A thorough outline for how to host a meaningful and fun Preschool Thanksgiving Activity.
Christmas lights are up. The store isles are stocked with holiday decorations. Carols are being sung. And it is still over a week before Thanksgiving!
I am a BIG fan of the Christmas season and everything that goes with it.
when I peruse the after Halloween sale and find everything Thanksgiving is on sale too, it makes it seem like Thanksgiving has turned into an excuse of a holiday to stuff our faces.
Okay, I am stepping off of my soap box now.
With all that being said, I wanted to fill this Thanksgiving Holiday Season with more meaningful activities for my boys. Making fun crafts with turkeys of course but also sharing stories that would introduce them to why we celebrate this holiday of thanks in the first place.
While browsing Pinterest, the idea of an activity or two for my boys rapidly expanded into throwing a Preschool Thanksgiving Activity for them and several friends. Which I was okay with. 😉
My aim was to have this feel like a preschool themed Thanksgiving Activity rather than just a Thanksgiving themed playdate. My audience was young children ages 2-5, so I knew we would need a lot of structure to keep everyone engaged. Thankfully the prep work paid off and everything went smoothly.
I wanted to share with you my Preschool Thanksgiving Activity outline (along with all the details in between!).
- Sings songs (as soon as 1st guest enters)
- 2-3 Read Books- Thanksgiving related stories
- The Thanksgiving Play
- Hand out hats and take picture
- short play with the children
- 1st craft
- 2nd craft
- Say a prayer and eat!
Preschool Thanksgiving Activity in Detail
To start things off, as soon the first guest arrived, we jumped into our activities. I typically wait for several guests to arrive before beginning party festivities. But I knew it would be hard to have the children follow structure if they didn’t start off with it from the get go. Of course I didn’t want the other guests to miss out on too much so we began with an introductory activity like singing songs so that anyone arriving could jump in when they arrived.
Here are a few songs we sung:
“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”
“If you are happy and you know it”
“Do as I’m Doing”
For “Do as I’m doing” I incorporated a few Fall themed gestures to go along with the season. Like autumn trees (arms stretched out straight to the side and shaking your hands), leaves falling (lowering hands while wiggling fingers), stomping on leaves (stomping), and turkeys (chicken arms flapping up and down).
After singing, we read a few Thanksgiving books that introduced the children to the history behind the holiday. (Hindsight… I should have mixed in the stories with the songs. I had planned on 3 books but I was losing them at the end of the 2nd book so we moved onto the next activity.)
Here are a few great preschool appropriate Thanksgiving books we found at our library:
“Word Bird’s Thanksgiving Words” by Jane Belk Moncure. Some of the children had never even heard of the word “pilgrims” or “the Mayflower” before so this was a introductory book to several thanksgiving words with a picture to go along with each.
“The Very First Thanksgiving Day” by Rhonda Gowler Greene. This book gave a great basic history of the proceedings of the pilgrims to America, their hardship, the help from the Indians, and then the 3 day feast.
“Thanksgiving Day” by Anne Rockwell. This book gives the history through the children in the book that act out the Pilgrims story in a play. This was the book I was planning on using to read right before I told the children we would also be acting out the Thanksgiving story.
The Thanksgiving Play
After telling them we would act out the Thanksgiving story, I handed out Pilgrim hats, bonnets, and Indian headdresses that I had made previously.
For the Pilgrim hats I used a template found here and for the bonnets I used this tutorial. For the Indian headdresses you can just cut out feathers from paper but I decided to purchase some from the craft store.
A note on the bonnets, the post calls for a 12 x 18 inch piece of paper. I didn’t have said paper on hand and wasn’t in the mood to make a store run so I brainstormed what else I could use. Guess what I came up with?!
Paper towels! Yes, I used paper towels to make the pilgrim bonnets. They held up great and resemble more of the cloth material than paper any day. So definitely I would recommend using paper towels for the bonnets. 🙂
If you want a group shot of all your pilgrims, I would definitely take that before you begin the play. For the play, I ran through a very basic history of the pilgrims. Did I say basic? Very basic. Grouped all the pilgrims together and told them to pretend to be on a boat then we sailed to America. Had them pretend to work on the land, some died (we didn’t act that part out though). The Indians came (had Indians come up) and helped us plant and gather food. We had a feast for three days, etc.
I had two crafts prepared for this activity. To avoid children from diving into the craft (and food table) when they first walked into the party, we sang songs, read stories, and had our play reenactment in the living room. After we had finished the first half of our activities, we walked into a different room where the food table and craft table were waiting. To keep the children from diving into the food, I told them they couldn’t eat the food until they received a sticker from me which I didn’t hand out until after the crafts were made and after we had said grace over the food. This little method worked perfect.
Due to the age of the children, I had everything for both crafts cut out and divided into little bags for each child. This helped things run smoothly and in a timely manner. Had I not had everything cut out it would have been a lot of chaos for the children and their mothers not to mention being too long in duration to keep the youngsters attention.
Our craft table was just a fold out table elevated by food storage cans. I wanted the craft table low to the ground just because of the kids and… my lack of chairs for that many. 🙂
Thankful Turkey Puppet Craft
This is a fun, inexpensive turkey craft that all the children seemed to enjoy.
- colored paper
- brown paper lunch sacks
Once the turkey was assembled, the children wrote (with help from their mother’s) something they were thankful for on each feather.
Candy Apple Turkey Craft
This is definitely a child favorite and doesn’t last long enough to take a photo of it after it is finished. 🙂
I had all the candy divided into small baggies to hand out to each child. This helped things run smoothly and make sure everyone received enough (aka there wasn’t any fighting.) More pictures of the apple turkey and instructions can be found here.
Prayer of Thanks and the Feast!
After we had cleaned up our crafts we had a blessing on our little feast and then each child received their Thanksgiving sticker. And we ate!
The children were now free to run wild and the mamas had a little time to socialize.
These cute (and free) little Thanksgiving coloring books were perfect to hand out to the children as a little parting gift.
I am so thankful for the Thanksgiving holiday. I really appreciate this time to look at my life and the many blessings I enjoy and receive. What a great heritage to learn about and honor!
Will you be throwing a Preschool Thanksgiving Activity/Party?! Tag @aspenjay_blog on Instagram or send me a photo. I WANNA SEE!!!
Click here to see where I like to party.