Memorial Day for kids: Explaining Memorial Day to kindergarten and up and teaching kids about Memorial day, an important patriotic federal holiday to honor and respect. Learn about facts (and how Veterans Day for kids is different!) plus 15 Memorial Day children’s crafts, lessons and worksheets and commemorating Memorial Day with kids. Add this to your holidays for kids learning!
Before we get to our Memorial Day holiday activities (keep scrolling for those!), let’s answer some common questions about Memorial Day — good for Memorial Day homeschool, Memorial Day lesson for children’s church, or for traditional school.
When is Memorial Day?
The Memorial Day federal holiday is observed the last Monday in May in the United States. This year, the Memorial Day date is on Monday, May 31, 2021.
Is memorial day a federal holiday?
Is Memorial Day a holiday? Yes, Memorial Day became a U.S. national federal holiday in 1971. At 3:00 p.m. every Memorial Day, people are asked to observe a moment of silence in remembrance for those who gave their lives serving the country.
What do families do on Memorial Day?
Many families use Memorial Day to mark the beginning of the summer outdoor and cookout season and may gather for a long three-day weekend of festivities. While this is fine, it’s also important to remember, respect, and honor the real reason for Memorial Day and that it’s about more than just family cookouts.
Family activities for Memorial Day:
- Watch a Memorial Day cartoon video to better understand the day and learn more about Memorial Day history for students
- Read children’s books about Memorial Day and the meaning of Memorial Day
- Learn about the importance of the Memorial Day poppy
- Fly a U.S. flag at half-staff (at least until noon)
- Take a day trip to a local monument that honors those in the military
- Pay tribute: Go to the cemetery and leave pennies on the headstone of veterans’ graves (learn why below) or poppy flowers (learn about Memorial Day poppies below!)
- Donate to organizations who support families of fallen soldiers and military
- Attend a Memorial Day parade to honor and respect those who lost lives
- Say the Pledge of Allegiance
- Sing patriotic songs like the National Anthem or America the Beautiful
- Take Memorial Day pictures
- Place flags or flowers on the graves of veterans
- Make easy Memorial Day kid crafts
- Host a Memorial Day read aloud with friends/kids
How do you explain Memorial Day to kids?
Explaining Memorial Day to children can be sensitive because of the topic, especially when trying to explain Memorial Day to a 6 year old (or younger). You can let kids know that it is to honor the men in women who died serving our country and fighting for our freedoms.
Facts About Memorial Day for Kids
Here are some Memorial Day history facts to share with the kids (or you can even use them to create Memorial Day facts trivia for your cookout!):
- Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War where the graves were “decorated” with flags and flowers.
- The name was changed to “Memorial Day” in 1967.
- The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971 deemed Memorial Day be the last Monday in May.
- Before Memorial Day, the 3rd Infantry places flags on all the graves at Arlington Cemetery.
- Traditionally, the sitting president (or vice president) gives a speech at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
- President Ulysses S. Grant led the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868.
- On Memorial Day, it is customary to fly the U.S. flag at half staff until noon, and then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset.
Is Memorial Day just for those who died in war?
The Memorial Day origin started to honor those who died in the Civil War. However, it expanded to those in military branches who died serving the United States of America. It’s also called “Decoration Day” because the gravesites are decorated with flowers and flags.
Do you honor living veterans on Memorial Day?
No, Memorial Day is only for honoring those who have died while serving the U.S. in the military. Veteran’s Day is the holiday that is made to all veterans—living veterans, those currently serving and veterans who have passed. Memorial Day vs Veteran’s Day is often confused, but they are different federal holidays.
Why we celebrate Memorial Day for kids?
Memorial Day is important for kids to understand since it involves those who served our country and that they died during for their service. Learning about Memorial Day helps kids to respect the people who serve our country.
Is it OK to say Happy Memorial Day?
It’s probably better not to say “Happy Memorial Day” since it’s a holiday to honor those who have died. Also, don’t say “Thank you for your service!” to veterans as Veteran’s Day is a different holiday.
MEMORIAL DAY FOR KIDS
Here’s what our contributor Angelene has to say about Memorial Day for kids:
I have to be honest: whenever Memorial Day is right around the corner, my first thought is always, “Yay! Memorial Day weekend! A long weekend!”
This national holiday affords our family a little down time, a chance to reconnect with Daddy, and an excuse to grill meat on an open fire.
It’s the unofficial start of summer.
History of Memorial Day
Truthfully, before this I didn’t really know what the holiday represented.
Or why we observe it.
Or how it differs from Veterans Day.
I mean, aren’t they kinda the same thing?
I couldn’t even give my children an educated response when they ask about this national day of remembrance, it’s meaning, or origination.
Seriously, I know we’re homeschoolers.
But, do I have to be the one to teach them everything?
I started feeling guilty about my lack of knowledge and determined it was rubbing off onto the children. Believe me, we don’t need any more excuses to say, “I dunno” up in this house.
So, I did a little digging.
I researched Memorial Day; I also researched Veterans Day.
I’m happy to report there is a distinct difference in the two holidays.
Their distinctions are quite simple and appropriate.
Here’s what I found.
Feel free to share this enlightening information with any other uninformed homeschooling Americans in your life.
Memorial Day vs Veterans Day: What’s the Difference?
Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States and is currently observed on the last day of Monday in May.
Memorial Day remembrances encourage society to remember and honor persons who have died while serving in the American Armed Forces.
Memorial Day is an opportunity to pay our respects and offer appreciation to those members of the military who lost their lives serving this country.
Many of us are focused on hamburgers, parades, and chilling out.
We don’t even consider the seriousness of this holiday.
We don’t think about the sacrifices made, the hearts broken, or the lives negatively affected for the sake of the whole.
Memorial Day vs Veterans Day vs Armed Forces Day
There are two other holidays set aside to celebrate those who have served or are currently serving in the United States military:
- Veterans Day
- Armed Forces Day
Veterans Day is observed annually on November 11 and is intended to honor and celebrate all U.S. military veterans (living and deceased, active and non-active).
Armed Forces Day, a more minor holiday, honors those who are currently serving and occurs in May.
TIP: If you want to honor those serving in the military during Veteran’s Day, Armed Forces Day, or anytime, have your kids make cards and send care packages! Check out: AnySoldier.com.
Since researching, now when Memorial Day is right around the corner my next thought will be, “Yay, an opportunity to teach the kiddos about America, freedom, sacrifice, and respect!”
How To Celebrate Memorial Day
Why is the poppy the flower of Memorial Day?
Another interesting bit of trivia to add to your Memorial Day activities for kids is about the remembrance poppy.
If you look around on Memorial Day, you may see the red poppy flower everywhere and even people wearing the flower.
But, why is the poppy the flower of Memorial Day and what does wearing a red poppy mean?
Wearing a red poppy on Memorial Day (or placing a red poppy on a gravesite) is done in remembrance of those who died in wars for America.
Apparently, in battlefields, the poppy was one of the first plants to grow.
The practice of wearing of poppies was inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields, written in 1915 by Canadian soldier John McCrae. McCrae was a poet, physician, author, artist and soldier during World War I and a surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium in 1915.
McCrae’s friend Lt. Alexis Helmer was killed during the battle and his burial inspired the poem which was written on May 3, 1915.
McCrae saw the poppies during burials around his artillery position. On January 28, 1918, while still commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill) in Boulogne, McCrae died of pneumonia. . .
The origin of the red poppy as a modern-day symbol of Memorial Day was the idea of an American woman, Moina Michael.
What do coins on Veterans headstones mean?
Another thing that you can do during Memorial Day and Veterans Day is to leave a coin on the gravesite of a veteran.
Coins on Gravestones Meaning:
- A penny left on a veteran’s headstone lets the family know that you stopped by the gravesite to pay your respect.
- A nickel left on the headstone lets the family know that someone who served with the deceased in the military stopped by to pay respects.
How Do I Teach My Child Memorial Day?
15 Memorial Day for Kids Activities, Worksheets, and Crafts for Teaching Kids the Real Meaning of Memorial Day
Here are Memorial Day activities and holiday ideas for Memorial day printables, crafts, books, and projects that will help your kids with the history of Memorial Day, facts of Memorial Day, Memorial Day crafts, and more — perfect for all ages of studying Memorial Day for students.
What can kids do to honor Memorial Day?
- Create memorial day traditions by decorating graves with a Memorial Day flag, pennies and poppies for Memorial Day / “Decoration Day.”
- Do a Memorial Day lesson plan or Memorial Day writing activities (like a Poppy Poem!)
- Watch a Memorial Day for kids video.
- Watch a memorial day parade (either in person or online).
- Make a Memorial Day parade shoebox (great for Memorial Day art activities for preschool, too!)
- Complete Memorial Day: Graphing Our History of Sacrifice
- Read about the history of Memorial Day
- Make a patriotic sun catcher Memorial Day craft
- Make military clothespin airplanes craft for Memorial Day
- Paint a poppy flower print
- Make a flag handprint craft
- Make patriotic easy holiday Memorial Day desserts
- Make red white and blue popcorn
- Get Memorial Day children’s coloring pages
- Learn Memorial Day songs for kids and fly the American flag
Memorial Day Desserts for Kids
How about recipes as Memorial Day projects for students?
Red, White, and Blue Snacks for Kids:
- Red White Blue Drink for Kids
- White Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Crackers
- Red White Blue Popcorn Recipe
- Patriotic Punch: Red White Blue Layer Drinks for Kids
Read Memorial Day Books for Kids
Great books for explaining Memorial Day to kindergarten and up!
Contributor Angelene’s sister enlisted in the United States Navy immediately after high school graduation. Tragically, she was killed in a car accident before she had the opportunity to serve the country she loved. This post is dedicated to her memory.