What is memorial day?
Memorial Day is a federal holiday the United States sets aside to honor the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom. It is often confused with Veteran’s Day where special attention is given to our servicemen and women. Although they deserve our honor and respect, Memorial Day is a day solely set aside to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
There are many ways to celebrate Memorial Day, including attending a remembrance day ceremony, visiting a gravesite, or reading aloud the names of those who have passed away. As adults, it’s easier for us to understand the gravity of what Memorial Day means and stands for, but kids shouldn’t be left out of this special day.
Here is a list of Memorial Day activities that will help kids better understand the meaning behind Memorial day so they, too, can honor those brave heroes.
Memorial Day Activities for Kids
1. Attend a Memorial Day Remembrance Service
Many towns, cemeteries, and churches hold services on Memorial Day to honor our fallen soldiers. It’s usually 30 minutes to an hour long with patriotic music, military honors, and observing a moment of silence. Our local cemetery holds a service every year and my daughters play in the orchestra.
I have enjoyed very much getting to attend with my girls and setting aside time to reflect on what their sacrifice means to me specifically.
2. Visit a cemetery
Some cemeteries have a section reserved for those who served in the military and are a great place to visit with your children. I know it might sound like a morbid thing to do, but I have done this many times with my kids and is always a good time for the kids to ask questions and talk about the men and women there.
My husband’s close friend lost a brother in service and we visit his graveside with his family on Memorial Day. The girls attend the same school he did and their school has his basketball jersey in a casement at the gym doors. Memorial Day has become a little more personal to them and I appreciate that they see Brian as a real person with a real family. It helps them to understand his sacrifice a little more.
3. Visit a museum
Check Google for any museums nearby that might be having a special exhibit for Memorial Day. There might even be a military museum near you that you could visit. Anything along these lines will help your child visualize the world of a serviceman or woman and what their lives were like while in service.
4. Visit a monument
One of the most humbling things I’ve ever done was to visit DC and see all the monuments to our soldiers and then to visit Arlington National Cemetary and see the tomb of the unknown soldier. These were all things that left me in awe of the men and women who have gone before and paved the way for the life I get to enjoy today.
There are monuments all over our country, monuments for the Civil War, World War I, and World War II as well as the Vietnam War and others. A quick Google search in your area should produce a few options for you.
5. Attend a Memorial Day parade
Many towns host a parade to honor our military on Memorial Day. It’s a fun activity the whole family can take part in while taking time to honor and remember. Then, when you get home, you can watch the National Memorial Day Concert together.
6. Make it a research project
This might work best for those who home-school, but if you are looking to teach your kids the meaning of Memorial Day, have them learn the history of the day. It has changed meanings over the years, even the day on which we observe the holiday. They can learn about flag etiquette and how the flag is at half-mast until noon and then raised for the rest of it.
You could have them read “Flanders Field” written by John McCrae or watch a movie together, like Gettysburg. They could even choose a name from a list of those who have lost their lives in service and research them to learn what they can about who that person was and how they died.
7. Decorate the house/yard
This time of year, (as well as Flag Day and July 4th) stores are bursting with American flags, patriotic signs, and red, white, and blue decorations. Let your children help you pick out some decorations that you can display in your yard or in your home.
8. Make some patriotic crafts together
I am the first to admit I am not the crafty type, but I know how much I loved doing them when I was young and how it always put me in the spirit of whatever holiday they were for. If you aren’t crafty, either, Pinterest has some pretty awesome ideas on flag crafts, Memorial Day worksheets, and other kid’s activities.
You can print these Memorial Day coloring pages if you’d rather not make a craft. They’re easy to color and make great decorations when you’re done.
9. Send a military family a card
One of the best things we can do to honor the sacrifice of a serviceman or woman is to let their family know their loved one is not forgotten. Simply writing a card and letting them know you are thankful for their loved one would mean the world to them.
You can download this Memorial Day card and print it as many times as you like.
10. Honor their sacrifice by spending time with family
I am a firm believer in setting aside time to honor and remember our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, but after you have, remind your children that you get to have that picnic, enjoy those fireworks, and play those games because they gave us that opportunity. I think it’s a great way for our kids to truly appreciate their gift to us.
A final thought on Memorial Day:
Memorial Day weekend shouldn’t be gloomy and spent in somber reflection, but I believe we do our children a disservice if we do not teach them what Memorial Day truly stands for or never encourage them to honor those for who the day is for. Reflect, absolutely, but then celebrate their lives and our freedom with a grateful heart.