Thanksgiving is when we can redirect our focus and look with gratitude at the many ways we are blessed. Understanding the origins of Thanksgiving and knowing why we celebrate will help kids develop a deep appreciation for the holiday. In today’s world, it’s easy for kids to lose sight of what matters; as they watch ads that promote greed and excess, it’s understandable they begin to feel they need more “stuff” to be happy. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to help redirect their focus and remind them what it means to be grateful. Teaching them what Thanksgiving is about will benefit them in so many ways. If you’re at a loss on how to teach your kids about Thanksgiving, these ideas will help get the conversation started and set them on the right path toward gratitude. 

The Origins Of Thanksgiving

Before you can teach your kids about Thanksgiving, you have to know its origins. In 1621, the Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth Rock faced harsh conditions, and many were dying due to lack of food. The Wampanoag Tribe, who were native to the area, came alongside them and taught them how to plant crops and harvest the land. This selfless and kind act saved the remaining Pilgrims, and in the fall of 1621, they held a three-day feast to celebrate the successful harvest and thank the Indian Tribe that rescued them. 

Fast forward to the Revolutionary War, and the Continental Congress declared a “ Day of Thanks” celebration that Americans would honor every year. In 1863 President Lincoln declared the day a national holiday meant for healing and remembrance. This “Thanksgiving” was now a piece of American tradition. Now that you know the origins of Thanksgiving, here are a few ways to teach the significance of the day to your kids. 

Let Kids Discover The Story

Telling your children the story of Thanksgiving is good, but having them discover and learn it on their own will make a deeper impression on them. The library is the perfect place to use their critical thinking skills, find exciting books, and bring the story to life. The Portland Public Library has many options on the origins of the holiday and how to celebrate it. There’s something for everyone to read, from cookbooks to those that explain the holiday to all ages. 

Create An Attitude Of Gratitude

Gratitude is becoming a grader trait to teach kids these days, making Thanksgiving the perfect time to remind them how much they have to be grateful for. Serving others and taking the time to help the less fortunate is an ideal way for them to realize what matters and show them how blessed their lives are. Getting involved with community outreach will benefit your children and help others who are less fortunate. There are a few ways you can get involved.

Food Banks

Food banks are always looking for volunteers to donate food or help prepare and distribute meals. If you’re not comfortable going to a food bank, there are other ways you can still help those who can’t prepare food for themselves. How about volunteering for the Transitions Project Thanksgiving Meal Drop. Based in Portland, families can sign up to cook or hand out meals to people who can’t leave their homes. It’s a fantastic opportunity for kids to help others, similar to how the Wampanoag Tribe helped the Pilgrims! 


Donating unused toys or clothing to those less fortunate is another way your kids can get involved. Not only will they clear up space in their rooms, but they’ll see how grateful other people are for items your kids may not see value in anymore, which will remind them of how fortunate they are.

Reconnect With Family

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reconnect with your family and spend time together. Turn off all electronics and play games or do some fun fall activities. Remembering how much you all like each other will deepen your bond and help everyone feel grateful for the amazing family you have. You will have the chance to discuss what Thanksgiving means in a casual, unforced way. 

Celebrate With Fun Activities

There are many fun activities your family can participate in together. Why not try the Turkey Trot at the Portland International Raceway or the Thanksgiving Camp held by the Portland Metro Arts. You can also go hiking or camping if you enjoy outdoor activities. There are so many activities your family can do together that open the door to discussing what Thanksgiving means.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday and teaching kids why we celebrate it is essential. Letting them discover the story for themselves, creating an attitude of gratitude, reconnecting with family, and celebrating fun activities, are all fun ways to learn. Let this Thanksgiving be a time of love and thanks as you and your kids appreciate how blessed you truly are.