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How to Celebrate Thanksgiving With Kids

Updated on November 18, 2012

Some holidays are easy to celebrate with children. Halloween is all about dressing up and pretending. Valentine's Day usually comes with a layer of chocolate, somehow. The Fourth of July lights up the world with fireworks. On Thanksgiving, we eat turkey and pumpkin pie, and we watch football . My kids are indifferent to turkey, hate pumpkin pie (so do I) and think football is boring. Is there a way to make this most grown-up of holidays a fun time for children?

Here are some ideas for doing just that.


Read About Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims Together

Your first step towards teaching your children about Thanksgiving in a way that is positive and fun is by taking a trip to the local library. There are always great books about many different topics available for the whole family. Here are several great books about Thanksgiving, both fiction and nonfiction, for children of different ages.

  • Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson. Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was the President who made Thanksgiving a National Holiday? Find out how a woman named Sarah Hale convinced him to do it.
  • Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne. Annie and Jack travel back in time to meet the Pilgrims. Elementary school level chapter fictional chapter book.
  • Beyond Turkey: a Thanksgiving Feast of Fun, Facts and Activities by Debbie Herman. Learn the story behind the holiday and enjoy crafts, recipes, games and songs for the whole family.
  • Thanksgiving Day by Gail Gibbons. The story of the first Thanksgiving is explained to children with very simple vocabulary.
  • Turk and Runt by Lisa Wheeler. Picture Book for preschoolers and early elementary school age. Turk, the big, healthy turkey, thinks all those visitors to Wishbone Farm admire him for his athletic ability, but his brother Runt knows better.
  • Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet. Learn how expert puppeteer Tony Sarg first created the massive balloons that are now a highlight of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
  • 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace. A lot of what we think we know about the first Thanksgiving is wrong. In this remarkable book, the folks from National Geographic present a recreation of the first Thanksgiving on Plimouth Plantation. Separate the myth from the facts.

Let Your Child Help Cook Part of the Meal

When your child helps you cook Thanksgiving dinner, a lot of great things happen.

  1. Your child gets to help plan part of the meal, and it makes him or her feel more connected to everything that is happening on this special day.
  2. It's a great way to teach math skills.
  3. It ensures that at least one thing on the menu will be something your child likes.
  4. It's never too early to learn how to cook. That's a very important life skill.
  5. He or she will be so proud of what's been made!

it doesn't matter what your child makes. This year I plan to let my eight-year-old make the macaroni and cheese. It's not elaborate or fancy, but it is a big, important step for him.


Enjoy a Craft Together

We made this little turkey out of a dixie cup, a couple of scraps of construction paper, and a quartered paper plate.

  1. Cut the paper plate into quarters.
  2. Color the paper plate.
  3. Glue the paper plate to the dixie cup. The cup should be upside down.
  4. Trace your index finger on a piece of yellow construction paper.
  5. Cut this out.
  6. Cut a small triangle out of orange paper for the beak.
  7. Cut a sliver of red paper for the wattle.
  8. Assemble with glue to make a little turkey puppet.

Make five of them, and sing this little song together:

5 little turkeys standing by door,
One waddled off, and then there were 4.
4 little turkeys under a treee,
One waddled off , and then there were 3.
3 little turkeys with nothing to do,
One waddled off, and then there were 2.
2 little turkeys in the noon day sun,
One waddled off, and then there was 1.
One little turkey better run away,
For soon will come Thanksgiving day.

Take a Trip: (Real or Virtual) to Plimouth Plantation

Plimouth Plantation, the site of the first Thanksgiving Day, still exists as a living museum. Major exhibits include:

  • 17th Century Village: See what it was like to live in the times of the Pilgrims as you walk through this restoration of the original Plimouth. Actors play the parts of pilgrims as they prepare their meals, care for livestock, make candles and perform all the other daily tasks necessary for survival in 1621.
  • Wampanoag Homesite: Visitors can also see how Squanto and the other Wampanoag people loved. Tour the inside of a long house and watch as the Wampanoag men make a boat. The docents in this part of the museum are actual Wampanoag tribe members.
  • Mayflower II - The original Mayflower has been destroyed, but museum goers can experience what it must have been like to travel across the ocean in the hold of the original Mayflower by touring this exact replica.. All aboard!
  • Craft Center - Visit the craft center and watch local artisans make tools, throw clay pots, and sew authentic Pilgrim outfits.
  • Rare Breeds Animals - Get close up and personal with rare breeds of sheep, goats, swine and other animals that would have been common in the time of the Pilgrims.

Of course, if it's not in your budget to travel to Massachusetts this year, you can still learn about Plimouth Plantation from the links listed above. The Plimouth Plantation website also includes

One of the coolest things for kids on this site is an interactive game called You Are the Historian.

Kids can download this game and play the role of a historian who discovers what life was really like 1621.

Plimouth Plantation

Plimouth Plantation

A markerplimouth plantation -
Plimouth Plantation, Plymouth, MA 02360, USA
get directions

Explore the Past Through Local Museums

Even folks who don't live in Massachusetts can often explore the days of the early colonists through interactive museums in their own area of the country. For example, in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, where I live with my family, we have several museums that allow children to experience history first-hand. Even if the setting is not specifically 17th century Plimouth, children can go to some of these museums and see what life was like in a century other than our own. My kids have learned how to blow a wooden whistle and make a corn husk doll from living museums such as the Log Cabin Village in Fort Worth and the Texas Town in the Dallas Arboretum.

Other interactive history museums for kids nation-wide:

You might also try out some of the interactive games and other activities available on the Colonial House website. In 2004 PBS created a realty show in which contemporary people recreated the lives of the pilgrams. This fascinating website includes quizzes, video diaries, interactive games, and other fun educational activities.

Exploring the Past at the Dallas Arboretum Outside...

Visit a living museum and see what it must have been like to live in a log cabin or wood plank cottage like this one.
Visit a living museum and see what it must have been like to live in a log cabin or wood plank cottage like this one. | Source

...And Inside

Children can go to living museums such as this one to see how families in other centuries ate their dinner.  Tea time, everyone!
Children can go to living museums such as this one to see how families in other centuries ate their dinner. Tea time, everyone! | Source


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    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Great ideas and places to see. Perfect timing too! My daughter enjoyed the Mary Pope Osborne book...I think we still have it.

    • ESPeck1919 profile image

      ESPeck1919 5 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      This is so cute! I love that Dixie-Turkey idea. One of my nieces and my nephew are the perfect age for that. I'll be sharing this hub with my friends and family who have little ones.