When the 1st of November hits, our attention will move towards Thanksgiving. Facebook is flooded with people giving their thankful thoughts each day in November, beautiful, harvest themed memes reminding us of our blessings, and arts and craft projects to do with our kids.

However, we are missing something if our thoughts only go towards the warm, fuzzy side of Thanksgiving, and we skip over the historical aspect of where this meaningful holiday actually came from.

Our children need to learn the story of the Pilgrims, how God protected them as they traveled across the ocean, how God came to their defense when the sailors verbally attacked them, and how he allowed their ship to be blown off course causing them to land in Massachusetts instead of Virginia. They need to know that the first winter was not easy. In fact, half of the Pilgrims that came over on the Mayflower died during the first winter. They need to know that God allows trials to happen in our lives to bring us to a place where we can be a blessing to others, as in the case of Squanto.

Our children need to see that although life can be hard, God gives His people hope.

They need to see that the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of thankfulness to God for his faithfulness to them during their first year in the New World. Our children need to see a more realistic view of that first celebration instead of the caricature we tend to present with our perfect dinners, backdrops, and craft projects.

If you are looking to give your children a more balanced approach to the story of Thanksgiving, here are some ideas to get you started.

Thanksgiving Scripture References

The Psalms are filled with references to giving thanks to God. In fact, you can even find verses that specifically say Thanksgiving. Why not pick one and memorize it with your children this month?

Psalms 69:30 “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.”

Psalms 26:7 “…proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.”

Psalms 147:7 “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!”

Psalms 95:2 “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”

Psalms 100:4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

Thanksgiving Books

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My absolute favorite book for teaching Thanksgiving to my children is Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey.

This is probably my favorite Thanksgiving book. Barbara Rainey has written it with the entire family in mind, and it can grow with your family throughout the years. She has written it to be read one of two ways- the larger print is to be read to preschoolers and younger elementary students, and the entire book to be read to mid elementary and above.

The book I purchased also comes with a music CD filled with beautiful instrumentals based on beloved hymns. It truly makes the atmosphere feel like Thanksgiving.

As my children reached an age where they could handle levels of independent learning, I also had several books for them to read on their own: Squanto: Friend of Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla, Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas, The Mayflower Adventure (The American Adventure Series #1) by Colleen L. Reece, and Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans by Rush Limbaugh.

These books teach the reality of Thanksgiving. Squanto is my favorite personality because his life teaches us that although we encounter trials, hardships, losses, and unfair treatment, God can use those parts of our lives for His ultimate glory and to bless others. That is what our children need to see and hear.

Thanksgiving Activities

From pumpkin muffins and ice cream cone teepees to thankful trees and huge, obnoxious Mayflower hats, the activities are endless! The most important thing to remember about the activities is to pace yourself, and choose only the ones that will fit your purpose in doing them.

Some years, instead of being the only one to post things I am thankful for on social media, we have made the Thankful Tree for everyone to write the many things we have to be thankful for. While learning about the Pilgrims, we have made Mayflower hats (you can find different types of hats here). After reading the books about Squanto, we have enjoyed Thanksgiving Teepee Cupcakes. We have also gone into the yard to find leaves and made little leaf men. For our family, crafts need to be quick, easy, and make very little mess, and these crafts fit the bill.

Let’s Teach

We want our children to experience the warm fuzzies of the season, but let’s also remember to share with them the reason for the Pilgrims’ dangerous journey across the ocean. Share with them the hardships they experienced and the life of Squanto.

Let’s teach our children to be thankful for God’s many mercies to them and those who came before.

Let’s teach our children thankfulness this year by sharing the hard times in our own lives. Tell them how God brought us through those times.

Let’s teach our children thankfulness by looking back in our own lives. Show them how the journey God has allowed us to walk was not only meant for us. It was also meant to ultimately be a blessing for others as well.

Let’s teach our children Thanksgiving by reading to them the Thanksgiving Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln and show them that Thanksgiving was created to be a day where our hearts and attention turn to God Almighty.

Let’s teach our children about Thanksgiving this year and make it one that will be foundational in their faith and lives.

This is part of our Thanksgiving series. You can see more posts here.

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