Celebrating Thanksgiving with Twos

Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday to teach toddlers about. We wanted to avoid the “first thanksgiving” myth. There was a harvest feast in Plymouth in 1621, but there was also a great deal of bloodshed between the pilgrims and their neighbors, the Wampanoags. There are some things I just would rather avoid entirely than sugar coat.

Instead, we focused on the food and family and thankfulness aspect of the holiday. We had two great books: Give Thanks for Each Day and Thanks for Thanksgiving. I also made up a little piggyback song.

Thanksgiving Song (to the tune of Frere Jacques)
We are thankful, we are thankful.
Yes we are! Yes we are!
For our friends and family, for our friends and family;
Near and far, near and far.

My teaching partner had dire memories of uneaten feasts in past years, so I suggested that we do a lighter, kid-friendly menu. The parents didn’t need to bring anything in, so there were no hurt feelings when the kids refused to eat laboriously prepared stuff.

Thanksgiving Feast Menu

  • Turkey Sandwiches:
    • White bread, butterball turkey slices, cheese singles.
    • Cut into interesting shapes with metal cookie cutters. (We had trains and dinosaurs.)
  • Corn Puffs
  • Capri Sun No Sugar Added Apple Juice
  • Turkey Cookies Ala Betty Crocker
    • Bake shapes at home, decorate at home.
    • Let kids assemble the parts at the feast.
Nothing like the pictures from Betty Crocker!

There was something almost every child wanted to eat, and one of them ate his neighbor’s untouched turkey sandwich.  They all loved the puffed corn, which is a much safer food choice for little eaters than popcorn.

My teaching partner made adorable bonnets and hats for them to wear, but I don’t have any photos of those that don’t show the children’s happy faces. You’ll just have to take my word that it was a really wonderful Thanksgiving.

The Bean Game

Entertaining my twos is way easier than entertaining the older kids. I snagged a bean from a sensory box the other day and started doing this activity with individual children in the class.

Put simply, grab a bean, a coin, pompom or something. Show the child both hands (palms up) with the bean in one. Close your hands slowly and ask, “Where’s the bean?” The child points to the hand you just closed, and you open it to show them. Then put your hands behind your back and switch the bean (or don’t) and ask again. You will get a lot of giggles when the answer is wrong, and a happy smile when it is right. 

There’s more than just easy entertainment going on here. The child is learning to make a prediction about where the bean is going to be, and that’s a really important part of the scientific method. Sometimes toddlers and preschoolers aren’t very happy when they make incorrect predictions, and the giggling and fun of the bean game teach that it’s fine to make predictions that are wrong – the game isn’t ruined and we keep on playing.

Decorated Bandannas

We made these for Halloween, but you can do them whenever. This is a fairly low cost project, particularly if you buy the bandannas in packages of ten.

You will need:
100% cotton bandannas in white
Crayons (Don’t be cheap. Buy Crayolas.)
An iron.
White paper towels.

Have the kids draw whatever they want on their bandannas. Make sure they understand that this is a project for crayons only. Markers will not work. I have a couple of simple line-drawing books for inspiration and examples. They should color heavily for better results.

Once they’ve finished with the bandannas, your job is to take them home and iron the wax off and the colors in. Put some old rags or towels on your ironing board to protect it. Put one bandanna on the board at a time, cover them with a few paper towels, and iron them on a high setting, without moisture. Some wax and possibly pigment will come off on the bandanna.

Once you’ve ironed each bandanna like this, you are done. Give them back to the kids.

Bandannas can be washed in cold water, and hung to dry. The colors might fade a bit, but the kids can just fill them in again, and ask an adult to redo the ironing stage.

Basically, what I learned was that regular crayons will work on 100% cotton. You do not need to pay extra for special crayons!! You could use this to make decorative pillows or bulletin board covers, or quilt squares. What else can you think of?