Thanksgiving: What I Learned from My Preschoolers

On Tuesday I was all set to talk turkey with my five little preschoolers. I had a book filled with pictures depicting the story of the First Thanksgiving to share with them. Before I began, I mentioned that next Thursday was a special day. I asked if anyone knew what it was.

They stared at me with wide eyes. No one answered. I tried again. I told them it was a day to give thanks for all that we have.   

“Valentine’s Day!” shouted a little boy.

Okay. I knew my work was cut out for me. I said, “Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. It’s a time when moms, dads, kids, grandmas, grandpas, and other family members get together and celebrate. There’s a lot of food, and we eat a great big bird that says gobble, gobble.”

“Chicken,” shouted a little girl.  

“I-I-I don’t like chicken,” said another little boy.

“It’s turkey,” I said.

“I-I-I don’t like turkey,” said the little boy.

“I like pizza,” said a little girl.

It was time to reign in the madding crowd. I opened the book, Three Young Pilgrims. I gave them a very simple explanation of the First Thanksgiving. I showed them a picture of a ship.

“Can you say Mayflower?” I asked. Then I turned to a spread of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing food. “Can you say Pilgrim?” I asked. “Can you say Native American?” I asked. “Can you say gobble, gobble?” I was beginning to feel like Mr. Rogers.

When their teacher came to the library to get them, I asked them to tell her the name of the ship on which the Pilgrims sailed. They stared at me with their wide eyes. Not a word came from their mouths. “Mayflower,” I said. “Mayflower. Everybody say Mayflower.”

The next day I popped into the preschool classroom and asked who remembered the name of the Pilgrim’s ship. No one answered. Finally one little boy said. “Flower.” And a little girl said, “Tulip.” I looked at their teacher, who had an all-knowing look on her face. “Mayflower,” I said and quickly left the room.

Sometimes we expect too much of our children. It’s up to all of us to talk to them and teach them. They are our future. If we’re not careful, chicken, valentines, and tulips could become the new way to celebrate Thanksgiving. Gobble. Gobble.

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