Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Gratitude and Giggles
While many of us moms are making lists, cleaning, shopping, and even beginning to cook for Thanksgiving, many of our little ones are giddy with anticipation of visitors or travel and anxious for something to do. Without candy, gifts, or colored eggs, some children find Thanksgiving a little hum-drum. But since expressing gratitude and a sense of satisfaction and happiness go hand in hand, Thanksgiving is an important time for all of us to be reminded (or taught) about the importance of gratitude. That doesn’t mean we won’t have some fun with those silly-looking turkeys and some messy projects!
Who started Thanksgiving? That’s the kind of question B comes up with. When our routine changes or things are out of the ordinary (no school, decorations, extra projects) he wants to know why. It’s important to choose a story that’s appropriate for a preschooler to make it understandable and appealing. We noticed there was a Charlie Brown Pilgrim show on TV the other night – watching for just a few minutes revealed it wasn’t for B. While there were some interesting historical facts, there was a major emphasis on the illness and death that besieged the Pilgrims. While the depth of their suffering probably played a role in the enormity of their gratitude, that’s much too abstract for a preschooler to understand. Instead, we consulted The Story of Thanksgiving, by Nancy J Skarmeas (and part of a “Story of…” collection we enjoy). This board book introduces the quest for religious freedom, the challenges of the journey, adjustments to the new land, relations with Native Americans, traditional Thanksgiving foods, and the concept of giving thanks for the things we have been blessed with. After reading, we made a story bead bracelet using the instructions from Little Page Turners I shared yesterday.
Gobble… Giggle… Gobble
The turkey is such a universal symbol of Thanksgiving in our country, and such a colorful and funny looking bird, that art opportunities abound. One story that just begs for are project is Setting the Turkeys Free, by W. Nikola-Lisa. The narrative tells the story of some turkey art in progress. The narrator explains how to make a turkey with a paint handprint, and then decorates it with toothpick legs, and some sparkles and decorations. Next he creates a backdrop for his turkeys with a pen, some woods, and some clouds in the sky. Unfortunately, a fox appears and frightens the turkeys (and the narrator). His efforts to protect the turkeys are fruitless, and as a last resort he takes down the pen and releases his turkeys to escape to safety. The thwarted fox retreats, but the narrator misses his turkeys, so he lures them back by adding some dry corn kernels to the pen for them to enjoy! The illustrations are done in oils and collage elements that your child is sure to want to emulate. Discussion of the story is an opportunity for cognitive practice in problem solving, and your child will enjoy some fine motor development if you get out the paints.
With inviting narration and illustrations, how can you not? B was eager to make some turkey handprints, but insisted we leave out the fox because he was “too scary.” B also enjoyed the paint experience so much that he wasn’t much interested in the collage aspect, but he did want to add some corn kernels for the turkeys to eat!
Wanting What We Have
One of my favorite quotes, the origin of which I do not know, is “We don’t need more to be thankful for, we need to be more thankful.” It hangs on a simple construction paper cut-out on my refrigerator. It’s something I think we all need to be reminded of regularly. I started keeping a gratitude journal a few months back, and I am certain it has positively impacted my outlook, attitude, and interactions with others. When I came across One is a Feast for a Mouse, by Judy Cox, at our library, I expected it to be a silly Thanksgiving giggle like the story above, but it turned out to have a lovely lesson. The story begins when Thanksgiving dinner is over, the family members are occupied in other areas of the house, and a mouse notices one “luscious” pea all by itself under a plate. The mouse decides to creep up to the table and take the pea back to his mouse hole, “because one is a feast for a mouse.” But, before he leaves the table, he notices some cranberries (he takes just one) and some olives (again just one) and just one carrot stick, and his pile of goodies grows. He adds just a bit of mashed potatoes, a little gravy, the meat left behind on a turkey drumstick, and some bites of unfinished pumpkin pie. What he doesn’t notice as his loot grows is the cat coming to investigate. You can imagine the meeting of the mouse and the cat is not a pleasant one, and the accompanying clatter and mess alert the family. The mouse is relieved to escape to his hidey-hole, even without his goodies, until he notices that one “toothsome” pea which had rolled across the floor to a corner. He retrieves it and enjoys it with great relish, uttering, “Give Thanks! One is a Feast for Me!” There’s plenty of humor in the mouse’s attempts to balance all his goodies and his encounter with the cat, but the mouse’s lesson on the dangers of greed is not to be missed!
As I looked for a gratitude project to do with B, I was looking for something more than a list of the things we are thankful for. In my mind being more thankful is about having a greater appreciation of what we have, rather than thinking of a longer list. The idea for this paper bag gratitude turkey came from instructions on Kaboose, but I modified it a little to support the emotional development I was aiming for in my gratitude lesson.
- To begin, you’ll need a brown lunch bag, 10 or more 3 inch squares of paper (any color), crayons, markers, or paint, a rubber band or twist tie, scissors, a plastic spoon, and optional googly eyes and felt facial features, and glue if you opt for these decorations.
- Mark stripes about 1 inch thick or so and about 5 inches long all the way around the top opening of the bag (including the sides). Color the stripes in the feather colors of your choice, then cut between them and color the reverse side (include dry time if you choose to use paint.)
- On one paper square, write something your child is thankful for. It should be a big idea, rather than something like, French toast. We chose “our family.” Crumple the square slightly and put it inside the bag.
- Gather the bag just below the “feathers” and secure with a rubber band or twist tie. (Not too securely)
- Lay the bag on it’s side so that feathers stick out in the back, and cut a small slit in the edge of the bottom of the bag. Slide the handle of the spoon through the slit with the rounded bottom of the spoon facing out. The bowl of the spoon becomes the turkey’s face and the handle becomes the wattle.
- Notice that the turkey doesn’t sit up very well or look very perky with its minimal “stuffing.” Go back to your stack of paper squares and record some reasons your child is thankful for the chosen subject, or some specifics about their thankfulness. Add a square for each reason. We added things like, “playing golf with Daddy, kisses from T, when Mommy is the helper at preschool, and having dinner at Grandma’s house.”
- Open up the bag and add your slightly crunched reason squares to fatten up your turkey. Reclose, fluff feathers, and enjoy how much some added appreciation improved your project!
Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, anyone in need of a little more gratitude.
If you missed yesterday’s post, check out the inaugural edition of Must See Monday, where I share my favorite finds of the week!
Come back tomorrow for an early edition of Feed Me Books Friday, or stop by after the hustle of the holiday – the linky will be up all week!