Veterans Day is this Sunday and my son is off school on Monday in honor of the holiday. Since my son is getting older, he’s starting to ask all those W questions. That means I’m likely to hear, “Why don’t I go to school today?” when Monday rolls around.
I want to explain Veterans Day to him in a way that he will truly comprehend. But at age six-and-a-half, it’s tough to determine what’s too much and what’s too little. Plus, I have my 19-month-old to think about as well. That’s why this year I started looking into ways to explain in an age-appropriate way.
Why Do We Celebrate Veterans Day?
If you’re visiting this page, I assume that you’re already aware of the importance and history of Veterans Day, but I’ll do a quick summation anyway to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
History.com, which is run by the History Channel, taught me a few things I didn’t know. The actual date Nov. 11 stems from Armistice Day. During World War I, a temporary cease-fire was declared between the Allied nations and Germany. It happened at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. From then on, Armistice Day was recognized in the U.S. though it did not become a legal federal holiday until 1938.
Following World War II and the Korean War, the name was changed to Veterans Day. Through the years, Nov. 11 became a significantly important date to Americans. There were parades and picnics and events all honoring the men and women who served our country. So much so, that it was eventually determined that Nov. 11 would not just mark Armistice Day, but also honor the veterans of all American wars.
How Do I Teach My Kids About Veterans Day?
Depending on the age of your kids, talking about war and may not be the easiest thing to do. I totally understand that you need an age-appropriate way to communicate about such a solemn day.
I was lucky enough to have one fall into my lap a few years ago. My husband’s grandfather is a veteran of the Korean War. He was signed up to ride in a local Veterans Day Parade. My son was too young to understand what was happening at the time, but we took him out along the parade route and pointed out his great-grandfather as the float went by. He thought it was super cool to see his great-grandfather on a float.
While my son did not understand the historical significance of the day, I think he understood that it was an important day. At his age, I’d like to think that was enough.
Other Great Ways to Celebrate and Teach Kids About Veterans Day
Parades may not be an option where you live, but there are other great ways to teach your kids about Veterans Day, even the young ones.
1. Read Together
Both my kids love it when I read books to them and they love all kinds of books. Fantastic Fun Learning suggests a book like Hero Dad or H is For Honor. If you’re looking for a book to share with an older reader, the Home School Coach blog has a great list of books divided up by age. The list for older kids includes Johnny Tremain and Going Solo by one of my favorite kids’ authors, Roald Dahl.
2. Write a Letter or Draw a Picture for a Military Member
My son loves to draw, so this one is an easy way to get him thinking about the members of our military. The website Military.com suggests you have your son or daughter draw a picture or write a letter to a member of the military. There are groups like Operation Gratitude that will send those images to troops overseas to let them know that people at home are thinking about them.
3. Sing a Song
This one is really good for the younger kids. The site Pre-Kinders has links to YouTube videos of all kinds of patriotic songs including America the Beautiful and The Star-Spangled Banner.
4. Make Poppies
What I didn’t realize about Veterans Day when I started my search for crafts is that poppies are symbolic. According to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, while the poppy is usually worn on Memorial Day, it’s becoming more and more popular for Veterans Day as well. The poppy originated from the poem In Flanders Fields written by John McCrae and is used as a symbol in a number of other countries, including Canada.
Mum in the Madhouse has a pinwheel poppy craft that’s fun for kids that are slightly older and a little more dexterous. (If you need fasteners for the center of the flower, you can get some here on Amazon.) There’s also an easier craft for the younger kids courtesy of Happy Hooligans.
5. Make a Remembrance Wreath
If you’d rather make your poppies in wreath form, No Time for Flashcards has a great little craft. Just make sure you save an egg carton ahead of time.
6. American Flag Making
You have to do a little pre-prep for this craft, but it’s an easy one to do with kids young and old. Fun-A-Day suggests you teach your kids to make their own American flag. Just cut strips of red and white paper and a blue square. You can buy star stickers to make the project a little easier on you.
7. Thank a Veteran
Sometimes words are all it takes. Every family has someone they know that’s either served in or is serving in the military. I myself have friends and relatives. For many of them, just saying thank you is enough. As The Military Wife and Mom points out, it’s pretty easy to spot a veteran on Veterans Day, he or she is usually wearing a hat or button identifying themselves.
8. Visit a War Memorial
I know in my city there’s a Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It’s not as big as the one in Washington, D.C., but it’s just as impactful. Learning Liftoff suggests that a visit to a local war memorial may be the perfect way to teach your kids about this solemn day.
9. Watch a Movie
For older kids, this may be the perfect way to explain Veterans Day and what it means. Babble has a great list of six movies you can watch with your kids including What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?. That one’s tough to find. There’s also a series called Liberty’s Kids that’s free on Amazon Prime with a Starz subscription.