Thanksgiving traditions for kids are especially meaningful. Thanksgiving is the special time for gathering together with family and friends — those whom we hold closest to our hearts. Although we would love to teach the kids to be thankful everyday, the reality is that our lives are sometimes hectic and we often forget to express our gratitude. So we did the handwork for you and bring you nine ways to inspire your own Thanksgiving traditions.
Plimoth Plantation has a great website dedicated to the “First” Thanksgiving. Some of the education materials are to prepare the kids for visiting the plantation, but they have a ton of resources for educators and children. Kids may especially enjoy the section that teaches them how to “Talk like a Pilgrim.” Or they may prefer to play the awesome Thanksgiving Interactive, an award-winning online activity that allows children to act as “history detectives” and investigate what actually happened at the first feast between the Wampanoags and the Pilgrims.
Make a Thankful Tree
In recent years, one of the most popular Thanksgiving traditions for kids is creating a Thankful Tree. The best thing about it? You can make it any way you want! You can print colored leaves on your computer, or have the kids make their own using colored card stock or construction paper.
Sail the Mayflower
Who knew there were so many different ways to build a ship? Dig through your recycling bin if you have one, and ask your kids to create their own mini version of the Mayflower. Your family can study more about the real story behind this famous ship at MayflowerHistory.com.
Decorate the table
Does your family sit the kids at their own table for Thanksgiving? If so, put them in charge of decorating it. They can use their imaginations or use some of the handy-dandy printables available online. We like this one and this one—both are free!
If everyone is sitting at one table, ask your kids to help out and contribute some decorative touches. Napkin holders, place cards, and centerpieces mean so much more when crafted with love. Take a look here and here for some ideas.
- Read a Book
Make Your Own Headdress
Pilgrim hat or indigenous headband — does your family have a preference? Either way there are hundreds of patterns online for making your own. Try these for making Pilgrim headwear or this one for a Native American headband.
Inject Culture Into the Menu
Food is the best part of the holiday! Make cooking together one of your new Thanksgiving traditions for kids. Skip some of the traditional menu items to incorporate some tamales, hallacas or pan de jamón… or how about Pumpkin empanadas?
Make a Family Heirloom
I really love this family craft from CreativeCaremella’s blog. It is easy, creative, and an instant heirloom to be treasured forever. I think you could take the same concept and apply it to other mediums. For instance, instead of a framed piece, you could also create a family Thanksgiving tablecloth or runner and have everyone sign and date it each year.
If you’re fortunate enough to live along the East Coast, there are many time-period destinations celebrating the landmark day. But museums and libraries all over the country take advantage of this time to teach children the history surrounding the Pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving, so be sure to investigate your local area. And if you aren’t able to get out and visit one of these exhibits or events, don’t worry! You can go on a Virtual Field Trip thanks to Scholastic. This interactive site is chalk full of resources: from videos of the Pilgrim village and Wampanoag homesite, to audio clips of what life was like for both peoples, to interviews of the characters. Kids can read a letter from a Pilgrim or Wampanoag child, or they can create their own miniversion of the Mayflower. Teachers and parents can download a large number of free printables and lesson plans to complement their study of the subject. After watching, I had my kids fill out one of the printables describing what their life would be like as a pilgrim/Wampanoag.
Enjoy all of your new Thanksgiving traditions for kids and the whole family!