Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It can turn a meal into a fest, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. – Malody Beattie
One of my favorite memories is the artful Thanksgiving Feast at our preschool – a perfect time to nurture a culture of gratitude, giving and receiving: The children made soup and baked bread, decorated the table with candles and collaged placemats, crafted cards with special messages for each other, painted pinecones and clay leaves and added notes with expressions of gratitude. The atmosphere was magical, full of joy and anticipation! Find all the details of our Thanksgiving preparations and activities below!
Introducing Thanksgiving to Preschoolers
According to research young children’s understanding of gratitude develops with their emotional awareness and perspective-taking ability. To appreciate and practice gratitude, preschoolers have to be able to understand their own and each other’s feelings, have to learn how to say ‘thank you’ and hopefully get to experience that we can strengthen our relationships when we express gratitude to each other (Psychologist Martin Seligman).
For Thanksgiving we focused on themes of sharing and caring, community and compassion for each other. “Thanks for Thanksgiving” by Doris Barrette, “Bear Says Thanks” by Karma Wilson and “The Thankful Book” by Todd Parr inspired us to ask questions about gratitude and made us wonder about what we are thankful for:
“What do you say ‘thank you’ for?”,
“What makes you feel happy and/or what is something someone else did that made you happy?” (people, places, rituals, objects, memories, events),
“What is something someone else helped you with recently?”,
“What would you really miss in your live?”
We also very briefly discussed that the Thanksgiving holiday began when the Pilgrims from England sailed all the way across the ocean to come to America and that the Native Americans brought them seeds and helped them grow crops. The Pilgrims were so happy about the help and the plentiful fall harvest that they invited their new friends to give thanks and celebrated their good fortune with a feast of Thanksgiving in November. We discussed how good it feels when someone helps us and the children tried to remember who helped them with something recently which gave us plenty of stories and opportunities to say ‘thank you’ to each other.
Using the Artful Parent’s Monster Bread Recipe, we made bread for our ‘Thanksgiving Feast’. We enjoyed working with the dough, counting and sorting raisins and making all kinds of designs and dough creatures: mermaids, cute cookie monsters, bats, mushrooms, a dinosaur snake, a happy snowman etc.
To set a lovely table for our ‘Thanksgiving Feast’ we made our own special placemats. Glue a photo of each child onto a paper and let the children decorate it. We used everything from markers and crayons, watercolors and salt (it makes crystals when sprinkled in wet watercolor paint) to letter stickers, glue and various collage materials. Once done the children laminated their placemat and went on to set our table.
Focussing on gratitude and thankfulness, we decorated little cards with special messages and ‘thank you’ notes to give to each other. The cards happened to fit perfectly into the little felt pouches the children have sewn with our wonderful Waldorf teacher. We’ve opened and read each child’s note at the end of the day. Everyone had something kind and thoughtful to give and to take home, to say about their friends and to hear about themselves e.g.: “I like playing with you!”, “Thanks for helping me with the racetracks!”, “I love being your friend!”, “I like when we play family and you read me a story!”. To make our cards we used markers, crayons, stickers, watercolors, salt (it makes crystals when sprinkled in wet watercolor paint) and other collage materials. So much love!
Do your remember the Autumn Leaf Imprints we’ve made? We forgot all about them until Thanksgiving and decided to use them as table decoration. We added a beaded hanger, wrote down and read what each child is grateful for (something that makes them happy and that they wouldn’t want to miss), e.g.: their families, the beach, candy, daddies who get out the tool boxes to fix broken toys etc.
So grateful for all these sweet, beautiful and memorable experiences!