5 Family Activities in Honor of Memorial Day

As we celebrate Memorial Day with family and friends, enjoying the customary barbecues and a day off from work, take advantage of the opportunity to teach your kids the meaning behind the day and recognize our fallen servicemen and women.

I had to admit to my daughter when she first asked that I didn't know much about the history of Memorial Day, so we hopped onto the Internet to learn more. Time for Kids had a great article about both the background and some ways to commemorate the day.

According to Time, Memorial Day has evolved since it first began. Started in 1868 at Decoration Day, Memorial Day was set by General John A. Logan as “an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers.” In fact, it wasn't until 1971 that President Nixon declared it to be Memorial Day, recognizing the fallen in all wars and conflicts.

The article also provides some customary ways to mark the holiday, including putting flags or flowers on fallen soldiers' graves, flying the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon, and participating in a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.

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Image via Flickr/ The U.S. Army

Here are a few other activities you can do with young kids for Memorial Day:

1. Write letters or send a care package. Send a note expressing your gratitude and make someone's day! A couple of organizations that coordinate mail to both those on active duty and veterans from previous conflicts are A Million Thanks and Operation Gratitude.

2. Make this USA handprint wreath from DLTK Kids. This craft is easy to do with young children. Using either paint for handprints or red, white, and blue construction paper, you can assist younger kids with the cutting, or it’s a great chance for them to practice. Since you need nine paper hands to make the wreath, this is a great project with which you can get the whole family involved. 

{ MORE: Got Crafty Kids? Check Out These Homemade Ornaments! }

3. Try some festive marble painting, such as this activity on the Kids Activities Blog. These are the types of crafts that I like to do on the fly because they don't require many supplies. This involves stuff I already have at home. For this, you just need marbles, paint, paper, and a baking pan. (If you don't want to use a pan, I've used cardboard boxes as well.) Fun, easy, and the mess is easily contained!

4. Read The Wall by Eve Bunting. This well-loved story is about a boy who travels to the Vietnam Memorial with his father in search of his grandfather’s name on the wall. This book is appropriate for kids in preschool and up. 

{ MORE: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Your Toddler, Preschooler, or Little Kid }

5. Got a budding history buff in your family? Check out this worksheet you can download from EducationWorld. It provides questions that can be answered from information on the History Channel's website. It also includes links to an additional word search.

However you spend your Memorial Day, take a moment to reflect upon the sacrifices of so many in our military and the families that stand beside them. Have a wonderful holiday!

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5 Family Activities in Honor of Memorial Day

Tracy Jensen is a writer, marketer, mother, fundraiser, marathoner, and music lover. A working, single mom of two kids ages six and five, she is notorious for doing things the hard way. In addition to writing for EverydayFamily, she survives suburban exile by blogging about life’s foibles at It Builds Character. She can be found at night ignoring the dishes and playing on Twitter. ... More

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