Teachable moments at Thanksgiving

Involve your child in Thanksgiving preparations and discover all the teachable moments to be had.

By Shelby Moore


Shelby Moore is a kindergarten teacher at an inner-city school in Houston and was recently awarded as one of the East Region's Campus Teachers of the Year.

Turkey time is right around the corner. How will you keep your little ones occupied while you prepare your family’s feast? Hand them off to a relative? Nice try. There’s a bounty of teachable moments to be seized while shopping for and preparing this year’s feast. So loosen up on the reins and let your child join in the fun.

I know what you’re thinking, “I can do everything faster myself." While this may be true, your child would miss out on learning opportunities as well as quality time spent with you. And that’s really what the holidays are about, am I right?

Here are a few teachable moments to take advantage of the holiday.

Food shopping

While you’re grabbing groceries off the shelf, engage your child by asking them questions on topics they are learning in school: alphabet and math questions are a great focus. Some examples:

  • Give your child the shopping list and ask them to cross things off as you find them. Even if your child can’t read the words on the list, she might guess that “potatoes” starts with the letter P, and that will narrow down the choices.
  • Ask, “Can you find something in our cart that ends with the sound /s/?” (Answers might be carrots or even juice.) Then ask, “What other words that have that sound in them?”
  • Play word-related games. For example, "For Thanksgiving I am going to eat something in this cart that begins with the letter B. Can you guess what it is?"
  • Another favorite is “I Spy” using the food on the shelves. Play with letters (I spy something on the shelf beginning with C), sounds (I spy something beginning with the sound /k/), or even adjectives (I spy something orange). Then let them choose an item to describe.
  • Ask estimation questions, such as, “How many bowls of cereal do you think we can get out of this box?”
  • Ask your child to use the produce scale to weigh items. Or compare two items in your cart and ask, “Which item is heavier?”
  • Ask your child to count all the items in the cart. What item do we have the most of? The fewest?


Invite your child into the kitchen and set aside a special place where they are out of harm’s way, but still included. Kids can help by scooping and measuring with plastic cups, or snapping the green beans. Keeping it tactile and hands-on will not only keep your youngster engaged, it will also provide them with a deeper understanding of what they are doing.

Setting the table

Let your child count out how many forks and spoons will be needed, and place one for each guest.

I hope you and your family have a happy and restful Thanksgiving with lots of turkey and of course some learning on the side!