I know I’m not the only parent who wonders how do you explain Thanksgiving to kids, beyond, “well, we eat turkey and stuffing and Uncle Fred always drinks too much of his special juice.” (That’s hyperbolic by the way; I don’t have an Uncle Fred. That you know of.) So here are two of my favorite resources that have really helped me explain the historical significance of Thanksgiving in a fun, engaging way, even if I still need to fill in a few blanks.
First of all, Schoolhouse Rock is still a go-to educational source for me, all these years later. The No More Kings video is perfect, because it touches on the Mayflower, the Pilgrims, King George (vaguely in drag), the American Revolution and the establishment of the colonies, all with a catchy tune and lyrics. It’s all fairly simplified of course though younger kids will still need to understand things like taxation without representation. Warning: You’ll have the “splishin’ and a splashin’…” chorus in your head long after the turkey sandwiches are gone.
Next is longtime favorite Brain Pop. While you’ll need a subscription to watch a lot of their awesome videos and all the terrific related educational content, it’s worth it for videos like this excellent Thanksgiving video for kids. It’s playful and smart like everything on Brain Pop, and honest too; I love that it goes beyond the mythology that we now know is not quite the whole truth; instead of discussing how the Pilgrims “saved” the Native Americans, it focuses on the Wampanoag who taught Pilgrims to fish, hunt, and grow crops. There’s an entire set of Native American videos as well.
Brain Pop does offer a free video each day however, so keep an eye on it; I’d bet the Thanksgiving one shows up in the next week for you.
Finally, if you’ve got older kids, they can explore the multimedia website from Plimoth Plantation, You Are The Historian. I love that it invites kids to act like historians, to understand what’s real and what’s myth while reading primary sources about how both the Wampanoag and Pilgrims lived. The multimedia features are terrific (like a glossary for ye olde fashioned words) and hey, maybe adults should spend some time on there too so we can better answer our kids’ own questions.