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Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler: Thanksgiving Unit - An Introduction to Thankfulness

Updated: Sep 25, 2021

A Companion to Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool Curriculum

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I know these are tumultuous times we are living in. I know I worry about the world my children will grow up in and what I should be teaching them now to help them navigate the future. But if there is anything this pandemic has taught me, it is a new appreciation for what we have. I'm thankful for my husband's teacher's salary (a steady income), I'm thankful for our small house with a big backyard (we've spent a LOT of time at home), I'm thankful for our health (for obvious reasons) and I'm more thankful than ever for my husband and my boys (even after being quarantined together for months).

Yes, there have been lots of disappointments this year. Yes, I want things to go back to "normal" as soon as it is safe to do so, but I don't want to lose the the perspective I've gained about appreciating what truly matters. And I certainly don't want to miss the opportunity to pass on the attitude of gratitude to my children.

We've been using Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool for our homeschool preschool curriculum again this year, but I thought we would take a week off for Thanksgiving to pair some bookish play with some of the activities on Busy Toddler's website. If you enjoyed my Halloween Unit: 7 Days of Booo-kish Play freebie, then I think you'll love this one too.

I hope that we will be able to continue our Thanksgiving traditions this year and gather with our extended families to celebrate the season, but no matter what the remainder of 2020 holds, we have so much to give thanks for.

Author's Note: I recognize that holidays are celebrated in many different ways. I have made every effort to make this unit inclusive and adaptable to individual preferences for how ever your family chooses to celebrate. There are religious and non-religious book suggestions and modifications can easily be made for family-centered vs. "friendsgiving" celebrations.

A Historical Perspective

While the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday are religious in that the Pilgrims (a peaceful people who left their homes to escape religious persecution) held the first feast to give thanks to God and the Native Americans who taught them how to live off the land, I think we can all agree that teaching our children to understand and practice gratitude is universal.

In addition, I am acutely aware of the sensitive nature with regard to Native Americans and the injustices they suffered as a result of European colonization. My goal is for children to have a basic understanding of historical events, but also a glimpse of both perspectives. I don't want to miss the opportunity to teach my own children about what it means to choose empathy over enmity (which is certainly at the heart of Squanto's decision to help the Pilgrims), what it means to be a good neighbor, and how important it is to express gratitude for kindness. I have always loved this true story of two peoples coming together and the treaty they formed as it represents the ideal, before it was marred by greed and selfishness.

Lastly, I wanted to address the term "Indian" as it is used in several of the older books I included, instead of the "Native American" term more widely used today. While Columbus definitely got it wrong when he thought he discovered a westerly route to India, it is not necessarily an offensive term, but a historical one. To illustrate, I thought I would share an excerpt from the author of The Very First Thanksgiving Day: "The word "Indian" was used in my text after much consideration. Upon researching, I found that "Indian" is the term preferred by many groups while "Native Americans" is preferred by many others. Furthermore, I learned that the Pilgrims used the term "Indian" in their journal entries... I use it only with the deepest respect." (Greene, 2002).


Thanksgiving Unit: Thankfulness, Traditions & Turkey PREVIEW


First we give thanks for the food we are given.

Then we give thanks for the houses we live in.

Then we give thanks for the sunshine above.

But mostly we give thanks for the people we love!


"Over The River and Through the Woods"

by Lydia Maria Child, 1844 (abridged and adapted)

Over the river and through the woods,

To grandmother's house we go;

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,

Through (the) white and drifted snow!

Over the river and through the woods,

Oh, how the wind does blow!

It stings the toes and bites the nose,

As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the woods,

Now Grandmother’s cap I spy

Hooray for the fun! Is the pudding done?

Hooray for the pumpkin pie!

Supplies Needed


An Introduction to the Thankfulness

Shared Reading Thankful - Spinelli, Eileen

Talking Points: What does it mean to be thankful? How can we express gratitude?

Learning Activity: Create Busy Toddler’s Thankful Turkey and keep adding to it all month long by including the addition of a new feather into your calendar routine.

Easy Activity: Set up Busy Toddler’s Feed the Turkey. I found these burlap leaves at the dollar store but you could use the construction paper features from your "Thankful Turkey" or add craft feathers to decorate. You know this one was a hit when both my three-year-old and my 17-month-old taby wanted to play!

Book Substitutions:


Thanksgiving Unit: 7 Days of Thankfulness, Traditions & Turkey

Now you're all set to start off November with an attitude of gratitude. Purchase the full unit on TeachersPayTeachers to see how to use the supplies and print the day-by-day guide to teaching your preschooler about Thanksgiving.

Because of the time and effort I've devoted to making this a quality resource, access to this content will require a one-time subscription fee (price will increase October 30th) with no expiration. Here's what you'll get:

  • A curriculum for teaching about the history of Thanksgiving and its traditions in the style of Playing Preschool (see my Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler: Halloween Unit freebie for what you can expect)

  • A hand-picked list of suggested books with four or more substitutions for each

  • Guiding questions of things to talk about with your child

  • 7 days' worth of low-prep learning activities + easy activities

  • High-quality photos of activities and/or links for more examples

  • A free bonus lesson for elementary-age kids (who will also be out of school)

  • A printable PDF version to download

Access the full Thanksgiving Unit: 7 days of Thanksgiving, Traditions and Turkey HERE

Note: If you have previously purchased this resource, my website no longer supports subscriptions. I have moved all sales of my holiday units to TeachersPayTeachers, but I have records of all purchases. Please email me using the contact page and I will be happy to send you a copy.


Source: Greene, Rhonda Gowler. The Very First Thanksgiving Day. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002.

Visit my website to shop my Book Lists and discover more books based on your child's interest.

See Also: Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler: Halloween Unit, An Introduction to Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler

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