If you're planning a Thanksgiving party in the homeschool or classroom, or just at home there are a myriad of games you can have the children play that will be fun but also educational and useful in teaching the concept of being thankful.
Be careful not to overdo the turkey aspect of Thanksgiving. Some children forget that it's about more than the turkey. Playing some fun games can help them remember the purpose of Thanksgiving.
Try a gratitude bag. Fill the bag with several cards, each with something on it. Some will say "Thanksgiving" while others will have a word or picture of other things. Some of those other things might be cars, food, clothes, etc. Have the children sit in a circle and draw a card out of the bag. If they get a card that has a picture or word on it other than "Thanksgiving" they should talk about why they are thankful for that item and why others should be as well.
For example, if the child choose "shoes", they might express how thankful they are that they have shoes so their feet stay clean and they don't get cold in the winter and they stay unharmed when they are walking. Depending on the ages of the children, this might be a simple response or something a little more involved once they understand the concept better. If they draw the "car" card, they might comment on how nice it is to have a car and not have to take the bus, or how nice it is that their mom can pick them up from school so they don't have to walk home everyday. With help from the teacher or a parent, they might even note that in many parts of the world, people don't have cars (or shoes) and that they are lucky to have all these things.
If the child chooses a card that says "Thanksgiving" they should come up with an original idea about something they are thankful for. Try to steer them away from things like "Playstation" but instead steer them toward things like "my parents" and "my house and my room".
For some thinking fun, have kids do a word find with Thanksgiving words. Provide them with a list of words related to Thanksgiving. They might be "Thanksgiving", "Cornucopia", "Mayflower", "Turkey", etc. Then they must find words contained in those words. So, if the word is "Mayflower", they might find words like "lay", "flower", "flow" and the like. "Thanksgiving" might turn into "thank", "sing", and "an". See which child can find the most words in the list of words you provide them. Try to challenge the kids to find words within the words that relate back to Thanksgiving.
The old memory game is always fun and can be used for Thanksgiving too. Have the children sit in a circle and have someone start the game by saying, "At Thanksgiving, I like to eat" and then finish it with one food item. So that child might say, "At Thanksgiving, I like to eat turkey", and the next child will say, "At Thanksgiving, I like to eat turkey and cranberry sauce." The next child would continue with, "At Thanksgiving, I like to eat turkey and cranberry sauce and green beans." Each child will carry on until the list becomes so long, someone is sure to forget an item. You can either star the game over or keep going until everyone is out but one child.
Family Thanksgiving Activities
If you're hosting a family thanksgiving, you want to create a fun family environment that helps children understand the importance of thankfulness and reminds the adults of this as well.
Since Thanksgiving comes just before what many refer to as the "greedy" season, activities designed to remind people of the bounty in their lives are useful. For example, you might help children understand that while they don't have everything they want, they do have everything they need.
How do you do this? Several ways. One is to help children create a cornucopia, which will sit on the Thanksgiving table. There are a variety of ways to do this. You can make a papier-mâché cornucopia using a balloon as the base to help you get the shape started. You can simply take large piece of poster board and shape them into a cone and fill those with whatever you like. As an extra activity, you can have the children decorate the cornucopia before it gets filled.
Since the idea of the cornucopia is to celebrate a bounty and appreciate that bounty, you can fill it as is traditionally done with squash, corn and the like. You might also ask each member of the family to bring something that represents their personal bounty in life. A new mom might bring a baby blanket to put in the cornucopia while a newly retired grandpa might add a picture of his family, since that's what's most important to him. You can discuss the items in the cornucopia basket at the dinner table while enjoying your Thanksgiving feast.
Another family activity that kids like is the thankfulness jar. When each person arrives at dinner, they place a note with something they are thankful for in the jar. Ideally, each person will add more than one item to the jar. At dinner, someone (ideally, the matriarch of patriarch of the family) reads the notes. Everyone tries to figure out who wrote which note. The items can range from the serious (someone who struggled with an illness in the previous year might be thankful for life, quite simply) to the silly (the new mom might be thankful there's a Starbucks within 5 minutes of her home). Kids enjoy adding their own touches to the thankfulness jar and their responses are often a surprise to the adult family members.
Some families have several tables set about at Thanksgiving. Many people buy professional floral arrangements to decorate the tables. You can make a game out of it to figure out who's going to get to bring home the table arrangement to their home. You can do the old wedding thing and simply put a number on the bottom of the centerpiece and have someone's chair match that number or you can make a game and perhaps create a trivia game out of Thanksgiving facts. For example, questions might look like this:
*How many turkeys are cooked on Thanksgiving throughout the US?
*Why are turkeys called turkeys?
*Which president set aside the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving?
Be sure you research and know the answers and then quiz everyone. This is a great way to pass the time while everyone is waiting for the feast to be ready. Just tell the winners they can't take the centerpieces until dinner is over!
You can have a similar game before dessert. Create a family trivia game and quiz family members before dessert. Only the people who get the answers right get to have their dessert. Everyone else has to keep trying until they get their trivia question right. Questions can range from the silly to the sublime. They might look something like this:
*Who got popcorn stuck in her braces at 12?
*Which man here wore boots with big holes in them until he was 20 and could buy his own?
*Whose grandparents immigrated to the US from Ireland?
*Which boy here got suspended from school for riding his bike into the classroom?
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