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Veterans Day for kids: 6 ways to teach kids about the holiday

A simple list of ways to explain the holiday, along with ideas for celebrating Veterans Day with kids

Veterans Day for kids: 6 ways to teach kids about the holiday

Veterans Day for kids might not seem like much more than a day off from school. Sadly, many young children have little to no awareness of the important role that veterans play in our everyday lives. This time of year, therefore, presents parents with the perfect opportunity to teach our smallest citizens about the significance of such a holiday like Veterans Day.

From tips for explaining who veterans are to ideas on how to celebrate, here’s everything you need to know about Veterans Day for kids.

Who is a veteran?

Answering this question is important because it helps kids understand the honorees behind the holiday. A veteran is a former member of the armed services or military. Branches of the military include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard and veterans may have served during times of war or peace.

Perhaps a member of your family is currently serving in the military. Or maybe a grandfather, aunt or distant cousin is retired from the armed forces. To get the conversation started, try to find a picture of them in uniform and explain the importance of their job to your kid — or better yet, have your child speak with them themselves.

Also, be sure to let your child know that veterans aren’t just friends and family; they’re everywhere! And they don’t always wear uniforms or talk about their service, which makes it all the more important to acknowledge them and the sacrifices they’ve made.

What is Veterans Day?

Veterans Day is a U.S. federal holiday that honors American veterans of all wars — whether or not they currently serve — and gives us the opportunity to show our gratitude for the sacrifices they made to protect our freedoms. Your kids might’ve noticed that Veterans Day lands on the same day every year: November 11th. That’s because it actually started out as another holiday, known as “Armistice Day,” which was commemorated in 1918 when Germany and the Allied nations signed a temporary truce that became the symbolic end of World War I. According to the History Channel, the truce (or “armistice”) was signed “on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”

In 1954, the U.S. government legally changed the name of Armistice Day to “Veterans Day,” in an effort to honor the veterans of all wars (including those of World War II and the Korean War), and not just those of World War I.

What’s the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

Many people confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day, but it’s an important distinction to keep in mind.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

“While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military — in wartime or peacetime.”

6 ways to teach your child about Veterans Day

In addition to looking at pictures and talking to a veteran (if possible), your little one might find that hands-on activities help them better understand the meaning behind Veterans Day and the importance of honoring our country’s veterans. Here are several options to consider:

1. Read a book

Books on a variety of topics related to Veterans Day, military families and soldiers are available for all ages. Visit the local public library or a nearby bookstore with your child and pick out a few books that they find interesting.

The website Teaching With Children’s Books has a number of options for kids of all ages.

2. Raise money

Find veteran organizations near you, start a neighborhood lemonade stand or other fundraiser and donate the money to a local veterans group. This is a great way to help your child take action to support our veterans.

3. Attend a Veterans Day parade

Oftentimes, communities host a parade to celebrate and honor members of the military. Check your local city or town’s event guide to see if there’s one scheduled where you live.

4. Talk about freedom and sacrifice

What freedoms do you enjoy? Discuss these with your child to help make them aware of the everyday liberties they have thanks to veterans.

To that point, explain how members of our military often go long periods of time away from loved ones and sometimes even miss important holidays and birthdays with their families to fight for these freedoms.

5. Watch a Veterans Day video for kids

A great way to impart Veterans Day knowledge on your little one while providing visuals? Show them a Veterans Day video for kids. Here are a few short videos to consider:

6. Say “thank you” 

If you and your child are out in public and see a man or woman in uniform, let your child know that it’s a nice gesture to say “thank you.” Those two simple words can mean a lot to a service member. If you’re at a coffee shop or a restaurant and feeling generous, you might also consider paying for their cup of coffee or meal. 

Looking for more ideas? Here are several Veterans Day activities for kids.

Most important of all, listen when your child wants to talk about Veterans Day or what it means to be a veteran. While they may be young, their emotional intelligence is high. Using kid-friendly, age-appropriate language and activities to teach them about respecting and honoring our veterans — and appreciating the freedoms we enjoy as Americans — will go a long way toward instilling a sense of patriotism and empathy.