Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. With a lovely three-day weekend and (hopefully) some sunshine, the Memorial Day holiday is a great time to enjoy some family fun or to participate in local celebrations. Here are 10 great ways to make time together, learning, playing, and remembering on Memorial Day (and beyond).
Teaching and Learning About Memorial Day for Kids
While Memorial Day is often a long weekend full of BBQs and get-togethers with family and friends, it's important to remember what the day is about. This federal holiday is a way to honor military members who have died in the line of duty. It can be difficult to explain to children the real reason why they get a day off from school because it means talking about complex topics like death and loss.
Explain the meaning of Memorial Day to your child, and why it’s more than just an ordinary long weekend. Check out Time for Kids and Parents Magazine for clear, age-appropriate explanations as well as simple activity suggestions for marking the holiday. And keep reading for more ways to make these days off from work and school extra special.
Community Involvement and Service on Memorial Day
One of the best ways to teach a difficult topic is through hands-on activities and participating in events that serve those we are honoring. Here are 5 ideas for how Kids can get involved in their local communities and participate in Memorial Day events.
Discover a Local Monument or Memorial
Find a local war memorial to visit or learn about. (Tip: Try searching the American Legion Memorial Database – and if you know of a war memorial that’s not in the database, you can submit information about it yourself!) Go to the library to find books about United States monuments, memorials, national parks, or historic landmarks. It’s a great way to start getting excited about history.
Write a Letter to a Soldier
This is a great activity for grade school kids. The letter doesn’t have to be complicated – just a quick note explaining why you chose to write and to thank the soldier for their service. Of course, pictures and stories are always welcome, too. There are many resources available to help you with this activity, such as Operation Gratitude and A Million Thanks.
Want to go a step further and send a package to an active service member? Operation Shoebox can show you how.
Enjoy a Parade
Check your local area for Memorial Day parades that you can attend or even participate in. Watch a Memorial Day parade, ceremonial wreath laying, or patriotic concert on television or online. The National Memorial Day Concert shown on PBS is an annual tradition and shows on local channels or you can stream it directly from their website.
Volunteer at Your Local Veterans' Cemetery
Veterans' Cemeteries across the Nation will be decorating the graves of military veterans. They often need volunteers to place flags, lay flowers, and clean up the cemetery. You can use the National Cemetery Administration Database to find Veterans' Cemetery close to you.
Support Military Families
Raise funds to donate to non-profits that support military families who have experienced a loss. To fundraise you could hold a yard sale or lemonade stand, or sell flowers or other hand made crafts, you can even do a fund-run and get sponsors! Non-profit organizations like The Gary Sinise Foundation or The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation provide relief and support in many different ways to families of fallen service members.
Bonus: Teach and Follow Proper Flag Etiquette
On Memorial Day it is proper etiquette to fly your flag at half staff until noon, and then raise it again. Teaching kids about the flag and American History can be fun and exciting. Along with learning about the flag, there are important things to know about how to treat our flag with respect.
There are many resources to learn more about how to display and honor our nation's flag on other days of the year. This article by Good Housekeeping gives simple tips and rules from the U.S. Flag Code, and teaches how to fold a flag properly for storage.
Comment with some of your local community's events and how you and your family get involved.
Handmade Memorial Day Crafts and Gifts
Another great way to learn about this special holiday is to create hand-made items or gifts. These items can be shared with family, a veterans home, at a monument or memorial, or a veterans memorial cemetery in your local community. Here are 5 fun creative activities for kids to do for Memorial Day.
Decorate a Patriotic Window
Children can create spirited window designs of stars, flags, sparkles, and more using liquid chalk markers. This easy project is fun for kindergarteners through middle schoolers. Liquid chalk markers are made to clean up easily, but you can certainly leave your child’s patriotic designs up right through the Fourth of July!
Build a Mini Monument
Have kids build their own mini monuments celebrating American soldiers, patriotism, or a friend or relative who has served their country. Use plastic building bricks, such as Strictly Bricks or Legos®, to create your monument. Or decorate an empty cardboard box with paint, markers, construction paper, and other fun craft supplies.
Plant or Lay Flowers
Welcome warm weather and spend some quality unplugged time over the long weekend going green. Help your child plant sunflowers, herbs, or other fast-growing seeds of choice. Discuss how you’ll continue to care for these new plants in the coming months.
If possible, bring a bouquet of flowers to a local veteran or to lay at a nearby war memorial or veteran's cemetery. Take a few moments to be quietly thankful for the freedom and lifestyle we enjoy.
Wear Red, White, and Blue
This one’s easy and can teach a lot of skills, from color recognition to planning, sorting, communication, and cooperation. First, don’t buy; find, borrow, or share. Have your child see what’s already in their closet that fits the red-white-and-blue color scheme. Invite them to swap or share wardrobe items with siblings or neighborhood friends. They can also decorate baseball caps or basic straw hats with colorful ribbons, chenille stems, and even live flowers to finish their looks.
Serve a Patriotic Treat
Making delicious Memorial Day snacks and treats with a patriotic theme is fun to do and fun to eat with friends and family. You can even share your treats at a Veteran's Home or Community Cookout event! Here are some ideas to make your home-made treats fitting for Memorial Day:
- Decorate cupcakes or cookies with red-white-and-blue frosting or sprinkles.
- Make a fruit treat with strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
- Add red or blue food coloring to a basic white cake mix.
- Make patriotic popsicles by layering and freezing blue (berry) and red (cherry or strawberry) Jell-o along with vanilla yogurt in popsicle molds.
- Use food coloring, patriotic sprinkles, and red licorice to make Memorial Day-themed crispy rice treats.
The colorful options are as endless as your imagination. Read our Memorial Day simple snack & craft ideas for kids blog post for more ideas! Check out Curious Chef for kid-size cooking and baking sets and tools.
Bonus: Patriotic Rock Painting
Painting rocks is a great creative activity for kids, plus its simple and inexpensive! All you need are some smooth rocks, and paint! Finding rocks to paint is an adventure all on its own! You can also buy clear sealant if you want your rocks to last for years to come. Use your rocks as a table centerpiece, or on the entry way to your home. These can even be placed in Veteran's Cemeteries to leave long-lasting color.
Happy Memorial Day to you and yours. We hope that you enjoy the weekend and make some very special memories with your loved ones.
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