideas I've seen for Thanksgiving yet! My boys will love making these Mayflower dinner bread boats from Moore Minutes.
 These Pilgrim Hats from Woman's Day are fun and easy (strong emphasis on easy).
I love the idea of creating a Thanksgiving Tree from Simply Vintage Girl .  A simple, yet lovely way to display your family's notes of gratitude.
Don't you just love all of the free printables being created by so many fabulous bloggers out there?  I'm going to frame this one from Craftily Ever After and use it to spice up my buffet on Thanksgiving.

How will you be spending Thanksgiving this year? Do you have any special family traditions that you enjoy? Please share!


  1. Very interesting about the correct spelling of Plimuth - I didn't know that!
    This year I'm happy that my younger brother and his family are making the long drive up from TX to spend the week with us.
    One thing that we have done for a couple of years is try to be more mindful about being thankful year round and not just once a year - I want my boys to grow up being grateful for all of the wonderful things in their lives.

  2. Oh, leave it to pinterest!! One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is that we have do a sticky-note wall where the kids can write things they're thankful for and just post it on the wall. I got the idea from a children's hospital in town. I love seeing the whole family together without having the stress of presents. Usually don't start thinking of Thanksgiving until after Halloween, though, which is admittedly my favorite holiday!
    love, Jill

  3. this actually bothers me! I am Jewish and I don't celebrate Christmas because I strongly believe it is NOT a secular holiday and should not be celebrated as one. But I do celebrate Thanksgiving and saw it as an American holiday. I did not realize it should be considered a Christian holiday and now I'm not sure what to think about that!


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