Memorial Day Activities for Kids
Most Americans associate Memorial Day with a long weekend, the unofficial start of summer, and, strangely, big sales for shoppers. However, Memorial Day began as a tradition called Decoration Day when people would place flowers at the gravesites of soldiers who died during the Civil War. About 100 years later, Memorial Day became a national holiday, honoring men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military, and it is observed on the last Monday of May.
Of course, when it comes to kids, explaining the significance of Memorial Day should be limited to the idea of remembering Americans who have served and/or fought for their country. This will help parents avoid any potentially intimidating or fear-inducing conversations about war and casualties—concepts that children cannot fully understand.
Here are some Memorial Day activities for kids to help them commemorate the holiday without becoming overwhelmed by its larger meaning and associations with sacrifice and war.
1. Growing Gratitude List
It’s estimated that about seven percent of the total U.S. population has served in the Armed Forces. Since America has a volunteer force, this small group shoulders a great responsibility for keeping the nation and its citizens secure.
One activity that can help your child learn about the unique freedoms that are protected in America is to create a “growing gratitude list.” The idea is to begin the list with a narrow focus of what your child feels grateful for in their own neighborhood. This can be done through drawing pictures and labeling them or even taking some photos and making a collage. You might encourage them to be thankful for having a clean and spacious park nearby, being able to play with other children, free public libraries, or even the fact that the garbage is picked up each week.
Once you’ve created a gratitude list together for your neighborhood, you can allow the list to “grow” by expanding the environments to include their school, city, county, state, and country. These can be represented by additional pages and drawings to form a “book” or maybe even a poster-sized collage. This will not only give your child the chance to consider all the freedoms and opportunities available in their world, but also teach them appreciation for the different communities of which they are a part.
2. Flying Flags
Children see the American flag in many places, whether at school, around town, and even on television. Some children may recite the “Pledge of Allegiance” or learn the national anthem at school, in which case they would be encouraged to respectfully face the flag. To young kids, this kind of attention towards a block of fabric may seem strange or even a little silly.
However, the American flag is an important presence and symbol of remembrance when it comes to Memorial Day. In addition, there are flag activities that can be fun and educational so that children understand a little better what the American flag symbolizes and why it’s considered important.
One idea is to allow your child to draw and color a picture of what they think the flag looks like. Then, you can pull up an actual picture of the American flag and compare them. This can lead to a mini-lesson about what the elements of the flag stand for, such as the blue field, red and white stripes, and stars. Your child may be interested to know that there are numerous rules and traditions associated with flying the American flag, and you can learn about this together in a safe online search or perhaps through researching a book at the local library.
3. Watch the Parade
Many cities host small parades on Memorial Day with marching bands and different floats. Attending a local parade can be an exciting activity and memorable experience for children at any age. Such community events can foster a sense of belonging, tradition, and pride for American families in addition to acknowledging the holiday’s significance.
If your area doesn’t host a Memorial Day parade, there is a national parade in Washington, D.C., that is televised by major networks and readily viewed online. You can view the parade with your children and enjoy the music, marchers, and other memorable features of this annual event.
4. Send a Message
If your child has an understanding of people serving in the military and they wish to brighten the day of a service member, there are several online organizations that can facilitate sending a message, letter, and/or drawing to those soldiers, sailors, and other military personnel who are away from their homes. These organizations, such as soldiersangels.org, operationgratitude.com, and uso.org, ensure that your child’s message will reach a service member who is deployed and separated from their loved ones.
Not only is it a good feeling to send someone a surprise message, note, or picture, but the majority of service members who receive mail from appreciative civilians do write back to the sender. This can be an exciting opportunity for your child to connect with someone unique and know that their thoughtfulness made a difference.
5. Have Some Fun
Since Memorial Day is a holiday, the most important activity is for your kids (and you as parents) to have some fun. This might mean spending the day outdoors, having a picnic or barbecue, or even starting a small garden or flowerbox. If the conditions aren’t favorable for being outside, it might be fun to cook a family dinner together indoors and play some board games.
The Memorial Day weekend is a perfect opportunity for you to create some memories with your kids as summer approaches. Though the days may seem a bit longer, they pass quickly. Taking time to do some fun and relaxing activities as a family is one of the best ways to honor those who have made sacrifices for such freedom.
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