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Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day

Enjoy a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend with these meaningful activities for kids and families. Families often celebrate the holiday with a barbeque or outdoor activity, to usher in the arrival of summer. In addition to these festivities, take some time to explain the meaning behind Memorial Day. Memorial Day is different from Veterans Day (November 11). Memorial Day honors fallen military personnel while Veterans Day honors all living veterans. Memorial Day is about remembering those who have given their lives in service to the U.S. armed forces. There are so many meaningful and patriotic things families can do with kids to celebrate Memorial Day and remember the fallen.

7 Memorial Day Activities for Kids

Play a U.S. armed forces matching game.

What is a veteran? What do veterans do? This game will help kids learn about the different types of U.S. military personnel and their jobs. For this game, you’ll need to create a sheet that has five different people in uniform at the top.

At the bottom of the page, have five columns with the branch names—Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Space Force—and their definitions. For example, the Army is the largest branch that protects us on land using troops, tanks, and artillery. The Air Force protects us using aircraft. The Navy protects us in the oceans and seas. The Marine Corps protects us on land, at seas, and in the air. The Coast Guard is the smallest branch and protects the U.S. coastline, as well as helping with ocean rescues. The Space Force protects U.S. interests in space.

Kids can draw a line from the person in uniform to their branch and definition. After kids play this Memorial Day matching game, they will understand the important work performed by the U.S. armed forces to keep us safe.

Draw a thank you message to veterans.

Draw a poster to hang in the window or, weather permitting, draw an American flag and “thank you” message in chalk on the driveway or street. This Memorial Day activity is a great way to commemorate the veterans who died in service and to convey a heartfelt thanks to the military personnel who are alive today.

Learn about the Black History of Memorial Day.

Learn about the forgotten black history of how Memorial Day first started. This is an important lesson for kids that tells a part of history often overlooked or untold. The origins of Memorial Day are in the Civil War. While many American towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, there is one key American story that historians are bringing to light. On May 1st, 1865, African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina held memorials and rituals—including decorating unmarked graves—to honor unnamed fallen soldiers. Most of these African Americans were formerly enslaved persons. This important moment gave birth to an American tradition that continues today.

It is important to bring this key historical moment to public memory. By teaching children about this historical event, they learn how Black History has shaped our American traditions.

Send care packages or letters to active American soldiers and veterans.

As you honor the fallen, consider writing a letter to an active American soldier or sending a care package to those overseas. Look for local or national organizations where you can send your care packages. These charitable organizations will then send your packages to the troops. Often they will post what the troops are asking for, so you know what to send. This kind gesture is one way to support military personnel at Memorial Day and long after.

Participate in the U.S. National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance is an annual event that asks all Americans at 3:00 p.m. local time, wherever they are on Memorial Day, to pause for one minute and remember those who have died in military service. This is a simple and easy thing families can do together, to remember and honor military personnel.

Learn about the poppy and enjoy a Memorial Day craft for kids.

It is traditional to wear a red poppy in honor of America’s armed forces who have lost their lives protecting the country. Being so resilient, poppies often grow in battlefields. During WWI, Lieutenant John McCrae was moved by seeing the flowers popping up in Flanders Field, Belgium and overcome with grief from battle that he wrote the poem “In Flanders Fields.” It is told from the perspective of the fallen soldiers buried underneath the poppies and honors their passing. The poem was published in 1915 and in 1920 the poppy officially became the U.S. national emblem of remembrance.

Memorial Day Craft for Kids

To honor the fallen, kids can make their own poppy to wear. For this Memorial Day craft, you’ll need markers, glue, a white muffin baking cup, and a pin back. Color the baking cup red and the center black. For older kids, use a scissors (with adult supervision) to cut around the baking cup and create rounded petals. Glue the pin back on. Kids can wear their handmade poppy on Memorial Day as a gesture of remembrance.

Practice math with this patriotic counting activity.

Help children learn how to count on Memorial Day with this fun activity! First, you’ll need to create a bag of supplies. Fill a clear bag with 5 red stars (cut from construction paper), 7 blue stars and 11 white stars. When you make the stars, vary them in size: small and large. Ask the child to dump out the contents of their bag. Here are the counting questions you can ask:

  • How many red stars are there? Write down your answer.
  • How many blue stars are there?
  • How many white stars are there?
  • How many large red stars are there?
  • How many small white stars are there?
  • How many large stars are there total (red, white, and blue)?

This is an easy, patriotic activity that helps young children improve their math skills.