Thanksgiving is a fantastic time for parents and teachers to educate kids about America’s history and culture while helping to demonstrate that they have much to be thankful for. There are many ways to capture the attention of children who may otherwise be hooked on their Xbox games or guitars around Thanksgiving, not least due to all that lovely food on offer!
One great way of keeping kids engaged and helping them learn about the importance of the festival is to take them off on a school trip, or on educational tours over the holiday period. There are loads of great options for parents and teachers who want to give the kids a fun day out, while showing them the true importance of giving thanks for everything we have.
1. Plymouth, Massachusetts
Where better to start on a list of great educational Thanksgiving trips than where the pilgrims landed in 1619? Children can learn about the hardships faced by the early settlers, and their struggle for protection from religious persecution that prompted their journey and became a key part of the US constitution. There are outdoor exhibits at the Plimoth Plantation including a replica of the Mayflower II that took pilgrims to America, and interactive events including pottery making, costume design and lessons in how to talk like a pilgrim. Plus, townspeople frequently get dressed up in 17th century costume and stay in character for the whole holiday!
2. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, New York
Since its inception in 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has become a key part of the Thanksgiving experience. Initially started as a way for first generation immigrants working at Macy’s to show pride in their new culture, the parade is now a huge event featuring massive helium balloons shaped as various cartoon characters and cultural icons. The parade is also a great way to usher in the festive season, and Santa normally makes an appearance at Herald Square so tell the kids to make sure they bring their lists with them!
3. Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts
Old Sturbridge Village is a fantastic place to take the kids over Thanksgiving, as it provides an amazing snapshot of what life was like in settler times. The area is essentially a living museum complete with costumed historians, antique buildings, a working stagecoach and a farm where kids can pet the animals. The village also puts on a yearly Thanksgiving dinner that includes a musket-firing demonstration (outside thankfully!), 19th century music and a presentation on the true meaning of Thanksgiving, as well as a delicious turkey meal. This dinner sells out fast though, so be sure to make a reservation.
4. The Pumpkin Patch, California
Pumpkins are a quintessential part of Thanksgiving tradition, so where better to head for some veg-based fun? As well as fantastically carved pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, the Patch is home to a giant hay castle, quad bikes, a petting zoo and rides including a ‘Saber Tooth Slide’ and a ‘Euro Bungee’. Kids will love all the activities and are sure to get great educational value from learning about the animals and crops in the discovery center.
5. Stay At Home
Educational trips are fantastic, but if you just don’t have the time or money to take the kids off somewhere, there are plenty of things you can do at home or in school to keep the little ones entertained and informed. Creating a whole Thanksgiving meal with each child contributing a different element is great fun and encourages kids to get into the kitchen. You can either go the traditional route and teach them how to cook roast potatoes and make pumpkin pie, or get creative and help them make a whole edible turkey out of Oreo cookies, gummy worms (for the neck) and choc chips for the eyes. There are also loads of great games and activities for teaching kids about the origins of the holiday including making cards, rehearsing and performing a play and making an annotated map of the pilgrim’s journey to America.
Sally is a school teacher from Michigan with a passion for educational travel.