Veterans Day is one of those holidays where kids get time off school, banks and Post Offices are closed, but other than a parade for members of the military, it might not be entirely clear what we’re “celebrating.” As a veteran myself, having just retired from the US Army, what better way is there to refresh our own memories than by trying to teach our children? Kids learn by doing, so in addition to explaining the significance of the day, why not create memories so that they understand and remember the day throughout their lives? Here are 13 ways to explain Veteran’s Day to children, but first, here’s a little historical context for you.
November 11, 1918, is considered the last day of World War I. Congress declared that the day should be a recurring anniversary to be “commemorated with thanksgiving, prayer, and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through goodwill and mutual understanding between nations.” It became a legal holiday in 1938. Knowing this, we can teach our children using the themes of gratitude toward all who have served and who continue to serve, as well as diplomacy so that wars of this magnitude can be a thing of the past.
You can celebrate in any (or all) of these ways:
1. Wear a red poppy or yellow ribbon to show support to service members past and present.
2. Box up and donate old cell phones to soldiers overseas. Find more information here.
3. Visit a veterans’ hospital. Listen to stories from their travels.
4. Speak with your child’s teacher about developing a Veterans Day lesson plan. This may include a “show and tell” visit from military members.
6. Contact your local VA for information on events happening in your community. Oftentimes, a parade will be held.
7. Do a Google search for “military museum” and see what comes up in your area. (This subject matter can be boring to little ones, so if you take them, let them explore what’s interesting to them, instead of forcing them to see every exhibit and in a specific order or for a particular amount of time. It has to be fun to have an impact on them.)
9. Are there any veterans in your own family? Scroll through your Facebook account and help your child make thank you cards for everyone who fits the bill.
10. Volunteer with veterans. Find out how here.
11. Teach your child to say, “Thank you,” when he or she sees a person in uniform. If you see someone in uniform while you’re out with your child, you can set an example by saying it yourself, or buying his or her coffee while in line at Starbucks, etc.
12. Support local, veteran-owned businesses. Find them in your area here.
13. Explain the United Nations to kids. If you need help, click here (Hint: It is not as hard as you think, and will encourage them to problem-solve with people with their peers.)
Let’s discuss: How do you teach your own children about Veterans’ Day?
* Photos taken at the Fort Carson US Army Base, Colorado