When we spot Memorial Day coming up on the calendar, the first thought is usually a fun-filled, three-day weekend. It’s easy to forget the meaning of Memorial Day as a day of remembrance.
Remind children of the real reasons to celebrate by adding a little Memorial Day history to your lessons this week. Below you will find fun facts to share, multimedia resources, and downloadable activities to help kids understand the importance of this very special holiday.
Facts About Memorial Day
- The first Memorial Day was first celebrated in 1866 to honor fallen soldiers of the Civil War.
- Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day” because Americans would spend the day to decorate the graves of all soldiers who died in war.
- Memorial Day became a national holiday in 1971 and was shifted to create a three-day weekend.
- Although not as popular today, one tradition was to eat a picnic meal while sitting on the ground of a cemetery.
- In 2000, Congress passed a law that requires Americans to pause at 3 p.m. to remember and honor the soldiers who died for our country.
Resources for Kids
Kids might be itching to get into the sun for their three-day weekend, but this video from History.com is entertaining enough to get an extra lesson in before school’s out.
- 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Memorial Day – TIME has a useful slideshow to share with children at home or in the classroom.
- The First Official Memorial Day – An easy-to-use timeline from America’s Library.
- Women Who Gave Their Lives – A list of women who have fallen in every American war. Looks like a great starting point for a research project!!
Educational Activities for Memorial Day
- Civil War Activities for Kids – A fun printable pack of 19 puzzles, games, and quizzes including history timelines, a Gettysburg Address fill-in, math decoding puzzles, a Venn diagram puzzle, a printable board game, and more!
- Memorial Day Activities for Grades 2 to 5 – Help bring awareness and celebrate the service of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard with this Memorial Day activity.
- May Interactive Poetry Notebook – Includes an original poem about Memorial Day using sight words, concepts of print, rhyming, word families, and more!
- Graphing Through the Month of May – Each May-related question can be graphed as pictograph or bar graph. Great graphing resource for first graders!
Memorial Day is about honoring those who served to protect our freedom.
Make It Happen
No matter which way you choose to reserve this holiday, there are so many ways to communicate the importance of Memorial Day to our next generation.