For many Americans, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer. We break out our BBQ's and, if it's warm enough, our swimsuits. We spend the day with friends and family, playing games or sports and, of course, we eat. Sadly, this is often the extent of our Memorial Day activities.
For me, this is how I spent Memorial Day for most of my life, until I was twenty six years old. The year prior, one of my brother's best friends from high school was killed in an insurgent attack while on patrol in Afghanistan. That was one of the most emotional funerals I have ever attended. Knowing that this young (only 27 years old) man had died fighting for my freedom was overwhelming. Seeing his heartbroken parents and sister was almost too much to bear. To this day, I can't think of him without crying.
This event changed Memorial Day for me. Forever.
I still enjoy a Memorial Day picnic but I cannot enjoy the day without paying tribute to Victor and all the other men and women who died while fighting for our country. Now that I am a mom, it is important to me that I teach my son what Memorial Day is actually about. I will show him pictures of his uncle's friend and, for as long as we live nearby, we will visit the cemetery with our family to pay our respects. If we are not able to visit then we will do other activities.
Here are some activities you can do with your kids to celebrate Memorial Day in a meaningful way:
Go to a parade or Memorial Service.
Many cities hold Memorial Day parades. This is a fun way to celebrate the day for all members of the family and can be a great conversation starter for you and your kids about what Memorial Day is. You can also attend a memorial service. Many veterans cemetery's will have services. Also, churches and other non-profit organizations sometimes have memorial services and other Memorial Day events. While we normally go to the cemetery, last year was the first time my family attended the actual service. Since it was a wide open space (the cemetery) it was very kid-friendly. I would have no problem taking my son, who will be one on Memorial Day.
Set up a craft table.
Play Memorial Day games.
For older children you can have an internet scavenger hunt where your kids have to search the internet (with supervision) to find answers to questions about Memorial Day. If you have a large group, you could even pair up adults and kids to use smartphones to find the answers. Make it extra fun and award a prize to the winning team. (Candy bars would be an easy and cheap prize!) You could also test your knowledge by taking this online quiz.
Watch an educational video.
A really easy, low key way to focus on the meaning of Memorial Day with your kids is to watch an educational video, like the one below
Sing patriotic songs.
Another easy activity is singing some patriotic songs. I have incorporated "God Bless America" and "You're a Grand Old Flag" into music time with my son. If you have a small flag, pull it out and march around while singing. Again, a really big hit for the younger ones!
I hope you have a happy Memorial Day and find some time to honor our fallen soldiers. Freedom is not free!