Thanksgiving Gratitude, Learning Ideas, and Books for Kids

Thanksgiving reminds us to be thankful and facilitate gratitude with our children. As my kids learn about about Thanksgiving, I’m reminded to consciously teach my children the truth, the myths, and the stereotypes of Native Americans and the First Thanksgiving. So, I’ll recommend Thanksgiving books and teaching ideas to help you with that as well.

Gratitude Ideas

Thankful Book from Small Types


Thankful Tree from Family Fun 

Thanksgiving Garland from Tangled and True


 Pumpkin Pie Spinner from Parents Magazine

Thanksgiving Table Cloth from Mostly Food and Crafts

Learning About Thanksgiving

 Are You Teaching the REAL Story of Thanksgiving?


  • “Provide knowledge about contemporary Native Americans to balance historical information. Teaching about Native Americans exclusively from a historical perspective may perpetuate the idea that they exist only in the past.”
  • “Prepare units about specific tribes rather than units about ‘Native Americans.’ For example, develop a unit about the people of Nambe Pueblo, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa, the Potawotami. Ideally, choose a tribe with a historical or contemporary role in the local community. Such a unit will provide children with culturally specific knowledge (pertaining to a single group) rather than overgeneralized stereotypes.”
  • “Locate and use books that show contemporary children of all colors engaged in their usual, daily activities (for example, playing basketball or riding bicycles) as well as traditional activities. Make the books easily accessible to children throughout the school year. Three excellent titles on the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico are Pueblo Storyteller by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith; Pueblo Boy: Growing Up In Two Worlds by Marcia Keegan; andChildren of Clay by Rina Swentzell.”
  • “Cook ethnic foods but be careful not to imply that all members of a particular group eat a specific food.”
  • “Be specific about which tribes use particular items, when discussing cultural artifacts (such as clothing or housing) and traditional foods. The Plains tribes use feathered headdresses, for example, but not all other tribes use them.”
  • “Critique a Thanksgiving poster depicting the tradtitional, stereotyped Pilgrim and Indian figures, especially when teaching older elementary school children. Take care to select a picture that most children are familiar with, such as those shown on grocery bags or holiday greeting cards. Critically analyze the poster, noting the many tribes the artist has combined into one general image that fails to provide accurate information about any single tribe.”
  • “At Thanksgiving, shift the focus away from reenacting the ‘First Thanksgiving.’ Instead, focus on items children can be thankful for in their own lives, and on their families’ celebrations of Thanksgiving at home.”

Thanksgiving Story Bracelet from Little Wonders’ Days   


If You Sailed on the Mayflower Journal from Stephanie’s Mommy Brain


Boat Race to the New World from One Charming Party

Avoiding Stereotypes of Native Americans by / Diane Tells His Name, Oglala Lakota


  • “Understand the term “Native American” includes all peoples indigenous to the Western Hemisphere.
  • Present Native American Peoples as appropriate role models to children.
  • Use books and materials which are written and illustrated by Native American people as primary source materials: speeches, songs, poems, and writings, which show the linguistic skill of a people who have come from an oral tradition.
  • When teaching ABC’s, avoid “I is for Indian” and “E is for Eskimo.”
  • Avoid rhymes or songs that use Native Americans as counting devices, i.e. “One little, two little, three little…”
  • Present Native American Peoples as having unique, separate, and distinct cultures, languages, beliefs, traditions, and customs.
  • Avoid craft activities that trivialize Native American dress, dance, and beliefs, i.e. toilet-paper roll kachinas or “Indian dolls,” paper bag and construction paper costumes and headdresses. Research authentic methods and have the proper materials.
  • Realize that many songs, dances, legends, and ceremonies of Native American Peoples are considered sacred and should not be “invented” or portrayed as an activity.
  • If your educational institution employs images or references to Native American peoples as mascots, i.e. “Redskins,” “Indians,” “Chiefs,” “Braves,” etc., urge your administration to abandon these offensive names.
  • Teach Native American history as a regular part of American History and discuss what went wrong or right.

The First Thanksgiving Feast slideshow and information from Scholastic 

Teaching Young Children About Native Americans 

Deconstructing the Myths of the First Thanksgiving (

Thanksgiving Books Then and Now

Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life by Kate Waters

Guests by Michael Dorris

Thanksgiving on Thursday (Magic Treehouse) by Mary Pope Osborne

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Jake Swamp

The Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition by Sally Hunter

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac

The Journey of Jaspar Jonathan Pierce (My Name is America) by Ann Rinaldi

. . .

It’s Thanksgiving by Jack Prelutsky

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey

The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood

Milly and the Macy’s Parade by Shana Corey

And Two More Things

Thanksgiving Conversation Cards from Happy Home Fairy

I freelance blog, did you know that? I blog over at Imagine Toys. Visit my Thanksgiving posts there — one shares many fun Thanksgiving games for kids and the other is about practicing daily gratitude with kids.

Happy Thanksgiving!

~ Melissa  


  1. says

    A very appropriate post for us, Melissa because starting this year – I’m planning to make Thanksgiving our family festival – for years to come!

    Honestly, I don’t know the history behind this festival but I resonate with the basic philosophy of showing gratitude for all that you have in your life and not taking it for granted.

    I’ll go over all that you’ve shared once again and share some of it with my daughter.

    • says

      Many people in the U.S. still refer to Native Americans as Indians! Which, if the group of people to which they refer were from India –like you, then it would be fine BUT I just don’t see why this ignorance is still happening. Sigh.

  2. says

    Great post Melissa. I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I have seen teepee crafts and Native American headdresses on preschool blogs for The First Thanksgiving celebration and have felt super uncomfortable. This post is packed full of great information. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. says

    This round-up is awesome! It’s handy to have all these resources in one place. I’m flattered to have our thankful book featured. Thanks! I especially love the suggestions for avoiding stereotypes.

  4. says

    What a great list of resources & ideas – WOW! Welcome to TGIF Linky Party; thanks for linking up. Don’t forget to grab the TGIF button for your post or sidebar so others can find the party & link up too. Thanks. Looking forward to seeing you again next week & Happy Thanksgiving!
    Beth =-)

  5. says

    What a wonderful list of Thanksgiving related links! Thanks for including my kid’s journal post. We’ve had a lot of fun this month adding lots of drawings and writing prompts to our journal. My focus this month has been The Mayflower/Plymouth, Squanto/1st Thanksgiving, and (next week) our own thankfulness.

  6. Cynthia says

    My gratitude to you, Melissa, for directly addressing these important issues. I have the fortune to spend much time in Indigenous nations and communities, including Native Hawaiian, First Nations, American Indian and appreciate the significance of this message today for the many dear friends and colleagues who are our First Americans. Opening our eyes and hearts to these truths helps us all develop conscious awareness of the realities regarding Native people so we can be intentional with language and actions.
    It is critical that we each have deep awareness of our own cultural identities, our prejudices (subtle or blatant) and to be cognizant of our privileges or lack thereof. This message is action that promotes that awareness
    Thankful for your clear heart and voice, Cynthia


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