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Rethinking Thanksgiving from an Early Childhood Lens

Summary

When the holidays of October have passed, the holidays of November become a possible theme in early childhood educational spaces as well as the topic of books being read to young children in homes across America. 

 

Thanksgiving and young children

Many of the books tell the story of Indians and pilgrims being thankful and sharing a meal together.  The books then lend themselves to art projects and theater productions about this event that has been named Thanksgiving.  

This narrative is problematic as it is not the true explanation of the event.  It sets the stage for this version of history to become truth at a very young age.  Click here for more information about what really happened during the feast. 

The art projects and theater productions usually involve the use of art feathers to create headbands for children who are pretending to be Indigenous people.  See the image below for activities to avoid in an effort to be respectful of Indigenous people.   

Engaging in these practices is called cultural appropriation, "the act of taking something such as an idea, custom, or style from a group or culture that you are not a member of and using it yourself". Cambridge Dictionary

art projects

Thanksgiving themes to avoid


Some replacement art activities could focus on giving thanks.  See below for examples of appropriate activities during this time of year.  

turkey art

Thanksgiving themes to embrace

Additional information


If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into this topic, here are two articles for further investigation:

Decolonizing Thanksgiving:  A Toolkit for Combatting Racism In Schools

Additional resources


If you are looking for early childhood books that provide a more culturally responsive perspective toward Thanksgiving, here are a few lists to browse:  

Picture Books by Indigenous Authors 

Thanksgiving Books from the Native Perspective

Dismantling the Myth of a First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Books

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