Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Trail Mix Feast

Every Thanksgiving we have a feast to celebrate the holiday and practice skills the children will need for their own family gatherings.  We work on using good table manners, requesting items politely, waiting our turn, and making appropriate social conversation at the table.  

Many of my student's families express concerns and fears about their children with Autism and other social delays participating in social events.  This activity is one way we can practice skills in a calm friendly environment. Hopefully, the practice carries over into each family's holiday celebration. 

One week prior to our feast, I send home with each student a quart or gallon-sized bag (dependent on our classroom size).   Each student is asked to bring his/her bag back to school filled with a nonperishable food item that will serve in our class trail mix.   (Here is the note I send home to each family.)  

Examples of food items the children may bring are: cheese crackers, cheerios, chocolate chips, marshmallows, pretzels, banana chips, etc.  Teacher's Tip: I always ask that they bring their bags back the day before the party so I have time to gather snacks for anyone who forgets.  Before the feast, I put each food item in a serving bowl.

On the day of our feast, the children decorate a small paper sack with Thanksgiving stamps, stickers, or smelly markers.   Next, we sit in a circle and read our Thanksgiving social story.

SOCIAL STORY:  Our Thanksgiving Trail Mix Feast

Would you like some. . . (with a picture of what the child brought)
"Yes, please" or "No, thank you"
Would you like a big amount or a little amount?

Put it in your bag.  Wait to eat.
Thank You. You're welcome.
The students then create their own personal trail mix.  Each student uses visuals from the social story to request the snacks they would like to put in their paper sack.  

Each student goes around and asks his/her peers if they would like the some of his/her snack.  The children must respond with “Yes, please” or “No, thank you”.  If the answer is "Yes, please", the child serving the snack says “Would you like a small scoop or large scoop?”. The child receiving the snack uses their best manners to respond.

The activity is a perfect way for kids to practice manners and wait their turn.  The thing I like the most about the activity is the repetition allows students to get several turns of serving and requesting the snacks.  

Instructor's Insight:  Several of my students have sensory food issues meaning they don’t like the taste, or texture of various foods. This activity gives them the opportunity to politely say "No, thank you" and/or experience new foods.  I am always surprised by what each child decides to add to his/her individual mix.

To the make the event even more special, we invite parents to join us and the children get to choose to wear their pilgrim hat/bonnet or Native American headband.  We turn our cube chairs over and turn them into a table. The kids then gather around the makeshift table just like the first Thanksgiving.

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