How to Teach your Children about the History of Thanksgiving

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Nest of Posies

“Give thanks with a grateful heart.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

November is here! We love this time of year because it gives us a chance to slow down a bit before the crazy holiday season begins and to reflect on the things we are grateful for in our lives.

We also love using this time of year to remind our families and teach our children about the history behind the Thanksgiving holiday. Today, we are presenting three different ways that you can help teach your kids about the history of Thanksgiving. These ideas can be used independently of each other, but are also great all together!

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1. Learn by Reading

For this first way to teach the history of Thanksgiving, we think it is ALWAYS a great idea to teach from a book! So we have collected a few Thanksgiving themed books to share with you! We believe these teach kids about the history behind Thanksgiving while also keeping things light-hearted and fun!

Don’t forget, you do not have to go out and purchase any of these books to enjoy them with your family. Your local library is a fantastic resource for checking out free books to read your kids! We can’t wait for our weekly trip to the library this week so we can check a few of these out!

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims (3-7 yrs)

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Ten little Pilgrims and ten little Wampanoag boys and girls are getting ready for the harvest feast. In colonial Plymouth, the young Pilgrims hunt ducks and geese and dig up turnips and carrots. In a nearby village, the Wampanoag children dig for clams, fish for cod, and gather nuts and berries. Finally, it’s time for the meal. Turkey, cornbread, cranberry stuffing, pumpkin, and Indian pudding are all on the menu-yum! First, everyone gives thanks, and then it’s time to eat and celebrate. The simple, rhythmic text and autumn-colored illustrations are just right for sharing the history and fun of Thanksgiving with young children.”

Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving (2-8 yrs)

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Starring in the school Thanksgiving play would make even the coolest cat nervous. But when Pete the Cat gets onstage, he makes learning the story of the first Thanksgiving fun. With thirteen flaps that open to reveal hidden surprises, this book is sure to be a holiday favorite for every Pete the Cat fan.

The Story of the Pilgrims (3-7 Yrs)

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Starring in the school Thanksgiving play would make even the coolest cat nervous. But when Pete the Cat gets onstage, he makes learning the story of the first Thanksgiving fun. With thirteen flaps that open to reveal hidden surprises, this book is sure to be a holiday favorite for every Pete the Cat fan.

The Thanksgiving Story (5-8 Yrs)

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Giles, Constance and Damaris Hopkins are all passengers aboard the crowded Mayflower, journeying to the New World to start a new life. Things get a little more cramped when their baby brother Oceanus is born during the passage. However, when they arrive, there are even worse challenges to face as the Pilgrims are subjected to hunger, cold, and sickness that put their small colony in great danger. With the help of the Native Americans though, they might just be able to survive their first year in this strange land—and have a November harvest to celebrate for generations!

Thanksgiving Day Thanks (4-8 Yrs)

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Perfect for a teacher’s classroom or a child’s home bookshelf, Thanksgiving Day Thanks tells the story of Sam trying to figure out what he’s thankful for.Sam also works on a special project to share at the Thanksgiving feast—his own version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Parents and teachers will find inspiration for other Thanksgiving crafts and projects in this charming and funny storybook. A section at the back includes fun Thanksgiving facts.

Full of creativity, humor, and heart, Thanksgiving Day Thanks celebrates friendship, family, and the many other blessings in our lives for which we give thanks.

The First Thanksgiving: A Lift the Flap Book (2-4 Yrs)

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“Nancy Davis recreates the excitement and wonder of the first Thanksgiving–how the pilgrims came to America and how the Native Americans taught them to plant and then joined them in a Thanksgiving feast. Parents can use the simple text and the bright, graphic illustrations of this lift-the-flap book to introduce a very young child to this holiday. “

2. Learn by Watching

Another great way to learn about the history of Thanksgiving is through watching educational movies/shows. There are a few really good Thanksgiving themed kids movies and episodes of children’s shows that can help show your child about our history. Pick one of these to watch as a family, and then have a discussion afterwards to gauge your kids’ understanding.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving + The Mayflower Voyagers

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Turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie…and the Peanuts gang to share them with. This is going to be the greatest Thanksgiving ever! The fun begins when Peppermint Patty invites herself and her pals to Charlie Brown’s house for a REALLY big turkey party. Good grief! All our hero can cook is cold cereal and maybe toast. Is Charlie Brown doomed? Not when Linus, Snoopy and Woodstock chip in to save the (Thanksgiving) Day. With such good friends, Charlie Brown – and all of us – has so many reasons to be thankful. This Remastered Deluxe Edition with Improved Picture and Audio is guaranteed to bring on that grateful glow”

Squanto and the First Thanksgiving

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“Discover the moving, true story of the Native American named Squanto, who is captured from his beloved Pawtuxet tribe, taken to Spain, and sold into slavery. Years later, Squanto regains his freedom and embarks on a miraculous journey back to his homeland where he teaches the Pilgrims how to survive the difficult early years in the Plymouth colony–culminating in the first Thanksgiving celebration. A touching drama about trust, faith and renewal. Beautifully illustrated by Michael Donato. Ages 6 and up”

William Bradford - The First Thanksgiving

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“Teach children the positive character traits of Sharing, Gratitude, Faith, Leadership and other positive character traits through the Nest Learning DVD on the life of William Bradford. William Bradford fled with the Pilgrims to the new world, where he discovered that the price for religious freedom was hunger, sickness and death. As a peacemaker, he befriended the Native Americans who taught the struggling Pilgrims how to survive. By the end of the first year, William Bradford became Governor of the new land. After their first critical harvest, he set aside time for the Pilgrims and their new Native American friends to feast together and express their thanks to God. Thus, William Bradford became the Father of Thanksgiving Day.”

3. Learn by Creating

The final way we can teach our children about the history and meaning of Thanksgiving is through completing crafting activities together. We have compiled a list of Thanksgiving craft ideas that draw on teachings of the history of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Coloring Pages - Nest of Posies

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Nest of Posies

These free printable coloring pages are a great activity for you and your little ones. You can tell the story of the Pilgrims and Indians as you color the pages together. Then, put them on display proudly for the Thanksgiving holiday season!

Toilet Paper Roll Pilgrims & Indians Craft - Find Craft Ideas

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Find Craft Ideas

These fun little Pilgrim & Indian Toilet Paper Roll Craft Figures are super cute and fun to make with your kids. Put a set of these together and then read one of the stories of the First Thanksgiving. Then, have your children act out the stories with the figurines while you read!

A First Thanksgiving Play Script - Buzzing with Ms. B

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Buzzing with Ms. B

If you want to get really interactive, you can either print off a free Thanksgiving play script like this one, or get creative and write your own. Then, after talking to your children about the history of Thanksgiving (or reading/watching something about it), have your children read through and act out the First Thanksgiving Play together with you. You can also have your children practice with you each night leading up to Thanksgiving day, then perform the play for all of your Thanksgiving guests!

Thanksgiving Story Bracelet - First Grade Wow

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First Grade Wow

This fun activity has a lovely rhyming story all about the First Thanksgiving, but also has you and your children complete a beaded bracelet throughout the story. The color of each bead is representative of something in the story. Make these bracelets together and wear them to remember our history together.

Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving Activity - Sight and Sound Reading

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Sight and Sound Reading

If your children love Pete the Cat books, then this fun origami Pete the Cat Thanksgiving activity is a perfect craft to make with your children before (or after) reading the book together. You can read it through, then make Pete, and then read it again and act it out with him!

Thanksgiving Crowns Activity - Printable Crush

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Printable Crush

These fun crown activities would be super fun to complete at your family Thanksgiving this November OR to create and play with when acting out your Thanksgiving play. The crowns are offered as a free printable!

Thanksgiving Questions and Worksheets - Snippets by Sarah

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Snippets by Sarah

Packets of Thanksgiving themed worksheets and questionnaires are all over the internet. You can find some like these that can help you talk your children through the history of Thanksgiving and then help them further understand by filling them out together.

Thanksgiving is such a fun time for learning not only about our past history but also about what it means to show our gratitude. I hope these ideas help to inspire you to teach your children about the historical meaning behind the holiday and will get your kids excited for the holiday.

Now that we have addressed the historical side of Thanksgiving, we are excited to bring you ideas of how to show and celebrate gratitude next week! We can’t wait to show you all of our fun gratitude activities for your families, friends, and for your own individual use!

We hope you have a great weekend and can’t wait to see you back on Monday. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list before you go!

Until next time,

Krystal & Jodie

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