As parents we know that there’s more to Thanksgiving than stuffing ourselves with turkey, watching men in tights throw around the pigskin and attending or tuning into the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade along State Street. We know there’s deep-seeded meaning in the holiday. Read on to find out how to share glimpses of that meaning with our preschoolers when food, football and fancy floats seem to take the center stage.

Take a trip to the library

Trying to explain Thanksgiving to a preschooler or young elementary-school-aged child without pictures is about as easy as saying no to a second serving of pumpkin pie. Books are essential for preparing your little ones for Thanksgiving Day if you’d like them to glean a little more meaning. A few Thanksgiving books that add some explanation to the day include some gems found on our book shelves as well as some found on those of friends’. What is Thanksgiving by Michelle Medlock Adams, Clifford’s Thanksgiving Visit by Norman Bridwell, and The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood should all get the job done.

107076155 Thanksgiving: How To Make It Meaningful For Kids

(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Countdown the days, count your blessings

Most preschoolers and young children love a good countdown. The anticipation is thrilling for little ones and the sneaky education lessons involved in a countdown are welcomed by parents. This year, we’ll be making turkeys out of cardboard and adding our own feathers so we can pluck one each day until we reach Thanksgiving. Simply make the turkey head and body by cutting out a little and a bigger circle from construction paper and designing feet from triangles. Then trace both of your little one’s hands, spreading their fingers wide, to make the feather spread. Glue the head atop the body and the body atop of the hand-traced feathers to create a turkey. Encourage your little one to write blessings on each feather. When each feather is removed, read the blessing aloud together and give thanks! Then count the rest of the feathers remaining until Thanksgiving Day dawns.

Food for the Course

If infusing a bit of authentic details from history into the day adds to the meaning, perhaps try to incorporate dishes made of the first harvest items the settlers and Native Americans probably enjoyed {provided the hosts are on board, of course}. Talk about how turkeys could {and still can!} be hunted for food in the wild. Share how pumpkin probably wasn’t served in the form of a pie, but, rather, in a stew.

Get the family involved

The Native Americans and the settlers celebrated a harvest together, which in some sense, inspired the tradition of Thanksgiving here in the United States; we like to briefly touch on some of that history without going so deep as to lose little attention spans. We discuss how the Native Americans were helpful to the settlers, helping them sow and harvest food. We then like to discuss how the two groups shared a meal after the harvest as a way of celebrating while the settlers gave thanks to God for the blessing of food.

thanksgivingtree Thanksgiving: How To Make It Meaningful For Kids

(credit: Hyacynth Worth)

If you’re not comfortable talking about this aspect, celebrate gratitude by cutting out paper leaves and a paper tree trunk and having all of the family members write what they are thankful for on a leaf. Assemble the Thanksgiving tree with your small companions and talk about why being thankful is a wonderful way to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Prepare together

Speaking of food, preparing the meal with the help of little hands will also help add to the experience of Thanksgiving. Scrub potatoes together, wash green beans at the same sink, blend pumpkin puree into pie filling alongside your favorite preschooler. Talk about how we have reason to be thankful for the food that’s being prepared as well as the family time that will be enjoyed. Preschoolers love hands-on concrete activities and preparing dinner together will be something most will embrace and enjoy.

Hyacynth Worth writes nearly daily about life, faith and living with boys at Undercover Mother.

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