Fun and Engaging Thanksgiving Activities for Special Needs Children

Activities that encourage creativity and wonder, that promote the use of the senses and that promote discovery are wonderful for all children; but they are especially beneficial for children with special needs.

These activities can help teach valuable skills in a way that children with special needs can relate to, they can stimulate the senses, promote attention building strategies and simply serve as a source of fun and excitement.

Hands-on activities that relate to the real world are a fantastic way to teach children with special needs about the world that surrounds them in a way that they can better understand. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, teach your special needs child about the traditions and customs that are associated with the holiday with these engaging and fun-filled activities.

1. Thanksgiving Smelling Station:

This holiday is filled with delightful scents. Use these scents as a teaching tool to promote a better understanding of the sense of smell by setting up a Thanksgiving Smelling Station.

How it works:

  • Fill containers with different elements that create scents that are often associated with Thanksgiving; cinnamon, pumpkin and nutmeg, for example.

  • Cover the containers with a gossamer type of fabric so that they can’t see what’s inside, but can still smell the contents of the containers

  • Let the kids see and smell the different elements in the station

  • Then, let them put the power of their noses to work by smelling the disguised containers and trying to identify what element is in each one


2. Turkey Baster Water Transfer:

Encourage the development of fine motor skills and a little science with a turkey baster water transfer.

How it works:

  • Set out two bowls, one filled with water and one empty

  • Teach your children how to use a turkey baster and fill it with water

  • Then, have them use the baster to transfer water from one bowl to the other

The act of squeezing the tool promotes fine motor development, and you can discuss why the water is being pulled up into the baster to add a little scientific discovery into the activity.

3. Thanksgiving Matching:

Put your child’s memory to the test with a Thanksgiving matching game.

How it works:

  • Print out pictures of Thanksgiving-related images onto index cards, with two cards for each image

  • Lay the cards face down and have your children try to match the cards with the same images together

  • Lastly, discuss the names of the images to promote language development

4. Turkey Feather Counting:

Promote number recognition and one-to-one correspondence with this simple, yet fun activity.

How it works:

  • Draw images of turkeys without feathers on a sheet of paper (you don’t have to be an artist, just do the best you can)

  • On the body of each turkey, write a number

  • Ask children to identify the number on each turkey

  • Then, glue the number of feathers onto the turkey that corresponds to the number on its body


5. Write “I’m Thankful” Letters:

Teach your children what the real meaning of Thanksgiving is by having them write “I’m Thankful” letters.

How it works:

  • Discuss the definition of the word “thankful” and talk about things that you are thankful for

  • Encourage children to think about and share things that they are thankful for

  • Have them write a letter to someone to express what they are thankful for, or help them write a letter

  • Then, they can get creative and illustrate what they are thankful for

  • And lastly, encourage them to share their letters with the family

This activity can help promote language and literacy development, and help define the meaning of thankfulness.

With these simple activities, you can foster a greater understanding of Thanksgiving and promote the development of important life skills in special needs children. Additionally, you will help to make this holiday even more memorable and meaningful for all involved.

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