My children didn’t use to like Thanksgiving. I remember being surprised a few years ago when Liam loudly expressed his disapproval of the holiday. “How could you not like Thanksgiving?” I asked him. “There’s all that yummy food, and we get to spend time with family, and feel thankful.”
As we talked, I came to see it from his point of view.
Weird, unfamiliar food…
…lots of boring adult talk…
…Mommy too busy in the kitchen to play with him.
He wasn’t really getting much about the meaning of the day, either.
Kids & Gratitude
So, I made some changes. I planned side dishes that each child knew and loved. I got them involved in the preparations. And we did some kid-friendly activities aimed at helping them understand gratitude.
I knew we needed to keep it concrete. Being thankful doesn’t come naturally. We work so hard giving kids a routine, and being consistent and dependable, that it’s hard for them to imagine anything different.
Bear Says Thanks
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Stories have so much power to teach, if they’re done well.
Bear Says Thanks (affiliate), by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman is done exceptionally well. Perfect for Thanksgiving, this simple, beautifully illustrated picture book is about a bear who wants to host a feast.
Except his cupboard is bare.
One by one, his friends show up with various dishes to share. To each of them, Bear says “thanks.” In the end, they spread out a quilt on the floor of bear’s den, and sit down to eat together.
The story is simple enough for preschoolers, yet my 6-year-old kindergartners enjoyed it too. It would pair well with a story about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving.
Most importantly, it shows a character being grateful in a way that young children can understand. There’s more to learn, but that’s a comfortable place to begin.
Thanksgiving Placemats Craft to Extend the Story
The Thanksgiving placemats craft I’ve created doesn’t have anything to do with gratitude. Rather, it’s an extension of the story as a way to remind kids about it.
The quilt that the bear and his friends eat on inspired me. I like to have each child make a homemade Thanksgiving placemat every year. A paper “quilt” placemat would be perfect.
At ages 6 and 9, they’re getting too big for turkey handprints (although I’m sure we’ll do some anyway). And I wanted something prettier for the kids’ table this year.
- Scrapbook paper or other paper in at least 2 colors
- Scissors or paper cutter (affiliate)
- Clear re-stickable contact paper (ad)
Thanksgiving Place Mat Craft Instructions
3. Cut off a sheet of the contact paper a little bigger than the assembly of squares.
4. Peel off the contact paper and lay it sticky side up on top of the backing you just removed. Fold the short sides under to hold it in place on top of the grid from the backing.
5. Help child lay squares face up onto the contact paper.
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Talk About Being Thankful
Once your Thanksgiving placemats craft is ready to use, it’ll be a steady reminder of the story. Strike up a kid-friendly discussion about it at your Thanksgiving dinner. Start a tradition of turkey day being fun for kids.
Even if the food is weird.
Need something simpler?
Check out this quilt patterned free printable Thanksgiving placemat. Easy peasy!
This is the first post in my Kids Are Thankful blog hop. We’ll be helping kids understand the season with Thanksgiving storybooks and fun crafts & activities to go with them.