Thanks to our Cousin Sarah May: Turning Thanksgiving Meal Planning into a Fun Unit Study.
Turning Thanksgiving Meal Planning into a Fun Unit Study
We are so excited to have our Cousin Sarah May to contribute a Thanksgiving Unit Study for our homeschool friends! You already know Sarah May from her helpful post on gardening as a homeschool elective and her wonderful resource-filled Freedom Homeschool.
Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, gather with loved ones and enjoy a delicious feast. This meaningful holiday is also an excellent opportunity to engage in a unit study with your kids. By incorporating various subjects and hands-on activities into planning and preparing Thanksgiving dinner, you can turn this annual tradition into a memorable learning experience.
Today, I will share ideas your family can use to turn Thanksgiving meal planning into a fun homeschool unit study that includes several academic subjects and life skills. Some activity suggestions are better suited to either younger kids or teenagers, but most can be adapted to any age or skill level.
History and Traditions
Before beginning to plan the meal, start by delving into the historical background of Thanksgiving. Explore the holiday’s origins, cultural significance, the associated traditions and what dishes were served at the first Thanksgiving. Read books, watch documentaries, explore museums or visit websites that provide historical context.
- Create a timeline of Thanksgiving’s history.
- Reenact the first Thanksgiving.
- Interview older family members about their favorite Thanksgiving traditions and memories.
Thanksgiving meal planning provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the geography of the United States. Use websites, books or interviews with people from other regions to learn what Thanksgiving dishes are popular in various regions of the United States. Also, research where the ingredients for a typical Thanksgiving dinner are raised or grown.
- Make a map of the United States, labeling where Thanksgiving meal components (turkeys, pumpkins, wheat, etc.) come from.
- Create a map of the United States, labeling where specific Thanksgiving dishes are popular.
- Consider adding a dish that is popular in another region to your Thanksgiving menu.
Budgeting is an important part of planning a Thanksgiving meal. Allow your kids to practice this necessary life skill by being open with them about your family’s budget for Thanksgiving dinner and letting them play an active role in making decisions that keep the meal within that budget.
- Gather sale papers or view sales online to compare ingredient costs at various grocery stores in your area.
- Track expenses in a notebook or spreadsheet app and compare the amount spent to the budget.
- Discuss needs vs. wants and make compromises to stick to the budget while planning the menu.
- To continue working on budgeting and other personal finance skills, consider adding Financial Literacy from a Christian Perspective as an elective for any high school students in your family.
Math always plays a significant role in cooking and meal planning. Your kids can gain valuable real-life math practice while budgeting for the meal, grocery shopping and cooking the Thanksgiving meal.
- Calculate and compare unit costs while grocery shopping.
- Add up the total amount of money spent on the meal.
- Determine the number of servings needed based on the number of guests.
- Double a recipe, which often involves adding fractions.
- Do any necessary unit conversions, such as tablespoons to cups.
Cooking the Thanksgiving meal can be a science experiment in itself. Discuss concepts like chemical reactions, heat transfer and food safety while preparing the meal. In the middle of Thanksgiving dinner preparation may not be the best time to conduct actual science experiments, but your kids could do some food-related experiments in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and apply what they learn to cooking the Thanksgiving meal.
- Research safe food storage, handling and preparation, including the recommended temperature to cook a turkey or other meats.
- Learn how yeast makes dough rise with this Growing Yeast Science Project.
- Watch Cookie Chemistry and experiment with changing cookie ingredients, baking temperature or other variables.
- Make pumpkin puree for your pies and learn the science behind it.
Thanksgiving meal planning provides many opportunities for kids of all ages to practice handwriting and composition skills. You could even tie in some creative writing, such as poetry or short stories.
- Write shopping lists and menus.
- Create invitations for any guests your family is inviting.
- Write a poem about Thanksgiving or gratitude to share during the meal.
Art and Creativity
Making Thanksgiving decorations allows your kids to express their creativity. Encourage your kids to make decorations, design tablescapes and construct creative food presentations.
- Craft decorations for the table.
- Design and create Thanksgiving-themed artwork to display.
- Decorate a cake or cookies.
The grand finale of your Thanksgiving meal planning unit study will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner! Preparing the meal will provide an opportunity to develop cooking skills that your kids can use not only during Thanksgiving but also in their everyday lives. Even young children can help with simple tasks like measuring ingredients and stirring. Older kids and teens could be responsible for independently preparing a side dish or dessert.
- Learn new cooking techniques such as broiling, sautéing or roasting.
- Practice knife skills.
- Gain experience using both small and large kitchen appliances.
- Review the importance of kitchen safety and safe food handling.
- Work together to clean up the kitchen and wash dishes.
A Thanksgiving Meal to Remember
Transforming Thanksgiving meal planning into a unit study can be a fun and enriching activity for your kids. By incorporating several academic subjects and life skills into the process, you can create a well-rounded educational experience while preparing for the holiday.
However, please do not try to do all the activities suggested in this post. These unit study ideas are meant to be a fun addition to your Thanksgiving meal planning rather than the main focus. Keep the unit study informal and let the main focus of the holiday be gratitude and time with loved ones. I hope that through this unit study, your children will not only gain valuable knowledge and skills but also develop a deeper appreciation for Thanksgiving traditions and the importance of gratitude.
Extend the Learning
This unit study’s emphasis was on Thanksgiving meal planning and preparation. If your family would like to add more resources about the holiday’s history, include children’s literature or emphasize gratitude and thankfulness, you may enjoy some of these Free Thanksgiving Unit Studies I have compiled at Freedom Homeschooling.
If you would like to continue to focus on cooking skills throughout the year, you can also find Free Resources for Teaching Kids to Cook at Freedom Homeschooling. There, you will find downloadable cookbooks, YouTube channels and websites.