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5 great ways to teach your kids about Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend signals the unofficial start of summer in many places, but the federal holiday holds a much deeper meaning, especially for military families. While the practice of honoring soldiers lost in battle dates back to ancient times, Memorial Day in the United States began following the Civil War. First known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day honors all those who have given their lives in the line of duty while serving in the armed forces.

Memorial Day, which officially became a federal holiday in 1971, is observed on the last Monday in May each year. Many families use the extended weekend from work and school for family-friendly outdoor activities. Certainly, Memorial Day parades and barbecues are a lot of fun, but it’s also important to teach your children the meaning behind the day. Unlike Veterans Day, which honors all military members serving past and present, Memorial Day honors those whose lives were lost.

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Even though it is a somber remembrance, there are kid-centered ways to teach children about the meaning behind Memorial Day.

two little girls having fun at Memorial Day parade
Natalia Kirichenko/Shutterstock

Attend a Memorial Day parade

One of the most straightforward ways to teach your child about the significance of Memorial Day is to attend a Memorial Day parade in your area. Of course, parades are cool with floats, bands, and candy, but a Memorial Day parade will feature the local American Legion, VFW, and other veteran organizations. Teaching your child to stand and clap as vets walk past is a simple gesture reinforcing the contributions members of the military make to our country.

Bring flowers to a memorial

Many local American Legions and VFWs have special wreath-laying ceremonies early in the day on Memorial Day. Attend one as a family, bringing flowers, and have your kids place the flowers by the memorial at the end of the ceremony. If there isn’t a ceremony, you can still stop by and place flowers as a remembrance for lives lost.

Thank a veteran for their service

A simple yet meaningful gesture would be to thank a veteran for their service. During Memorial Day weekend, veterans typically collect donations at supermarkets and hand out poppies. Say thank you when heading in or out of the store and explain to your child why you expressed your gratitude.

Make a service member smile

A great way to honor military men and women on Memorial Day is to do something to make a service member’s day by sending a card or care package. First, check with your local VFW or American Legion to see if your town has any residents serving. If not, then visit to find out how you can send a care package to a member of the armed forces. Always pack enough goodies for the soldier to share with their unit. Suggested care package items include:

  • Sunblock
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Flip-flops
  • Lip balm
  • Deck of cards
  • Crossword or word-find puzzle books
  • Paperbacks
  • Stationery
  • Chips
  • Nuts
  • Trail mix
  • Granola bars
  • Non-melting candy
  • Powder
  • Lotion

Share books about Memorial Day

Since Memorial Day honors armed-forces members who died serving their country, the holiday can be difficult to discuss with children. Sometimes, sharing a children’s book on the subject is a wonderful way to introduce the meaning behind Memorial Day. Here are some great books to share with kids about Memorial Day:

  • The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans: This book by Barbara E. Walsh and Layne Johnson will help children understand why vets hand out poppies on or around Memorial Day.
  • America’s White Table: In this book by Margot Theis Raven and Mike Benny, a group of sisters is asked by their mom to set a white table for their uncle. The girls learn about the tradition of setting a white table for a service member who has died, is missing in action, or is a POW. America’s White Table is a poignant read with older children and teens.
  • Let’s Celebrate Memorial Day: Barbara deRubertis’ book discusses the significance behind Memorial Day as well as how service members are honored for their ultimate sacrifice. This book works for younger and older children.
  • Rolling Thunder: If you’ve ever wondered why bikers are an integral part of Memorial Day parades, this book by Kate Messner and Greg Ruth explains the story of a little boy who gets to ride with his grandpa in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day.

Across the nation, Memorial Day weekend has become the unofficial start of summer. While picnics, trips to the beach, and barbecues are super fun, it’s important to take some time during the long weekend to discuss with children why we have off from school and work on the last Monday in May. Try one of these ways to teach your kids about Memorial Day this year.

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10 educational children’s books for Black History Month
Let your kids learn new things from these books about Black history
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Black history is important to teach and learn year-round, but it's especially lifted up in February. Some topics like tough history and racial discrimination can be difficult to know how to approach with young children, but thankfully there are many books written just for kids that broach these issues. These 10 children's books about Black history teach about over 100 people from Black history, like Jackie Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They're written for kids in preschool, elementary school, and middle school, so everyone has a chance to learn.
1. The ABCs of Black History

This bestseller uses rhyming couplets to tell Black history in 64 pages. Written for ages 2-8, the letters tell about people (H is for Zora Neale Hurston), themes (P is for Power), and moments (G is for Great Migration) and ideas. It's an inspiring read with other examples like B is for Beautiful, Brave, and Bright and S is for Science and Soul. Written by Rio Cortez, illustrated by Lauren Semmer.
2. A Child's Introduction to African American History: The Experiences, People, and Events That Shaped Our Country

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Why you should celebrate Valentine’s Day with your kids, especially if you’re single
Single for Valentine's Day? Your kids should still see you celebrate the holiday
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Other than sending your kids to school with the required Valentine's Day cards for the class, you may not want to do anything on the day of love if you're a single parent. But that's why you should celebrate it, even more so than if you had a partner. Don't let your kids grow up to hate celebrating love if they don't have a partner.

Celebrating Valentine's Day with kids puts a whole new spin on the holiday that single parents everywhere need to embrace. We all need more love and less bitterness about being single. Start with yourself by modeling for your children that loving yourself is the best reason to enjoy this holiday.

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Movies and shows to binge with your teen for Black History Month
Black History Month movies to start conversations with your teen
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Whether your kids go to school, or you homeschool them, it's important to take time to discuss topics for Black History Month at home. If you don't know how to get conversations started with your teens, since it should be a more in-depth subject matter, it could be easier to watch a show and dive into specific topics after. We'll break down shows and movies to watch during Black History Month that will segue into great conversations with your teen.

Funny show/movie to watch
Abbott Elementary
If you have ever been a teacher, a sub, a parent volunteer in a classroom, or you have kids, you need to watch Abbott Elementary. At the heart is a story about a predominately Black school in Philadelphia and the lengths teachers and principals have to go to get supplies and funding for their students in a low-income, minority public school system.
A Black Lady Sketch Show
Think SNL, but with powerful and funny females instead. The only thing with A Black Lady Sketch Show is that some skits and episodes have language and scenes you may find inappropriate for your younger teen, depending on your values. For this one, give an episode a watch first and see if you're OK with it. But there are countless sketches that are amazing. A perfect discussion for older teens is why shows like SNL aren't as diverse as they should be.
Strong Black female story
Hidden Figures
We love when there's a true story to research when watching a movie. Hidden Figures is based on the book about the Black women responsible for NASA's success in the 1960s during the Cold War. This would be a great one to watch and then look up the three main women and see how accurately their stories were told. Your teens could also read the book and see how it varied from the movie for a more in-depth discussion of which portrayed the truth more accurately.
A Ballerina's Tale
If you have teens that love dance, the story of the first Black principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre will inspire them. A Ballerina's Tale follows Misty Copeland's rise to break the 78-year record of all-white principal dancers, and the Black ballerinas that paved the way for Misty. Even if your teenager doesn't love dance, the story is a great pick-me-up and lesson on not giving in or letting others put you in a specific box.
Serious movie to watch
A Time to Kill
Another movie based on a book loosely based on factual events, A Time to Kill tells the story of a Black man on trial for murdering the white men who violently attacked and then attempted to murder his daughter. Set in a mostly white town in Mississippi in the 1980s, the story fictionalizes the real events that author John Grisham read about in the newspaper at the time.
13th is for teens who appreciate documentaries. It explores the rate of incarceration of Black people over other races, the rise of incarceration versus the decline of overall crime, legalized segregation, and many other important topics that need to be discussed in the U.S. these days. It was directed and written by Ava DuVernay, who also directed Selma.
Political show/movie to watch
If your teen is near or is of voting age, you need to introduce Selma to them. The story follows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his journey to Selma, Alabama, in a march to fight for the right for Black voters to cast their ballots anywhere, even in a segregated system. Though director Ava DuVernay did her research for historical accuracy, this would be another great movie to compare to the textbooks.
When They See Us
Yes, another one by Ava DuVernay (seriously, everyone needs to watch her entire filmography). When They See Us explores the story of five Black and Latino men accused, tried, and convicted for crimes they didn't commit against a white woman. It's broken up into four parts, so you could spread it out and watch one a week.

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