Explaining Thanksgiving to Your Preschooler

by Abby Woodhouse on November 20, 2017

Explaning Thanksgiving To Your Preschooler.jpgWith the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, you’re likely looking forward to celebrating with family and friends. 

Although your preschooler will have some time off school, that doesn’t mean it’s downtime for you. You’re likely finishing up (or maybe even starting) your plans and making Thanksgiving dinner food runs. But thanksgiving isn’t just about food or even just about family. It’s about gratefulness to God for his constant, gracious provision.

They say you don’t really know something until you can teach it. Want to run a little experience? Ask your child to tell you what Thanksgiving is all about. I bet you’ll get a great Facebook post out of that or at least a good chuckle. At the very least, you’ll likely get an opportunity to explain the holiday.

Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Thanksgiving Cautions

As you look to explain the holiday to your preschooler, try to avoid these easy errors.

1. Thanksgiving is not chiefly about gratitude to the USA

Now don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with being grateful for our country. Thanksgiving is a national holiday, after all.

But it’s not really mostly about that. From it’s first celebration, thanksgiving was an expression of praise to God, not simply to a country.

2. Thanksgiving is not really about food or family

I grew up attending Thanksgiving celebrations that could better be described as feasts. In many ways, the abundance of food made the celebration special. I bet your table will look pretty similar come Thursday.

But if we’re not careful, we’ll make the holidays all about fun or even simply about family. Again, these are gifts from God and should be enjoyed. We should give thanks for them. But they are not why we celebrate Thanksgiving.

3. Thanksgiving is not about consumerism

Maybe you’re one of “those people” that can’t wait to stand in a line all night long for a cheaper TV. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you that’s wrong.

Once again, though, our children may misunderstand. Children learn with their eyes at least as much as with their ears. Whatever you emphasize with your time, words, or excitement will communicate loud and clear to your child.3 Books That Help Explain the Bible to Preschoolers.png

Thanksgiving Emphases

Here are a few items you’ll want to make sure you emphasize.

1. Every good thing comes from God

When we thank God for our food at mealtime, it’s a recognition that God gives us every good thing—life, breath, health, friends, family, trials, and much more.

In Acts 17, Paul says that God gives “all mankind life and breath and everything.” And like Jesus says, God “makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45).

Take some time to explain that everything good your child experiences comes from God. 

2. God’s greatest gift is himself

The Apostle John writes, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

“Propitiation” isn’t something you’ve probably said today, but now I know it’s something you’ve read. It speaks of a sacrifice that appeases just wrath.

The whole story of the Bible is about God. And one of that story’s main strands tells us that all people have set themselves against God. But, like John writes in his familiar passage, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”

Jesus didn't just come to be an example. He came to perfectly obey God’s commands and to die for other’s sins. He came to be a propitiation. He came to give himself as a sacrifice, a ransom, so that those who deserved God’s just wrath (that’s us) could go free. 

Actually, it’s better than that. Jesus doesn’t just make a believer neutral with God.

All of his righteousness is applied to a believer's account so that God doesn’t just see him as never doing wrong. He sees him as always having done everything right. We know God accepted this payment because Jesus rose again. 

This whole transformation isn't something we perform. It's something God does to us. It's something we receive. It's a gift. It's a gift you accept by faith. That's why John goes on to say, “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should never perish, but have eternal life.”

That’s good news. That’s something for which to be eternally grateful.