Here are a couple of activities for preschoolers that help reinforce categorization and number skills within the theme of Thanksgiving. Unlike typical preschool activities that might involve coloring turkeys or stories of the Pilgrims, these activities take a different approach, focusing on Thanksgiving dinner itself which has evolved into a special family tradition with an array of special dishes.
Activity: What’s for Thanksgiving Dinner?
Three- and four-year-olds will not have experienced Thanksgiving dinner very often so it will likely be challenging for them to remember much about it. Find a picture of a Thanksgiving dinner from a magazine or by searching online. Hold up the picture and have the children talk about what they see. As needed, you can help the children identify the different dishes on the table. You can ask what is eaten first and last. What is hot or cold? What is liquid and what is solid?
As a main activity, create a chart that characterizes the food – vegetables, meat, and dessert. Have the children identify various dishes by type and write the dish in the appropriate column. When everyone has had a chance to participate, ask which type of food is listed most. You can have the children count the number of items in each column and talk about which has the most and which has the least.
Lastly, each child can draw a picture of Thanksgiving Dinner. This allows them to think about the classroom conversation and then to represent what was talked about in a different form (words to pictures).
Activity: Who Should We Ask to Come to Thanksgiving Dinner?
Again, preschool-aged children won’t necessarily know who typically comes to Thanksgiving dinner. So ask them to talk about who they would like to ask to come for dinner that day. (Introduce the vocabulary invite and invitation.) Don’t be surprised if there are some interesting guests. Perhaps a puppy or favorite stuffed animal.
Write down children’s answers about who they would like to invite to dinner on chart paper. Then work with the children to create a list of different invitees. Give them an opportunity to identify possible categories (you will probably need to assist) such as family, neighbors, out-of-town visitors, and so forth.
Taking a look at your preschool curriculum and the typical holiday activities that are used, you might find value in introducing new and different activities. Activities like the ones explained above help preschoolers talk and think about their personal experiences with a holiday rather than abstract concepts or traditions, while also integrating overarching concepts like categorization and number skills.