For most of us, Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer: time for warmer weather, longer days, and barbecues with friends.
It actually has a much deeper meaning. Memorial Day is for remembering and honoring those who sacrificed their lives while serving in the armed forces. For many, it is also a day to honor family and friends who have died.
That can be a tough message to get across to young kids. The simplest place to begin is to spend some time talking to your kids about what the day means to you.
Talk to them about this being a time to remember those Americans who have fought to keep our country safe and free. Share stories with them about those you have lost and what their sacrifice means for the family and the nation.
Topics like death and war can be hard concepts for kids to grasp.
Use your judgment about what is appropriate for your own kids’ age and maturity level. For the youngest, you can simply explain it as a day to say thank you to the people who keep our country safe. Even if they don’t fully grasp it, kids of any age can celebrate the day.
Also, many kids learn best through tangible experiences, so activities or events are a great way to introduce the idea of Memorial Day.
Ways to mark Memorial Day with kids
Here are a few ideas for honoring service members with kids this Memorial Day:
- Visit a veterans’ cemetery. Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent is one option, as is Evergreen Washelli in Seattle.
- Take cookies, books or movies to a nearby veterans’ hospital. Call first to see what, if any, contributions are appropriate and are being accepted.
- Have your children create a card or picture to be sent to a soldier serving overseas, through organizations like Operation Gratitude and A Million Thanks.
- Bake a patriotic-themed dessert like a rectangle pound cake shaped like a flag. Use cool whip to frost and blueberries/strawberries for the stars and stripes.
- Check your library for books on Memorial Day, or history in general, and read them together.
- Take part in the National Moment of Remembrance. Each Memorial Day, the president issues a proclamation calling for a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time. Say a prayer, light candles, sing a song, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, whatever you feel moved to do.
Memorial Day community events
- Foothills Historical Museum is offering walking tours of the Buckley Cemetery from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
- Lynnwood American Legion Post 37 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1040 sponsor a ceremony that includes music, laying of a wreath, and a rifle salute: 11 a.m. Monday, Veterans Park, 44th Avenue West and Veterans Way.
- The Museum of Flight celebrates Memorial Day with a commemoration. The Boeing Band will play patriotic music beginning at 11 a.m. Monday. A Memorial Day presentation and keynote address will be at noon, followed by a 2 p.m. to talk to artist, Micheal Reagen who will talk about his most important works from the “The Fallen Hero Portrait Project”.
- Visit the Garden of Remembrance at Benaroya Hall. A site designed by Robert Murase to honor the memory of Washington State residents who were killed in service in World War II and other conflicts of Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, the Persian Gulf, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Originally published in 2019; updated for 2023