My son was born on Thanksgiving, and I want him to know the origins of this holiday, but it’s so hard to get to the heart of it and stay historically accurate. For this Thanksgiving history activity, I broke down the major points of the Pilgrims’ journey from England to what is referred to as the 1st Thanksgiving in this active exploration of history. My son loved walking across the living room on his adventure from England to Thanksgiving. Kids can handle the facts we don’t have to omit all the unpleasant parts, just make it appropriate to their level. The book suggestion below is by far the best historically accurate Thanksgiving picture book I have ever read. Do not miss it!
- Gather your materials. You will need some card stock, a marker, a hole punch, scissors and some string.
- Write out the facts about the Pilgrims’ journey from England to the 1st Thanksgiving in chronological order – one per page. This is how I broke it down for my son who is almost 5. Click the link to see our timeline and discussion questions we used. Feel free to print the timeline; it’s yours to use as a guide or word for word.
- Place the pages face down in order in a path, the pumpkins and yam at the end are optional. Making it a physical path is deliberate. Seeing historical events, it laid out like that and had to move along step by step helps children learn that there are many parts to this journey. The Pilgrims didn’t just leave England and then a few days later sat down for a Thanksgiving feast. It was a long journey with lots of events.
- Flip and read.
- I wrote the answers to the discussion questions on the back as we went along. This is optional, and I would probably not do it like that again, it broke up the game too much even though I like having them in the final book. Do what works for you.
- Keep going! My son loved this and kept saying ” Let’s flip the next one!” and ” We are almost at Thanksgiving! ”
- By asking your children the discussion questions you will put a bit of them into history and help make very old news exciting and accessible to them. Accept any answer, but feel free to ask them why? Or to explain more. Kids are just like most of us who love to share our ideas so don’t rush. I loved hearing my son’s answers, and even more, I loved seeing him think about what he was going to say before he did.
- We didn’t die of scurvy hooray!!
- We made it to Thanksgiving; it was not an easy journey.
- Gather the cards in order, give the book a title, punch holes. Use string to tie together ( binder rings would work great too!).
- Draw a picture on the cover.
- Read the book again at bedtime or after dinner sometime to talk with other family members about it and share the lesson.
I really hope that this lesson translates into a post because my son learned so much. After dinner, we read the book to my husband and my son remembered so many of the important details he would finish the sentence without looking at the book. Writing a tutorial for it is hard because different levels of comprehension necessitate different facts to share/ teach. The trick is to choose the facts you want to teach, then break it down. Elaborate for curious older kids and make it even more basic for less interested and younger children.
The BEST Thanksgiving Book
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Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation (Time-Traveling Twins) by Diane Stanley . I can’t say enough good things about this book, but I will try. The story starts with a time traveling grandmother who takes her grandkids back to the Plymouth plantation days before what is often called the 1st Thanksgiving. My son was hooked on this book with the revelation of the time traveling, and I loved that it put all the common myths surrounding Thanksgiving and the pilgrims to the forefront and included the true history without wrecking any cherished views of this beloved holiday. The book is long as it should be to go into the depth of what life was like for the Pilgrims and how they learned with the help of the local Native Americans how to survive in this new land. While reading it to my son I was so happy to hear him say ” I learned that today, that’s in my book!” to many of the text. I am buying this book tonight, and returning it to the library in the hope of many other families being able to read and love it as much as we did.