In a diverse and ever-shrinking world, the meanings of holidays evolve. Fun and new traditions can make their way into the festivities, yet frequently the meaning or history behind these events can fade into the background of “remember-when” land. Thanksgiving is certainly no exception, but while we plan a big feast and settle in for the parade and football games, there are some wonderful ways to not only refocus on the beginnings of this special day, but to also teach our children about the core truths and history behind this holiday. There are a ton of fun ways to do this, and even better, there are just as many ways to get the whole family involved.
So lets delve into some great fun and educational Thanksgiving activities that will not only shift focus to one of thankfulness, but also initiate some great family discussions about history and the value of a thankful heart.
Collage Of Thanks
Pull out some magazines, crayons, markers, stickers, glue, and large sheets of construction paper. Have each member of your family create their own placemat for the dinner table, and begin the activity by brainstorming some things that you are each thankful for. Then use all of your crafting goodies to create a collage on each mat, showcasing all of things that each individual is thankful for. This can be any imaginable combination of a drawn picture to single words to magazine cutouts. Be sure to add names and the date to the backs of these works of art and get them laminated! Afterward, you will have a great memory and placemats that can be used for years to come.
A Print In Time
I will be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for any craft that includes hand and footprints of my kids. There are so many different ways to make turkeys with hand and footprints of your kiddos. The favorite in my house is a combination of hands and feet, something with lots of paint, google-y eyes, and fun. You can also cut out outlines  of hands and feet from construction paper and let your kids paint or color and assemble them with glue. Anything can be added to these little creations, from glitter to feathers. You can even take it a step further and grab some window paint, trading in plastic window decals for hand-painted turkeys. My absolute favorite idea for hand print turkey projects is getting the whole family involved. Trace the hands of everyone in the family, and stack the cutouts from biggest to smallest, creating a stacked fan effect. How fun would it be to watch this turkey  grow and change each year?
Count The Ways
A Thanksgiving chain  is a perfect way to count all of those blessings in your daily life. This project is another that’s perfect for the whole family, and before you start, you can even set a challenge for everyone involved and try to see just how long you can make your chain. This will really help everyone to focus on just how many blessings there are to be counted. Start by cutting several fall-colored strips of construction paper about one half-inch to one inch wide and about six inches long. Write one thing that you’re thankful for on each strip and link the strips together in a chain, connecting with glue, tape or even some fun fall stickers!
Tree Of Thanks
This is another one of those activities that make it really easy to incorporate your own ideas or twists. You can add handprints  or leaf cutouts  to a tree trunk cut from construction paper. Have your family write the things they are thankful for and let them attach their prints or leaves directly onto the tree branches with tape or glue (either on the wall or on something you can frame). Alternatively, if you have older kids and want something a little more challenging, you can try to tackle a three-dimensional tree  instead, following the same concept. Take a nature walk, gather some twigs and small branches, and place them in a pot or vase. I love the idea of placing candy corn in a glass vase to hold those branches in place! Simply poke the edge of the twig through your “thankful” leaves, and you have a fantastic fall decoration that is a constant reminder of the blessings in your family.
Certain crafts, such as creating paper pilgrim hats, Mayflower ships, or cornucopias, complete with cutout vegetables and fruits that kids can layer in and around the main shell, are a perfect introduction to talking about the first American Thanksgiving dating back to the early 1600s. Discussing the history of the first pilgrims to survive in America, the hardships they endured, and the concept that after everything, they still chose to give thanks to God for blessing them with fruitful harvests, is a great foundation for learning about legacy, perseverance, and gratefulness. It can also be a great way lead into discussion on Bible verses and passages about thanksgiving and God’s faithfulness. Just remember that during any activity you do with your kids/family, it’s a perfect time for open dialog and in-depth discussions that can benefit everyone.
It’s A Thanksgiving Lesson, Charlie Brown
My family has a Thanksgiving tradition near and dear to my heart. Each year, usually the night before Thanksgiving, we will have a movie night. Everything else is set aside, and we sit together to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. I don’t think that movies or television should ever replace quality dialog, but I do think that it can facilitate discussions and give kids a visual basis for understanding. While we watch the pilgrims’ story unfold by way of Charlie Brown and his friends, my kids always ask questions and always want to know more. This can be a great opportunity for some family time as well as an educational experience for learning about the holiday and its reason for being.
Ultimately, Thanksgiving is a personal holiday. It holds different meaning for everyone, and just as we each have our own blessings to be thankful for, I believe that it’s also the perfect time for teaching the value of contentment – something my kids start to struggle with during this time of year (and lets be real, so do I). It’s a perfect time for reflection, for stepping back from a media-crazed, consumer-wild world to simply be thankful for the small things and those things that matter the very most.
©2012 Off the Grid News