Toddlers are a bit young for the whole first Thanksgiving history lesson, but there is still a lot you can teach your toddler about Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year to celebrate with family and friends, but it is also chock full of learning opportunities for your little ones!
What to Teach Your Toddler about Thanksgiving
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Literacy Related Thanksgiving Learning
I did say that toddlers may be too young to comprehend the history behind this American holiday. However, there are some great picture books that explain the history in a fun way. Picture books are also a great way to build your toddler’s phonemic awareness and letter recognition. If there is one thing I can tell you to do to help your child learn to read, it is this. Read aloud to your child and read to them often!
I love this author more than I can say. Gail Gibbons has a great way of explaining concepts in a very kid-friendly manner. This book gives an overview of the history of the holiday, as well as explaining modern day traditions. Plus, the illustrations are fun and colorful!
Happy Thanksgiving, Curious George
My toddler is obsessed with this infamous curious little monkey, so this book was an instant buy-in. What I love about this book is that George shows how much fun it is to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade and cook a large meal to share with family. I also love that the text includes rhyming couplets which is perfect for building phonemic awareness!
T is for Turkey
This book explains the history of Thanksgiving through rhyming alphabet poems. It is fun to read aloud and perfect for letter recognition. The artwork is very cute and it does introduce some higher level vocabulary words. Words like “elation” , “opportunity”, and even “proclamation” are used throughout the book. Do not be afraid to use advanced vocabulary with your toddler. An article in the Daily Mail even cites research that claims that your toddler’s vocabulary development can predict their future success in college!
Math Related Thanksgiving Learning
Five Little Turkeys Counting Song
Five little turkeys standing at the door,
One waddled off, and then there were four.
Four little turkeys sitting near a tree,
One waddled off, and then there were three.
Three little turkeys with nothing to do,
One waddled off, and then there were two.
Two little turkeys in the morning sun,
One waddled off, and then there was one.
One little turkey better run away,
For soon it will be Thanksgiving Day.
Make sure to use your fingers to act this one out! Click below to print your own copy of the song!
Thanksgiving Math (Montessori Themed)
I attended a very Montessori-inspired elementary school and I loved it. There is an investigative component and it is always hands-on. These activities are some wonderful Thanksgiving-themed math ideas from Living Montessori Now. What is great about this site is that the activities are usually multi-sensory! Multi-sensory learning is perfect for inquisitive toddlers, but these activities are actually great for older kids, as well.
Also, check these activities out from Carrots are Orange because they involve making patterns which is an essential beginning math skill! Toddlers love to look for patterns and things that match. Later, this will lay the foundation for addition and subtraction skills.
Thanksgiving Math in the Kitchen
Let’s be honest. you are going to be spending most of your time throughout the week of Thanksgiving in the kitchen. So, why not bring your toddler in to help and build their math skills while you are at it? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Bring your toddler to the grocery store and…okay. I know what you are going to say. Toddler in the grocery store around Thanksgiving? The secret is to put them to work. Role play before you go, Ask your toddler to be in charge of counting the items as you put them in the cart. Ask her/him to describe the color size, and shape of the item. Make it fun and you will both survive Thanksgiving shopping!
- Ask your toddler to help measure ingredients. Try and reinforce counting like saying “one, two, three” as you add ingredients. Also, be sure to point out the difference between measurements. For example, draw your toddler’s attention to how one cup is bigger than 1/2 cup or 1/2 cup is bigger than 1/4 cup. They will not understand what “1/2” or “1/4” is, but they will notice that the amounts look bigger or feel heavier.
- Have your child match all of the silverware and count the place settings. Bonus points if your toddler can set the table or match the setting to a place card!
Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts
Inspired by our friend, Curious George, I had my daughter create her own hand print turkey. I traced her hand and cut it out. Then, I created a feather template and put her in charge of tracing each feather while I cut them out. It was fun and good practice for her fine motor control. She even wrote her name (nickname) and attempted a true artist’s signature!
Inspired by the “Five Little Turkeys” counting song, I painted my daughter’s hands and pressed them onto a blank canvas. I added googly eyes and a ribbon for hanging. Voila! “Hand”made holiday decor!
Thanksgiving Learning: Social Skills and Family Values
Thanksgiving teaches important social skills like team work and sharing. That Thanksgiving dinner does not make itself! It takes a village just like the first Thanksgiving! Nothing will make it to the table if everyone does not chip in and do their part! It is so important for the little ones to see how everyone contributes. You definitely want to give your tyke a job of their own to complete! Maybe it is setting the table or just helping to clean up their toys before the guests arrive.
There is no better place to reinforce the concept of sharing than at the Thanksgiving table! If you serve your dishes family style, your toddler will see how everyone takes turns and shares in the deliciousness. You can point out how everyone is sharing and enjoying all of the food together to reinforce the concept.
Thanksgiving is really about enjoying time with family and remembering to be grateful for what you have. It is never too early to reinforce these values. Many families like to share what they are thankful for as they sit down to enjoy their meal. Ask your toddler to share, as well!