The Modern Mama’s Guide to Thanksgiving

It’s the best time of the year… the holiday season! While most of us love potatoes, rolls, and grandma’s pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving often falls behind Halloween and Christmas in terms of being the favorite. Not to mention, the history of Thanksgiving is often glossed over and inaccurately portrayed. Below are some ways to make Thanksgiving fun + teach your little one some history.

How to Talk About Thanksgiving with Your Child

To say the least, Thanksgiving has a complicated history. It seems insufficient and unfair to just serve up our favorite dishes and make hand turkeys and call it good. Not to mention, the oversimplified story that we all came to know as kids in our first-grade class needs more than just a few tweaks. So, what can you do to make sure your little one is introduced to a more accurate version of history?

Keep in mind, these lessons are going to vary greatly depending on age from toddlerhood through elementary school but we believe it is never too early to start discussing subjects like this with your little one!

Focus on Gratefulness

Photo by Chrissy Powers

Thanksgiving in America is typically tied to the story of the pilgrims landing in Plymouth Rock and surviving their first harsh winter. However, there are other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving holidays and instead focus on giving thanks for all that they have. You can easily switch out the traditional American Thanksgiving and instead focus on thankfulness.

Don’t Leave Out Native American History

Native American culture is rich, beautiful, and important to learn about. However, it is also important to learn about the more painful side of their history. The Wampanoag tribe (the Indigenous people who lived at Plymouth Rock) faced brutal colonization when the pilgrims arrived.

Of course, it’s up to your discretion as a parent how you introduce this history and when. BUT we think it is extremely important you talk about the Indigenous people’s experience with the pilgrims accurately.

If you are looking for some tips on how to have these discussions and educate yourself, check this article out from Today.

Read Together

There are tons of adorable Thanksgiving books out there for toddlers. Here are our favorites:

  • Llama Llama Gives Thanks
  • I Am Thankful
  • Peyton Picks the Perfect Pie
  • Apple Cake: A Gratitude
  • Sleep Tight Farm

As your child gets older, the books may focus a little more on the “history” of Thanksgiving. We recommend talking with them about myth vs. history. Much of what we hear about the first Thanksgiving celebration in America is simply folklore and leaves out a lot of what was actually happening between Indigenous people and the newly arrived pilgrims. Below are 2 books that do a great job of being accurate!

  • Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving
  • Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message
  • The Very First Americans

We recommend you always read the books first and make sure they are presenting factual & appropriate information.

Look at the Big Picture

A lot of times as parents, we overcomplicate things in our heads. If you feel lost on where to start, we recommend just asking your child questions. What do they know about Thanksgiving? What do they think about it?

You may be surprised by what you hear, even from a toddler! They have many different influences coming from all over and seeing where they stand will help open doors to guide the discussion how you would like.

Keep in mind, these are conversations that can and should be brought up more than just one week a year. It’s important to help your child understand Indigenous people still face injustice today. Discussing current events and history with our children empowers them to be world changers. We could use some more of those!

Fun Fall & Thanksgiving Crafts to Teach Thankfulness

Photo by Happy Toddler Playtime

Below are some crafts that you can do together that encourage thankfulness and good discussions!

  • Potato Masher Corn Craft: Native Americans did grow and eat corn. You can talk to your little one about how they grew the corn and taught settlers to do the same.
  • A Thanksgiving Tree: Who said trees are just for Christmas? This is an adorable way to encourage children to think about what they are grateful for.
  • I am Thankful for A-Z: This printout will help you and your little one brainstorm everything you are thankful for… probably including some wacky ideas for letters like X and Q!
  • Corn Painting: Painting with corn is like finger painting, only more fun! It might get a little messy but it is a great way to make memories with your little one.
  • Thankful Pie: This craft is fun & easy. Your little one will love to spin the wheel around to reveal their different reasons for being thankful.

How will you be spending Thanksgiving this year? Let us know in the comments!

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