Thanksgiving Lessons for Kids

young pilgrim

Most kids learn the traditional Thanksgiving lessons in school. They often associate Thanksgiving with Pilgrims, Indians, and of course, food. However, to fully understand what Thanksgiving is about, it is important to understand what happened at the first Thanksgiving and to learn details about the finer points of the holiday.

Unique Printable Lesson Plans

To save the lessons, click on the images to the right to open the PDF files. Once the PDF file opens, download it to your computer or print it out. You will need Adobe reader installed. If you need specific directions for your browser, there is a guide for working with Adobe printables.

The First Thanksgiving Dinner

The First Thanksgiving Dinner is a complete lesson plan for grades one to three. The lesson explains what happened at the first Thanksgiving celebration. Students will:

  • Learn what events led up to the first dinner.
  • Use printable plates and food to figure out how a modern Thanksgiving dinner differs from the first dinner.

A complete resource list is included to help you prepare for your discussion of the first Thanksgiving. You'll find links to websites, books to read to the class and video suggestions.

First Thanksgiving Myth or Truth Race

The First Thanksgiving Myth or Truth Race gets your students up and moving and engages them in learning more about what the first Thanksgiving was like. This lesson plan is best suited for grades six and up.

The details are a bit more in-depth than lessons for younger grades, even touching on how the Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower. Other topics include:

  • Suffering on the voyage to the New World
  • How the settlers struggled after arriving
  • What was eaten at the first feast
  • Lifestyle of the Wampanoag and how they helped the settlers survive

The lesson plan also includes blank cards so that you can create questions tailored to your unit of study.

Zany Turkey Trivia

Grades two and up will have a lot of fun with this turkey trivia lesson plan. This is a great filler lesson when you have a bit of extra time in class, or to leave out for a substitute teacher. Homeschoolers will appreciate the science of learning more about wild turkeys.

In the lesson, students will:

  • Learn facts they probably didn't know about turkeys, both domestic and wild
  • Get a handout where they can fill in the blanks as the teacher goes over the main points

This lesson is fun and kids will likely take the information they learn and discuss it over Thanksgiving dinner. For example, a wild turkey can fly as fast as 55 miles per hour (just not very far). These types of fun facts will stick with kids and make them more knowledgeable about this species of bird.

Online Thanksgiving Lessons for Kids

The following sites offer numerous Thanksgiving lessons for kids. Whether you are a classroom teacher, Sunday school instructor, or a parent, you'll find lots of wonderful ideas to use with your kids. While many of these lessons are geared toward the Thanksgiving Day holiday, they can also be modified to use any time of the year.

  • The Teachers Corner - This site offers tons of lessons, activities, and ideas for you to use with your kids. There are thematic units that offer critical thinking activities, reading comprehension practice, puzzles, lots of worksheets and crafts. You'll find lots of fun things to do for a variety of ages. Don't forget to check out the site's "Pilgrim Life Adventure" Webquest!
  • A to Z Teacher Stuff - Show your kids why the Pilgrims really did have so much to be thankful for as they survived their first few months and years in their new home. Then, apply those same lessons to your kids' lives today. Compare what they have with what the Pilgrims had. The historical lessons on this site will bring history alive for your kids. They are educational, yet fun! Teach your kids about the Wampanoag Indians, the settlers of Jamestown, and life at Plymouth Plantation. Together, you can learn Thanksgiving songs and poems that reflect on the true nature of the holiday.
  • Christian Crafter - With lessons like "Thank You, God, for My Ears" and "Thank You, God, for My Eyes," your kids will soon be counting their blessings. Each lesson has a variety of activities to go along with its theme, such as making musical instruments, creating a storybook, songs, and crafts.
  • Artist Helping Children - This site offers a huge directory of crafts for virtually any time of the year. You'll find simple directions for each activity, and many of these can be completed by elementary school and even preschool children with just a little help from an adult.

Learn the True Meaning of Thanksgiving

Yes, kids often fail to stop and count their blessings, but with some great activities centered around this special holiday, they can truly understand the true meaning of Thanksgiving Day. From learning about settlers survival to turkeys to what was served at the first Thanksgiving meal, there's plenty to explore.

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Thanksgiving Lessons for Kids