Preschool children are best able to learn concepts when they are hands-on and experiential. In order to teach a concept like thankfulness, children require an opportunity to learn through a personally meaningful experience.
A simple meal can become a very special event when prepared for the important people in their lives. With some support and a little guidance, young children can plan, prepare and present a Thanksgiving feast that will help them truly understand the meaning of being thankful. In addition, the many activities required to put the event together allow for a wide variety of developmentally appropriate learning experiences.
Planning the Thanksgiving FeastSeveral weeks prior to the event, teachers and children can begin the process of brainstorming ideas for the event. Areas to discuss with the children include invitations, decorations, and menu. As the children come up with ideas, teachers can record them on large sheets of paper to create a language experience chart.
Once ideas have been generated, the children in larger classrooms can be divided into three groups. One group can do the menu planning, one can create and distribute the invitations, and one can create decorations for the classroom. Children should be allowed to choose the group in which they would prefer to work. If a class is small enough, everyone can contribute to all parts of the process.
Preparation for the Event
Preschool children can use their artistic talents to make invitations to the Thanksgiving Feast. Invitations can either paper or electronic, depending on the preferences of the children and teachers and the level of technology available.
In addition to inviting families, children can be guided to consider classroom helpers and volunteers, readers, guest experts, and other special visitors. Invitations should be sent several weeks in advance of the event and should include a way for guests to RSVP in order to give an idea of how many people will attend.
Thanksgiving decorations are a wonderful opportunity for children to express their own particular style, culture, and creativity. Decorating can encompass more than just tables, but can be expanded to include walls, doors, ceilings and even halls outside the classroom. Children can choose to go with traditional colors and themes or go in whatever direction their creativity may take them. Teachers should reserve judgment and allow children to make the decorating decisions.
A Thanksgiving feast given before the actual holiday offers many possibilities for menu options. A more traditional approach includes the usual turkey and stuffing fare. A slightly different plan could include sandwiches, casseroles, stew, or other foods traditional to the geographical location and specific culture of the children in the classroom.
A very egalitarian approach to the menu would involve each child bringing an ingredient. Keeping the menu simple helps avoid putting a financial burden on any one family. A classroom might solicit donations of food from local grocery stores.
Presentation of the Thanksgiving Feast
By feast day, the invitations have been sent and RSVP’s received. Classroom decorations are complete and any cooking that needed to be done ahead of time is done. Now the children can focus on dong the last minute cooking. Reading recipes, measuring, and mixing are fantastic pre-reading, pre-math, and fine motor activities. Working as a team to put on the feast is a huge lesson in cooperation for young children.
The children who feel comfortable doing so can greet arriving guests. All the children can guide their own families through the process of getting food and sitting down to eat it together. Teachers can give a short speech of thanks to the guests and children can add their thoughts if they wish.
A Thankful Experience
Preschool children will enjoy the opportunity to plan, prepare, and present a Thanksgiving Feast for families, volunteers, and other classroom friends. At the end of the event, teachers, children and guests will have had a hands-on experience in being thankful