The United States has been observing Veterans Day in some form since Germany signed an armistice with the Allies during the First World War on Nov. 11, 1918. Now that it's a federal holiday, many schools are out, and it's a welcome break between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
But what does it mean to "observe" a holiday when they're becoming more synchronous with sales than symbolism? This year, honor our veterans by engaging in one of these 10 activities to teach your children about Veterans Day.
10 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Veterans Day
1. Attend a parade. Find a local parade in your newspaper or online. Make it a point to meet some of the veterans afterward and let your children interact with them. Encourage your kids to be reporters for the day and have them interview veterans if they'd like to share their story. Find an interested veteran and set up a time for your children to participate in the Veterans History Project. Led by the Library of Congress in conjunction with AARP, this incredible initiative is capturing countless veterans' personal accounts through crowdsourcing the interviews.
2. Give thanks. Have your children draw a picture or write a thank-you note to give to a veteran. This simple gesture lets our veterans know that their service is not forgotten and still appreciated. If you don't know a veteran, use Operation Gratitude to deliver the message.
3. Donate. Rather than just writing a check (which is also a great option), have your children research a veterans organization to donate to, and then have them raise the money to do so. Help your little ones with a coffee or hot cocoa stand or help them bake goods for a bake sale. Or, in lieu of money, donate time. Have children rake leaves for a neighboring veteran, shovel a walkway or do a random act of kindness.
4. Raise the flag. Our favorite tradition is to line the park near our house with flags and talk about the history of the day. Whether you decorate your neighborhood, walkway or just fly a flag in your yard, talk to your kids about what the colors mean and why it's so important to respect those who have fought and continue to fight to defend them.
5. Clean your house. Have your children go through their toys and clothes, and donate gently used items to your local Disabled American Veterans (DAV) chapter.
6. Invite a veteran. Have a veteran over for coffee, invite them to an outing with your family or volunteer to bring them dinner one night. Have the kids design and deliver the invitation. If you're serving a meal, let your children help you prepare it and have them play waitstaff.
7. Make poppies. While these signature flowers, made famous by the poem "In Flanders Fields," are often associated with Memorial Day, a bouquet of these beauties of remembrance would brighten any hospital room. Call your local VA medical facility to see what your family can do to cheer up patients.
8. Sing a song. Teach your kids the words to the national anthem or "God Bless America." If they're feeling really ambitious, take them to a local VA facility to perform.
9. Color. Print Veterans Day coloring pages. Have your budding artists color a picture and give it to a veteran as a thank you.
10. Rally your community. Participating children can think of ways to say thank you, from volunteering to writing poems.
Whether your children commit to transcribing a veteran's history or taking toys to the DAV, help them do more this year than just observe the holiday; help them honor it.
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