“Little Pilgrim, dressed in gray, on that first Thanksgiving Day. Little Indian dressed in brown, came to visit Plymouth Town. They both came to eat and pray on that first Thanksgiving Day.” Getting your preschooler’s attention long enough to teach him about history can be challenging, but start by singing this poem to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” and you’ll have him hooked for more American Indian and Pilgrim fun.
You might be surprised to learn how many early American games you know. American Indian children played games that helped them hone their skills, including footraces and a catching game with a grass or vine circle tied to a stick, in which children tried to "spear" the center. Make a quick version with a ring cut from a plastic butter crock and a pencil or ruler. While it isn’t a game, strictly speaking, sharing a garden with your child can teach the connection to the earth that is part of many American Indian cultures. If you don’t have space for a garden, plant beans in a bathroom cup or in a plastic zipper bag lined with a damp paper towel. Pilgrim children also played familiar games such as Naughts and Crosses, or Tic Tac Toe, and Hop Frog. Other colonial playtime activities your preschooler might enjoy include blowing bubbles, hide-and-seek or making pinwheels.
Pottery, beading and weaving were important skills for American Indians, so playing with clay isn’t only a keep-busy activity. Help your preschooler make a pinch pot by rolling the clay into a ball, pushing her thumb into the center and pressing rocks, shells and leaves into the walls. Other simple crafts with an American Indian connection include weaving with stretchy loops -- think old socks -- on a loom made by pressing pushpins around an old picture frame or stringing pony beads on leather thongs or yarn. If you don’t mind a little extra noise, decorate paper towel or toilet paper rolls with American Indian designs, put in a few beans and cover both ends with paper to make a rattle. She can also make her own drum by decorating an empty ice cream carton or round oatmeal box or even just turning a basket upside down.
Share the joy of cooking with your preschooler with a mixed green salad to represent the wild greens the early Americans ate or by making pemmican from beef jerky and dried fruit. Celebrate the importance of corn by making cornbread or fry bread together.
Books and Videos
Turn quiet time into learning time by sharing books about American Indians, Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, including Tomie dePaola's "My First Thanksgiving" board book or "The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush," Linda Hayward's "The First Thanksgiving," Joseph Bruchac's "Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving" or Ann McGovern's "Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving." "On Mother's Lap," by Ann Herbert Scott, "The Legend of Sleeping Bear," by Kathy-jo Wargin, "1-2-3, Thanksgiving!" by W. Nikola-Lisa, and "Gracias, el pavo de Thanksgiving" by Joy Crowley add to the fun, along with videos of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" or "Mouse on the Mayflower."
- National Association for the Education of Young Children: Supporting Native Indian Preschoolers and Their Families
- TeachersFirst: Making Native American Pinch Pots
- TeachersFirst: Native American Recipes
- All Kids Network: Paper Plate Pilgrim Crafts
- Plimoth Plantation: Fun and Games
- Education.com: Three Outdoor "Pilgrim" Games
- Native Languages of the Americas: Native American Headdresses
- Plimoth Plantation: Make It At Home
- Plimoth Plantation: Taste the Past
- Hubbard's Cupboard: Pilgrim, Pilgrim
- TeachersFirst: Native American Crafts Unit
- Apples 4 the Teacher: Thanksgiving Craft - Indian Headdress
- Preschool Education: Games & Outdoors - Holidays - Thanksgiving
- Scholastic: The First Thanksgiving - Virtual Field Trips
- Child Fun: Pilgrim Songs, Poems, and Fingerplays
- Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images