How to Talk to Kids About Thanksgiving

Everyone is excited to eat turkey and pie, but it’s important not to ignore Thanksgiving’s difficult history. While teaching kids about history, you want to be age appropriate. Focusing on both gratitude and awareness might be a good approach. Before, during and after Thanksgiving break keep your kids learning and growing.

As a family you can read books. Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard — this books is great for younger readers and shares family traditions from Native tribes around food, specifically fry bread. This book emphasizes that Native Americans are still here, thriving, and valuable members of our communities. You can read the History Smashers book about the Mayflower by Kate Messner and an older book called If You Sailed On the Mayflower in 1620. The books provide lots of information about pilgrim life (not just Thanksgiving, but the whole story).

For older kids, YA novel “The Mourning Road to Thanksgiving” by Larry Spotted Crow Mann of the Nipmuc Nation. or Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, it’s a YA mystery that adults might enjoy as well. Here are more childrens’ books written from the Native American perspective:

Listen to Warrior Kids Podcast was created and hosted by Dr. Pam Palmater (lawyer, professor and member of the Mi’kmaw Nation) to educate kids about indigenous cultures. Dr. Palmater is so good at keeping kids’ attention. She talks about injustice but also celebrates the beauty of indigenous cultures.

Another podcast you can listen with kids is Watch this video from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is a great resource for older children (and adults!).

Another option is to find out whose native land you are on, and to donate to the corresponding tribe. If you love food, watch Padma Lakshmi’s second season of Taste the Nation (Hulu) where she has a whole episode devoted to Thanksgiving and the Wampanoag Nation. Below are a few other links that might be helpful:

Kids are smart and aware, and it’s amazing how eager they are for nuance and critical thinking. Remember. if your child asks questions that you’re not sure how to answer, you can always say that you’ll do some research and get back to them. Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, and it can be both a day of celebration and thankfulness, but also one to reflect and remember and—perhaps most importantly—to teach accurately.

Every Owl Counts