Children are very sensitive to the hustle and bustle of the holidays. When adults get caught up in demands of gift buying, fancy meal preparation, and their tensions of extended family visits, kids can get dragged along. The true history and meaning of Thanksgiving can be overlooked, unless effort is taken to slow down and develop a thankful heart.
The following activities can foster a grateful spirit and encourage an appreciation for American and Native American history.
Native American Mural
The Native American culture is rich in history and had a great influence on early American settlers. One way to really get children to internalize the contributions they made to American culture is to explain the “Three Sisters.” New England used the call the three vital Native American crops “The Three Sisters.” Corn, squash, and beans helped both Puritans and Tribes survive harsh winters.
It’s also fascinating to children to learn that many American words stem from Natives. Words like wampum, kayak, tomahawk, papoose, caribou, moose, muskrat, woodchuck, raccoon, skunk, pecan, hominy, toboggan, tipi, cactus, and bayou were all words that colonists adopted.
For an activity to consolidate and demonstrate their new knowledge, a mural would be a great tool. Children can take a old pillowcase or a poster board and paint autumn pictures, harvest designs, etc. Then they can glue on cutouts of Native American words. Finally, they can glue on a border and make other inventive designs with corn and dried beans. Not only is this a fun project, it also turns out as a lovely holiday decoration.
Obtain a small jar and have the children decorate with Thanksgiving images and colors. Construction paper, acorns, pinecones, etc. make great additions. Create and affix a large, lovely “Thankful Jar” label. Cut a stack of papers into two inch squares and pass them out to everyone. Throughout the course of the month of November, the day of Thanksgiving, or during Thanksgiving dinner, have everyone write or draw the small things in life they are thankful for.
When the papers are completed and the jar is filled, have someone read a paper. Everyone can guess who it belonged to. Some are will be easy and some more difficult, but everyone will enjoy a snapshot into others’ hearts.
Poems, Poems, Poems for Everyone
Most children love to recite or read simple poems. There has been a plethora of Thanksgiving poems written throughout the years. Some are sentimental, some cultural, and some cute and charming. Have everyone pick a poem they feel drawn to and recite it to everyone. Here’s a delightful, rhyming poem that tickles little ones:
Skinny Bert by Kay Wilson (from Thanksgiving Handbook by Dotti Hannum)
A young skinny turkey named Bert,
Made a pig of himself on dessert.
That’s how he got fat.
He was warned about that!
And now he’s the dinner for Mert.
With a little planning and a devotion to retaining a genuine heart of gratitude, it becomes a joy to demonstrate to children the spirit of the holidays. Simple history, timeless creations, and unharried time with loved ones leaves a profound impact on children. They will be engulfed in the true meaning of Thanksgiving.