It’s Important To Talk To Your Kids About Thanksgiving
What should we be teaching children about Thanksgiving? The time of year when we take stock of all our blessings? 2020 has been the year of change, so let’s apply this to the way we talk to kids about Thanksgiving.
Now, more than ever, we need to reflect on and examine our understanding of this day. We need to be teaching children the true meaning of Thanksgiving to help them learn some essential life values.
What You Should Be Teaching Children About Thanksgiving
There is more to Thanksgiving than the amazing spread of food, or spending quality time with family. There is a history that emphasizes the need to be compassionate, kind, tolerant and accepting of others.
Unfortunately, over the years we’ve glossed over these core values and mainly focussed on being thankful. While showing gratitude is important, there are valuable lessons when teaching your children about Thanksgiving.
Consider That There Are Two Sides To This Story
This holiday season, take the time to talk to your kids about the true history and accurate facts of Thanksgiving.
We should all be familiar with the story of the ‘First Feast.’ In fact, that’s just one part of the whole story. While most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, Native Americans consider it to be a day of mourning. Think about why they would feel this way?
Try to explore and explain Thanksgiving from another point of view, the Native American experience. In doing so, you will be teaching your kids the importance of looking at a situation from both sides.
When kids are taught to analyze issues from different angles they learn to:
- Consider different perspectives, needs or emotions of the participants.
- Find multiple solutions to the problem.
Indeed, you show your children the value of tolerance for others. This important quality is one of the cornerstones we should be teaching children about Thanksgiving.
Particularly now, tolerance around race and opinions is a vital lesson when you talk to your kids about Thanksgiving meanings.
Here are some Activities to help teach children about thanksgiving
Take turns reading the story out loud with your kids. Encourage them to ask questions and reflect on the story.
We suggest bringing them out 1-2 weeks before Thanksgiving to really start the conversation with your kids around the real meaning of thanksgiving.
Thanks to the vast amount of information online, we can easily revisit the origins of Thanksgiving. Use search engines to explore and learn in a fun and interactive way.
Visit the Plimoth Plantation Museum. Here you can learn about the Pilgrims and the first journey on the Mayfair. Moreover, learn about the impact on the Wampanoag tribe when teaching kids about Thanksgiving .
For fun, try out the detective game to find out what really happened at this time in history.
Create a timeline
Encourage your kids to create a timeline so they may have a better understanding of the incident.
Schools have always acted out the story of the First Feast. This year, talk to kids about Thanksgiving and try it with a difference.
After reading the history of the time, ask your kids if and how they would have done it differently. Encourage them to host their own play with their interpretations.
Don your detective hats and sniff out facts from fiction. For example, consider this statement –
‘Thanksgiving was celebrated every year as a holiday after the year of the First Feast’– True or False?
If you thought ‘true’, you are incorrect. Thanksgiving was announced as a holiday 100 years after the First Feast, to unite the nation during a civil war.
There are so many inaccuracies hidden in and around this story. Challenge your kids to unearth the truth.
Organize a game of Thanksgiving trivia or bingo cards.
Talk To Your Kids About The Thanksgiving Symbols
There are a lot of symbolic items associated with Thanksgiving and you’re likely to find them on your dinner table. Do your kids know the importance of the foods served in a Thanksgiving feast?
Besides replicating the items served in that first feast, these symbols represent the celebration of a bountiful harvest. This is one of the true meanings when you are teaching children about Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving would be incomplete without a turkey at dinner. Although it is not clear, historical accounts do mention ‘serving fowl’ at the first feast.
What is known, is that wild turkeys were available to the colonists at that time. Native Americans also considered turkey as a sign of abundance and fertility, making it a fitting representation of Thanksgiving.
Corn and Beans
Have you wondered why we use dried corn husks as a decoration during Thanksgiving?
History states that the first settlers were taught farming methods by the Wampanoag tribe. Corn is one of the first crops they learned to grow, and it helped them survive their first winter.
They also learned to farm beans alongside the corn, the stalks serving as poles for the beans to grow on. This is why they are known as ‘pole beans.’
When you talk to your kids about Thanksgiving, ask how things may have been different. What would life have been like for the Pilgrims without the Wampanoag tribe and their lessons?
The corn and beans on our table should be a reminder of the compassion and support extended by the Wampanoag tribe.
A cornucopia represents bountiful harvests. Since the First Feast coincided with the harvest season of the Wampanoag tribe, it became a symbol of Thanksgiving.
Cranberry, pumpkins and statues of both pilgrims and Native Americans are also common fixtures associated with Thanksgiving.
Activities to try out:
Discuss the Harvest Season and Thanksgiving:
Talk to your kids about what the harvest season means. Explore the different harvest times of crops when teaching children about Thanksgiving. Encourage your kids to share their favorite foods at this time of year.
Arts and Crafts:
Teach kids to make turkey crafts such as turkey crowns or hand painted turkey name cards. Get them involved in making a cornucopia as the centerpiece for your table.
Teaching Children The Values Of Thanksgiving
The Thanksgiving holiday is an important family time and can be used to teach children some great values. While gratitude ranks highly, children should also be taught the importance of compassion, tolerance and consideration for others.
We live in a dangerous world, where the value of a life can be weighed by simply skin color. Our children must be taught to look beyond the surface to the person within.
This year, talk to your kids about the real story of Thanksgiving. Indeed, doing so may instill within them the values necessary to create a better world. A world of tolerance and acceptance, instead of one of bias and prejudice based on appearance.
Activities to try out:
Make a gratitude jar or give children a gratitude sheet. Get them to fill in with all the things they are thankful for.
Discuss current events:
Talk about events that are happening around your community or the world. Explore if these have affected them or their friends, and how.
Encourage them to identify inequality or prejudice that they see. They may share situations where they treated or failed to treat someone with respect and compassion. Discuss how they could do things differently.
Such open discussions can help children become aware of their actions and those of others. This is important at any time but especially for teaching children about Thanksgiving.
Play games that build team spirit. These could include a three legged race or relay races passing acorns or water in a spoon.
Activities such as these can help kids understand the importance of being part of a team. The need to collaborate, cooperate and compromise and use the strengths of each team member.
Encourage kids to volunteer and help others in need. It will teach them the values of giving, sharing and being kind and compassionate to others. Talk to your kids about Thanksgiving and giving back to their community.
We Should Talk To Our Kids About Thanksgivings True Meaning
Teaching our children about Thanksgiving is vital, for they are the future. It is our responsibility to raise kind, compassionate and caring individuals who are tolerant and considerate of others.
We need to talk to kids about Thanksgiving and its real story, to help them learn from our mistakes.
Empower future generations with a voice and values vital to creating a better tomorrow. Not just for themselves, but all others too!
An Occupational therapist, freelance content writer and more importantly a stay-at-home mom, Sarah, like all other parents juggles her many roles. Her passion for writing combined with her professional expertise as an Occupational therapist (working with children with special needs) has helped her craft content specific to child health, wellness and learning skills. At present, Sarah alternates her time between raising her two young children, and writing about what she knows best- children!