Fun parties, special treats, and Thanksgiving classroom activities can help make this time of year enjoyable for young children. But as educators, you might be looking to take it one step further to explain the historical roots, cultural traditions and significance behind each holiday.
Thanksgiving is no exception, and your team can begin instructing children about its relevance even in preschool. While the holiday is known for turkeys and a big meal, it has far more meaning behind it.
We offer some Thanksgiving classroom activities and ideas for celebrating this special holiday in the early childhood education classroom.
Ways to Teach Young Children About Thanksgiving
Start light by showing children the true meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday. Here are some ways to do that.
- Give children time to talk about their traditions. They might not remember much from years past so parents might need to step in and provide some added context here or notes for the teacher to help prompt the child. Have them share a little about who they see, what they do and the foods that they enjoy on the holiday.
- Go around and ask the children to share what they are thankful for. This activity is incredibly simple, but it can help keep the holiday in perspective for everyone.
- Organize a food drive at your center. Showing the power of giving during this season can be an important lifelong lesson for young children. Explain to them what you are doing and why it matters to make the activity really come to life for them.
- Host a parade and allow children to bring in items that show what they are thankful for this year. This can be a photo of loved ones, toy food, their favorite stuffed animal or any other item that parents can send to school with the child. And after you get those little ones moving, they might be more likely to sit still for show and tell to explain their item.
- Have fun and celebrate. You can only keep things serious for so long with young children. Eventually, you need to do some crafts, get children moving and enjoy a unique snack at school.
Thanksgiving Classroom Activities and Ideas for Preschool
Keep meaning in the activities you do in the classroom for the Thanksgiving holiday. While there’s nothing wrong with tracing a child’s hand and making it look like a turkey, this activity does little to explain the importance and significance of Thanksgiving to young children. Try to mix in some of these meaningful ideas.
1. Build Thanksgiving Plates
To a young child, they might not realize that there are people in the world who are hungry. Show them the great foods that they can be thankful for. And this activity can encourage young children to try new foods on Thanksgiving.
Cut out food items from ads you and the other teachers get in the mail. Give children a paper plate and invite them to assemble their Thanksgiving meal while encouraging them to use items they’ve never tried before.
2. Corn Painting
Cut corn cobs in half and allow children to roll them in paint and then create a piece of art this way. Explain the significance of the harvest of corn and other food in celebrating the holiday.
3. Color Thankfulness Images
Print off images of things that a child can be thankful for, such as family, food and a home. Don’t just have the children color these sheets. Talk about the importance of these images and why we focus on thankfulness today.
4. Make Placemats
Keeping a thankful heart on the actual day of Thanksgiving is important. Inviting children to design their own placemats by coloring a larger sheet of paper that you laminate and send home for parents can be a great way to keep the meal in perspective. And, it can help children feel bold to try new things on the holiday. Parents will appreciate a practical way to remind children all about what they’ve learned about Thanksgiving during their celebrations.
5. Decorate the Classroom for Upcoming Holidays
Inclusive holiday celebrations and educating children that not everyone celebrates Christmas this time of year as you kick off the holiday season is a valuable lesson. Invite children to decorate the classroom with significance for the holiday they will celebrate in the coming weeks.
This can help children feel included and remove bias from the activities and celebrations you host in the classroom during this season.
There are so many fun things to do in the classroom during this time of year. Get festive and enjoy the season with your students as you celebrate a variety of holidays and traditions.