For most of us, Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer: time for warmer weather, longer days, 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.
For many families, it’s not limited to honoring and remembering those in the armed forces but is also a time for some personal remembrance of family and friends who have been lost.
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. (Be sure to note social-distancing and crowd-control measures.)
- 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.
- Check your library for books on Memorial Day, or history in general, and read them together.
- Attend a community event. Note: These are not as easy to find in 2021. Here are a few: Foothills Historical Museum is offering walking tours of the Buckley Cemetery from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The city of Lynnwood will host a virtual event at 11 a.m. Monday with rifle salute (pre-recorded video), laying of a wreath, and a musical performance of Taps.
- 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.