Ah, Thanksgiving. A time of family, food, and amazingly cool, crisp weather. But what is this holiday really about?
As adults, we likely all know the origins of Thanksgiving, but the younger people in our lives may not have any idea why we have this autumn celebration. For this reason, and to refresh our own memories, reading about and celebrating the history behind this American tradition is an excellent way to spend some bonding time with our children.
— Books to Read —
There are an enormous number of children's books on the subject of Thanksgiving. We have compiled a list below of some of our favorites. These would be great bedtime books or an excellent excuse to snuggle on the couch on a cold fall afternoon.
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
Bound to delight and make imaginations soar, this is the true story of puppeteer Tony Sarg, creator of the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. His determination, playful imagination, and artistry brought us the helium balloons that continue to awe audiences across the United States, even today.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard
A heartwarming picture book about family, tradition, and a celebration of a staple in Native American culinary culture. Told through poetry with nonfiction back matter including the author’s own recipe for fry bread, readers young and old will relate to the ways our cultural traditions and family histories weave and bind us together.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell
A celebration of gratitude, this picture books follows the Cherokee Nation through a year of larger traditional celebrations and holidays, and small, ordinary, everyday moments. Cherokee words are interwoven with English, with a glossary included in the back.
Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo
What makes a family? When Beverly runs away from home, she is determined to make it on her own without help from anyone. Somehow, though, she can’t help forming bonds, connections, and relationships with those around her despite her best efforts. It’s through these new relationships and that Beverly finally learns to stop running, and live in the present.
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
At once an underdog sports story and a well-researched dive into the history of the U.S. government’s persecution and erasure of Native American culture in the early 1900’s, Undefeated follows the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania’s football team as they became known as “the team that invented football.”
— Crafts to Create —
After reading about the origins of the holiday, why not add to the learning experience with a craft or two? Crafts don't have to be a messy and difficult affair. Below are a few different crafts that are quick and easy to do and will make your lesson on Thanksgiving a memorable one.
While creating this craft, consider discussing the reasons why we eat turkey on Thanksgiving. You might be surprised to learn the reasons behind this yourself!
- Pencil or pen
- Markers or crayons
Begin by tracing around your child's hand. Allow them to decorate their hand tracing to look like a turkey. Add a beak, legs and feet, and a wattle to complete your turkey.
This wreath is a nice way to help children understand what it means to be thankful and look at everything they have in a grateful light.
- Poster board
- Construction paper in fall leaf colors (yellow, red, and orange)
Start by cutting the poster board into a wreath shape of whatever size you like. Using the leaf-colored construction paper, cut out several leaf shapes. Pull out the pen and help your child write the things they are thankful for on the leaves. (Very small children may need help understanding what it means to be thankful for something or thinking of things to write on the leaves.)
When you are finished adding thankful thoughts to the leaves, glue each leaf to the poster board wreath shape to make a lovely, fall leaf wreath.
Pumpkin pie is a huge part of Thanksgiving for many American families. However, pumpkin pie wasn't always a part of this holiday. While the settlers did have pumpkins, and likely served them at the very first Thanksgiving feast, pumpkin pie didn't come into play until much later. While your children are decorating their pumpkins, you might find it interesting to discuss the history of this traditional pie.
- Paint, glue, colored papers, stickers, permanent markers, or anything else you'd like to decorate with
For this craft, simply place a pumpkin on newspaper in front of your child and allow them to go crazy with the decorations you provide. If you wish to keep it clean and simple, just offer them stickers. To make it a bit messier (but more fun), offer up paints, glue and paper, and/or glitter.
We hope you have fun exploring the history of Thanksgiving with your child(ren) so you can make the celebration even more special when Thanksgiving day arrives.