1. Embrace Native American Culture.
Thanks to an interest in preserving Native American culture, we now celebrate National Native American Heritage Month each November. The designation gives indigenous Americans a platform to share their dance, music, crafts, and other traditions. What to do? Give your kids a chance to unlearn erroneous information they collected along the way. To start, check out the Wampanoag version of the first feast, which, you might be surprised to learn: (1) wasn’t called Thanksgiving, (2) had more than 100 celebrants, (3) lasted three days, and (4) turkey wasn’t the main attraction. For good measure, check out famous Americans who have Native American lineage, including Chuck Norris, Rosario Dawson, and Quentin Tarantino. Twenty-six states have names of Native American-origin. Is your state among them?
2. Discover an awesome sea mammal.
November is Manatee Awareness Month—a perfect time to give your little aquatic explorer a chance to learn as much about manatees (also called sea cows) as he knows about sharks, whales, and dolphins. The manatee, a once endangered, water-loving cousin of the elephant, lives chiefly in the warm waters in Florida, so most Americans will never have the chance to see one up close and personal. However, you can find spellbinding underwater footage of this gentle and graceful creature online, as well as help your youthful mariner find ways to support manatee preservation efforts.
3. Show your gratitude.
Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to talk to your kids about being grateful. Get into the spirit of the season now. Grab one large see-through glass jar for each child—and then set aside a felt marker and a stack of multi-color adhesive notes. For the next few weeks, ask your kids to list everything that happened that day that made them happy. Write their responses on the notes, date them, and have your kids add them to the jar with their name on it. Read the notes out loud at your Thanksgiving Day dinner and let your kids count their many blessings.
4. Give away a possession.
November 18 is Use Less Stuff Day, and most of us can easily rustle up at least one or two no-longer-wanted items. Even if it’s past that date, you can still pass the items along to someone who wants or needs them. Start a pajama drive for homeless children, donate gently used kids’ books to a children’s hospital, or drop off outgrown sports equipment (including bikes, skates, and skateboards) to youth programs and missions.
5. Accept a (verbal) challenge.
Take a break from your usual holiday prep to share a laugh with your family. November 11 is International Tongue Twister Day—and who doesn’t love a contest? Pick an easy tongue twister to start (She sells seashells by the seashore), and hold a practice session. Then, one at a time, give it a try. Invite all who succeed to move on to a real challenge: The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick. Way too hard? No problem. Focus on limericks.
6. Make the write decision.
National “whatever” days serve as a reminder to support a cause, boost your knowledge, try new things, think of others, and expand your horizons. So, when I Love to Write Day rolls around on November 15, guide your kid to the computer or a pencil and a sheet of paper, and encourage her to write…anything. She can start a letter, a card, a list, the Great American Novel, or just a sentence describing her feelings. Let your child know that writing is one of the best ways to express herself, and it sure beats complaining or squabbling with siblings!
7. Reuse errant buttons.
Here’s a cute Thanksgiving decoration for grade-school kids to make using supplies from your button collection. Have kids grab a handful of buttons and sort them by color; size doesn’t matter. Set them aside. Then, let kids cut one large and one smaller circle out of tan construction paper, and glue them together. That’s the turkey’s head and body. Let kids cut out four elongated ovals from another sheet of tan paper. Those are the turkey’s feathers; glue them to the turkey’s shoulders. Attach tiny orange construction paper feet to the bottom of the turkey’s body, and one tiny construction paper beak to the face. Glue buttons on the turkey’s feathers, either by color or randomly. Add two button eyes and you’ve got a decoration.
8. Share the Fibonacci sequence.
If you write the date November 23 in the mm/dd format, as in 11/23, and then expand it a little so it becomes 1,1,2,3, you get the start of something called the Fibonacci sequence. In it, a number is always the sum of the two numbers before it. So 1+1= 2. Next, 1+2=3, and so on. Challenge your child to figure out the next two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence—more if he enjoys it. November 23 is Fibonacci Day, named for Leonardo Fibonacci (1170–1240), whose work focused on important mathematical concepts. Now show your child the following: Excluding thumbs, people have 8 fingers in total, 5 digits on each hand, 3 bones in each finger, 2 bones in 1 thumb, and 1 thumb on each hand!