Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to teach history along with lessons on faith, courage and gratitude. Thanksgiving, like the Fourth of July, is a unique holiday that doesn’t involve wrapped gifts, but does celebrate life and liberty. When thinking of Thanksgiving, the holidays’ tenets can offer great chances for you to teach about the life of the Pilgrims.
Teaching children about the Pilgrims can be done in a number of ways. From crafts to cruises, there are so many methods to choose from.
Crafts and Games
Make Thanksgiving crafts with your child to decorate for the holiday as well as teach great lessons. Pilgrim related crafts help teach about the iconic images of the holiday.
Cut out and coloring pages create hours of enjoyment. Making Pilgrim puppets and cardboard villages can help children learn how the Pilgrims lived and worked in their villages.
While explaining how the Pilgrims traveled across the Atlantic, you and your child can make models of the fabled Mayflower. Using a map or a globe, you can show your children the path the Mayflower took to reach Plymouth Rock.
Games are a fun way to teach. Have your children play the same games that Pilgrim children played. While it was important for children in the 17th century to work, they were allowed to play games. Popular games were naughts and crosses (tic, tac, toe), and draughts (checkers). Pilgrim children played ball games, marbles and other games we still play today. Teach your children these games and have fun filled afternoon rediscovering the fun of these old games.
There are a number of websites that have entertaining projects that you can do with your kids while sharing the history and lessons of Thanksgiving. These sites offer examples from puzzles, cut outs to table centerpieces.
Cruises and Field Trips
Sometimes, children learn by exploring. While it may be hard to find a colonial village in your neighborhood, there are other opportunities.
In the Harbor of Plymouth, the Mayflower II floats. This ship named for and modeled after the original Mayflower is a floating museum. On board, trained interpreters portray the lives of the people who sailed on the original Mayflower.
Plymouth, Massachusetts also has other Pilgrim related activities, museums and field trips. If you don’t like nearby, other states, such as Kentucky and Virginia, other states offer re-enactment and villages that can teach some aspect of life in the early 17th century.
The local library is a great resource for teaching children about Pilgrims and all things “Thanksgiving.” There are so many books for pre-schoolers to high schoolers that cover the life of the Pilgrims.
Fun books such as One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B. G. Hennessy are great for young kids, while the Magic Tree House book, Pilgrims, is also a winner for older kids. The Library of the Pilgrims book series offers colorful and engaging text on everyone from William Bradford, the Pilgrims’ first governor, to the voyage of the famed Mayflower. And, don’t forget the basics- Worldbook and Brittanica. These encyclopedias also offer cross reference information on other aspects of the Pilgrims’ life and voyage.
By reading these books with your children or having them read these books, your children can learn about the struggles and triumphs of the Pilgrims in the New World.
There are a number of movies that people can enjoy that also teach lessons about Thanksgiving and the efforts of the Pilgrims. Even though Hollywood does not incorporate Thanksgiving as the theme in many movies, the ones that are produced are generally very adult comedies. However, don’t fear. Your local library or online bookstores are great places to find useful and educational alternatives.
Instead of Pieces of April, you can have your children watch treasures like William Bradford: The First Thanksgiving. Produced by Living history productions, this film tells the story of Pilgrim leader William Bradford. Some other great films that mix entertainment with education are A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, the classic Peanuts tale and Disney’s Mouse on the Mayflower. All these films teach the history of the holiday and life of the Pilgrims. In addition, they each share a lesson about being grateful, friendship, and giving.
Kids today learn in different ways, but learn best if there is an element of fun. With these ideas, you can teach your child about the uniqueness of Thanksgiving and the spirit of the holiday while creating lasting memories.
For resources, check out the following websites: