Thanksgiving is traditionally a family celebration. It's important to get together with loved ones and sometimes that calls for traveling. Instead of bracing yourself for long hours of travel confinement with restless children, take this opportunity to teach your little ones the importance of giving thanks. When you arrive at your destination, your children will have a greater appreciation for the people in their lives and the holiday they are about to celebrate.
Thanks-filled travel activities will enable your children to actively learn about Thanksgiving and develop thankful hearts. Any of the following activities can be done with items from a "Travel Tool Kit." Here are some things to include:
Construction paper, crayons and markers, dull-blade scissors, marshmallows, gumdrops, candy corn, stick pretzels, oyster crackers, gingersnaps, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin candy, apple or cranberry juice, small toys, individually wrapped treats, and Thanksgiving books.
Many foods are connected to Thanksgiving, so share treats with a message. For example, candy corn represents the corn the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims to grow. Oyster crackers represent oysters the Native Americans harvested from the sea. Pumpkin seeds or candies represent harvest time and the tradition of pumpkin pie. Gingersnap cookies represent the spice commonly used in many foods by the early settlers. Apple or cranberry juice reminds us of fruits enjoyed by the Pilgrims.
Trace your child's hand on construction paper and cut it out. Ask him to write or draw a picture about something or someone he is thankful for on each "finger." Talk to him about the value of being thankful. Explain that it's OK to be grateful for things as well as people.
Explain to your little ones what a blessing it is to visit family and friends. Ask them to think special thoughts about those with whom you will spend time during Thanksgiving. Help them write a short note to express their feelings. Younger children can draw pictures. Fold these in half and address them. On Thanksgiving Day present these thank-you notes to your hosts.
Say 'thank you'
Play "Can you say thank you?" Each time a child appropriately says thank you, offer her a chance to pull out a surprise from your thank-you bag filled with little toys and individually wrapped treats.
On a piece of construction paper, draw a picture and color it. This can be a turkey, a Pilgrim, or anything related to Thanksgiving. Cut the picture into pieces large enough for little hands to use. Then have your child put the puzzle together. Talk about what the picture means to her at Thanksgiving.
Draw a dot-to-dot Thanksgiving picture. Let your child connect the dots. Can he tell what it is? After he colors it in, talk about how his picture represents the holiday.
Play the word game
Ask your child to think of a word for each letter in T-H-A-N-K-S-G-I-V-I-N-G. For example, turkey, happy, apple, and November are words related to Thanksgiving that start with related letters.
Construct turkeys out of goodies. Use a large marshmallow for the body. Use stick pretzels to attach a gumdrop for the head on top of the marshmallow and two gumdrops for feet on the bottom. For feathers, press pieces of candy corn (point first) or stick pretzels into the back of the marshmallow.
As the gobblers are being constructed, communicate to your children the importance wild fowl were to the first Pilgrims. Because of birds like turkeys, the settlers made it through their first winter.
Pull out those Thanksgiving books and read to your children. Even on an airplane, you can quietly read to little ones. Take along age-appropriate books for older children to enjoy themselves.
It is an everlasting gift to teach our children that giving thanks is more than just a huge feast in November and a day off from school. By taking time to arm yourself with a few tools, your travel will be more enjoyable and your children will be enriched. First Thessalonians 5:18 will come alive for those of us traveling with young children: "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."