For many Americans Memorial Day brings to mind barbecue, spending time on the beach or by the pool, and a day off of work or school. It is the unofficial start to summer and it is a great time for camping, spending time with family and relaxing.
Memorial Day is also a day to remember those who have served and died in service to our country. It can be a difficult topic to bring up to children. Today we are sharing some ideas about how you can talk to your kids about Memorial Day and fun activities that you can do in remembrance.
History of Memorial Day
Originally known as Decoration Day, this day of remembrance was started in 1868 by General John Logan. Logan commanded that on May 30th, 1868 the graves of people who died in defense of our country would be decorated and strewn with flowers. May 30th was chosen because it was not an anniversary date of any known battle.
General James Garfield (later President Garfield) spoke at Arlington National Cemetery in front of a crowd of 5,000. The participants decorated the graves of 20,000 soldiers buried there.
By 1890 all of the northern states recognized Decoration Day, the southern states didn’t join in remembrance on that day until after WWI. The name Memorial Day started being used 20 years after the first Decoration Day. Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971 and was moved to the last Monday in May.
Crafts for Memorial Day
Doing crafts on Memorial Day are a great way to start a conversation with your child. Poppies are a common symbol of Memorial Day and poppy crafts abound. You can draw poppies, make them from paper and glue, and roll pieces of paper into pinwheel poppies. While you are doing this, you could read some or all of the poem In Flanders Fields, though some parts may be a bit dark for small children. You can also use paints, crayons, and colored paper to make American flags or American flag themed items. Check out our Pinterest page for more ideas: https://www.pinterest.com/imaginetoys/memorial-day-crafts-and-songs/
Activities on Memorial Day
There are tons of activities on Memorial Day that your children can partake in. Try a parade. Most towns and cities hold Memorial Day parades. Attend one in your town or in a town nearby with your children.
Every Memorial Day at 3:00 pm there is a moment of silence for remembrance. Tell your children about it and set your alarm clock to remind you. After the moment of silence, you can talk about what you thought about and how you felt during that time.
The US has many monuments, parks, and city centers dedicated to soldiers, sailors, and marines. Visit one and talk to people who are also there visiting. Are there any veterans? Maybe your kids can thank them for their service or salute. Make a wreath and leave it there, or a few poppies. Take time to read each monument or dedication. Say the pledge of allegiance or sing the Star Spangled Banner (you can do this in the car if your kids are shy).
Many national cemeteries hold Memorial Day ceremonies, you can find a listing by state at www.cem.va.gov or with an online search. At a ceremony you can expect speeches, singing, poems, and lots of soldiers. They don’t take a long time and can add some meaning to your family’s day. Find out if your family knows someone who is buried at a national cemetery, visit their grave after the ceremony and leave flowers.
Recognizing Memorial Day with your children
While celebrating Memorial Day this year, take time out to recognize the sacrifice that those who have served our country and died in wars have made.