6 Ways to Teach Kids About Thanksgiving

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As the leaves begin to change and the weather gets cooler, it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming holidays and Thanksgiving! One of this holiday’s defining characteristics is giving thanks, so it’s the perfect time to introduce some fun Thanksgiving gratitude activities that will teach your kids to be grateful for everything they have.

Before we get into the activity ideas, the first step to teaching kids about Thanksgiving is making sure they know what it and what gratitude means.

What does Thanksgiving mean?

When most people hear the word “thanksgiving,” they usually conjure up images of large family gatherings where food is eaten, games are played, and relatives visit. But did you know that Thanksgiving has another meaning beyond just getting together with friends and family?

In fact, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary, Thanksgiving means to express sincere gratitude or appreciation toward someone or something.

So whether you’re hosting a traditional dinner party or simply spending quality time with your family at home, take advantage of the opportunity to emphasize the true spirit of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Gratitude Activities

Giving thanks is something that kids should learn at an early age. It’s a valuable trait that can help them to appreciate what they have in life. Not only is it useful for when good things happen, but it can also be helpful during tough times too.

thanksgiving gratitude activities - Thanksgiving Gratitude Activities - 6 Ways to Teach Kids About Thanksgiving

Whether you’re looking for ways to teach them about the history of Thanksgiving or simply want to instill an attitude of thankfulness in them, there are many fun and easy Thanksgiving gratitude activities you can do with your kids.

From making thank-you cards for loved ones to brainstorming things they’re thankful for, these activities are sure to help teach kids about Thanksgiving and the importance of giving thanks.

First, have a conversation with your child

Talk about the history behind Thanksgiving and how people gave thanks for their bounty. Ask them if they ever felt grateful for anything and how they showed gratitude in that situation.

You can also propose different scenarios and ask how they would react if they were in that situation. For example, pretend someone held the door open for you. How would you show your gratitude?

Not only will this help them to start thinking about Thanksgiving, but it will also get them thinking about gratitude in general and how to show it.

Read together

The easiest and best way to start learning about thanksgivings is through actions and stories about people who give back to others.

You might read books such as The Spiffiest Giant in Town and The Invisible Boy, which teach young readers about giving.

Or find books that feature characters who show kindness towards those less fortunate than themselves like What is Given From the Heart and Harold Loves His Woolly Hat.

When reading these books aloud, encourage your children to think about why certain actions may seem “selfish” but actually benefit someone else.

In addition to helping your kids understand that there are many different reasons behind acts of charity, this lesson helps prepare them for adulthood because it encourages them to recognize opportunities to share their gifts with others.

Start celebrating Thanksgiving early

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all the blessings in our lives. But why wait until the end of November? Why not start the month off with a celebration of gratitude?

On November 1st, sit down with your family and brainstorm a list of things you’re thankful for. You might be surprised at how long the list is!

We have a free 24 Days of Thanksgiving Gratitude Turkey printable you can use if you’re stuck on ideas of your own.

Days of Thanks Turkey Printable Crafts and Printables - Thanksgiving Gratitude Activities - 6 Ways to Teach Kids About Thanksgiving

Then, throughout the month, take some time each day to focus on one item from the list. Talk about why you’re thankful for it, and brainstorm ways to show your thankfulness.

For example, if you’re thankful for your home, you could write a letter of appreciation to your landlord or make a homemade card for your neighbors.

Or if you’re thankful for your school, you could volunteer to help with a fundraiser or write cards for teachers and staff members.

By taking the time to celebrate Thanksgiving early, you can teach kids the importance of gratitude and help them to appreciate all the good in their lives, big and small.

Teach kids about sharing

The holidays are a great time to teach kids about the importance of sharing. One way to do this is to have them help prepare Thanksgiving dinner. They can help set the table, wash the dishes, or cook the food. This will not only teach them about the value of work, but it will also help them to appreciate what others do to provide for them.

thanksgiving crafts - Thanksgiving Gratitude Activities - 6 Ways to Teach Kids About Thanksgiving

Another way to do this is by having them participate in a sharing activity. For example, you can have them put together care packages for people who are less fortunate. This can include everything from non-perishable food items to clothes and personal necessities.

Not only will this help kids to understand the importance of sharing, but it will also give them a chance to feel good about helping others. Plus it’s a great opportunity to teach them about what others may be going through during this holiday season and help to develop a greater sense of empathy and compassion.

Help kids learn more about American traditions

As the holidays approach, many families begin to think about what they are thankful for but this can also be a great opportunity to teach kids about some of the traditional customs associated with Thanksgiving.

For example, did you know that President George Washington was the first to call for “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer” on November 26, 1789? And that the tradition of eating pumpkin pie actually dates back to the early days of the Colonies? Or the reasons why we eat turkey on Thanksgiving?

By familiarizing yourself and children with some of these history lessons, you can help your kids to understand and appreciate the holiday even more. Be open-minded when talking to your kids about the meaning behind the holiday. Show interest in learning new cultures and customs.

Celebrate diversity

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s a great time to teach kids about the importance of celebrating diversity. One way to do this is to talk about the different traditions that people around the world celebrate during the autumn season.

Thanksgiving family dinner - Thanksgiving Gratitude Activities - 6 Ways to Teach Kids About Thanksgiving

For example, in China, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time to give thanks for a good harvest and enjoy the full moon. Families often get together to eat mooncakes, which are pastries filled with subtle local flavors like lotus seed paste or red bean paste.

In Japan, the Harvest Festival is a time to give thanks for a good rice harvest. Families decorate their homes with straw and vegetables and offer prayers to the gods of agriculture.

In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos (also known as the Day of the Dead) is a time to remember and honor deceased loved ones. Families often decorate altars with photos, food, and flowers and visit the graves of their loved ones.

And in the United States, Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all our blessings. Families typically gather together to enjoy a feast of traditional Thanksgiving recipes like deep fried turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.

No matter what traditions people around the world celebrate, they all have one thing in common: the spirit of Thanksgiving. By learning about these different traditions, kids can begin to understand and appreciate the richness of our world’s cultures.

Speaking of delicious food, why not take this as a perfect opportunity to introduce kids to new foods from different cultures? Whether it’s making sugar skulls or tasting mooncakes, cooking and eating together is a delicious way to learn about other cultures and build unity in our community.

Thanksgiving Gratitude Printables and Crafts

Get into the spirit by making some Thanksgiving crafts with your kids! There are tons of Thanksgiving-themed crafts out there, from making a cute turkey plushie to making your own Thanksgiving dinner centerpiece.

thankful turkey craft for kids - Thanksgiving Gratitude Activities - 6 Ways to Teach Kids About Thanksgiving

This Thankful Turkey Craft is a great way for your toddler to learn about gratitude and the importance of being grateful. Have your child think of something that they’re grateful for and write it on a feather. Try to encourage some of the simpler things in life like a sunny day, or a delicious meal. 

It can also help them practice their numbers, colors, shapes, letters and more. It’s an easy project that will keep you busy while teaching your child about appreciation and gratitude.

Thanksgiving Gratitude Activities - Days of Thanks Turkey Printable

As mentioned earlier, our 24 Days of Thanks Turkey printable offers a fun way to complete activities focused on gratitude and kindness as family. Choose one to complete each day of November leading up to Thanksgiving and you’ll have an excellent conversation piece for dinner.

Paper Bag Turkey Craft pin -  - Free Paper Bag Turkey Craft for Kids

This Thanksgiving, ditch the store-bought decorations and try your hand at making your own turkey crafts. With just a few household supplies, you can create a festive paper bag turkey that will add a handmade touch to your holiday decor. This simple craft is perfect for kids of all ages.

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