For many people, Memorial Day has come to mean parties and barbecues, days at the beach, camping trips, the signal of the start of summer and nearly the end of the school year, and other such fun things.
But the real meaning of Memorial Day is a very important one and shouldn’t be lost among celebrations, but instead respected and honored, even amidst all the joyous festivities that may be a part of your family’s holiday weekend. It is important to teach your children about the true meaning and origin of Memorial Day, as well as how they can participate in honoring those who have lost their lives in service to our nation’s military.
Here are some ways you can teach your child about Memorial Day:
1. Start with some arts and crafts
Most kids learn by digging in with some hands-on activities and can better come to understand appreciate the meaning of Memorial Day with a patriotic craft to kick things off. Make something with them that they can keep or hang in their room and see all year long. You could make a red white and blue wind sock, an American flag or picture frame made out of popsicle sticks, etc.
2. Cook up something together
Similar to arts and crafts, this is a good way to get your kids hands-on in learning about Memorial Day. You could do something like bake a cake and have them help you decorate with red strawberries or raspberries, white whipped cream, and blue blueberries. While you are cooking together, talk to them about Memorial Day, its history, meaning, and importance.
3. Teach your child the history of Memorial Day
Memorial Day was originally a day of remembrance known as Decoration Day. On Decoration Day, the graves of soldiers would be decorated with flags, flowers, and wreaths. The first Decoration Day was in 1868, after the Civil War, because so many lives were lost in that war.
When World War II happened, the holiday was incorporated as a sort of part of the nation’s identity. Memorial Day officially became a U.S. holiday in 1967, and in 1968, the last Monday in May was designated as Memorial Day. Previously, it was observed annually on May 30.
4. Talk about the military history within your family
If your family has had members who have served in the military, start talking to your child about this history within the family. Show pictures and talk to your child about what kind of service your family member gave in the military, where they went, and what happened to them. Especially if a family member was killed in service, visit their grave with your child on Memorial Day if possible.
5. Visit a veterans cemetery to pay your respects
Go to your local Veterans cemetery, or war memorial if there is one nearby. Teach your child how to honor and respect those killed in service by bringing flags or flowers to place at graves, or a wreath to place at the memorial.
Enjoy your holiday weekend with your family, but do remember – and teach your children – why it’s a holiday we observe as a nation.