Thanksgiving is next week. Everyone's busy making plans for the big day. Some of you will be traveling, visiting friends or family. Some of you will stay close to home. Either way, it's a busy time, and our children always seem to pick up on the excitement. Even the youngest ones want to be a part of it all, and there are some simple and fun ways to include them. I always liked the formality of the big dinner and would get my children and grandchildren to help decorate. One year we made place cards with photos of each of us. Here's a coloring page for you of a Native American that could be used to paste a photo on: www.preschoolactivities.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/indian-coloring.gif Once it's colored and the photo attached, you can lay it right on top of the dinner plate. That way, even the non-readers can find their seat. Of course, I was never rigid about assigned seats. But it was so much fun for them to walk around the table looking for their spot. We often made a centerpiece for the table, too. We used pine cones, gourds left over from Halloween, sprigs of berries, even evergreens. Often their toys would end up in the centerpiece too, adding to the fun. Here is a link to some other fun craft ideas. www.allkidsnetwork.com/crafts/thanksgiving/
Another tradition that I've tried to keep is sharing the things we are thankful for that year. As they got older, my kids often wanted to rebel. But I stuck with it and insisted that everyone come up with something, even the simplest thing like being thankful for the food on their plate. We sometimes forget, especially in times of troubles, to be grateful for what we have. I've always thought that the more we notice and acknowledge the good things that come our way, the more good things come. And conversely, the more we dwell on the negative things, the more negativity comes at us. Also, to some degree, I think we seem to be losing the art of conversation in these modern days. Taking turns to speak about gratitude is a great conversation starter and often leads you in directions you didn't foresee.
I always try to include history in our day. I went into a couple of schools this past week and spoke about the upcoming holiday. When I asked the students, varying in age from 3 - 11, about Thanksgiving, all they talked about was the food. Eventually, with a lot of prodding, they mentioned the Pilgrims. November is Native American month. It's gotten lost in the splendor of Thanksgiving. According to Howard Zinn, in 1620/21, the Pilgrims survived their first winter in New England because the Wampanoag people brought corn, meat, and other gifts, and taught them survival skills. The Governor of Plymouth, Governor Bradford, declared a day of thanksgiving because the Pilgrims had survived due to their resourcefulness and devotion to God. The Native Americans were probably not invited to eat with them but encouraged to serve them and bring more food. I'm not suggesting that you teach your young children this history lesson, but we could be talking more about the contributions of the Native Americans in our own Thanksgiving celebrations. Without their help, the new settlers would never have survived and they are often forgotten.
Lastly, we always have music at every family gathering. This year out of 12 of us, at least 5 will play guitars. We will all sing and, hopefully, many will drum or play other percussion. Singing has always been an integral part of my family, from as long as I can remember. My dad had a song for everything and was sure to teach my brother and me. His favorite at Thanksgiving time was "Over the River and Through the Woods." I can still smell the pumpkin pie, when I hear this song.
What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions?