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Printables and lesson plans to teach kids about Memorial Day

A child and his mother visit a grave at Arlington National Cemetary
A child and his mother visit a grave at Arlington National Cemetary
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

For many children, Memorial Day is a holiday that celebrates barbecuing, heading to the beach or the unofficial start to summer. It's important for children to also understand the real meaning and history of the holiday.

If you'd like to help your kids develop a deeper understanding of Memorial Day, here are some great resources for all ages.

Kids can watch a short video on the history of Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day) from here.

Apples 4 the Teacher has Memorial Day-themed coloring pages here. Homeschooling has Memorial Day activity pages here. suggests:

Students can study the Powers of Persuasion -- Poster Art from World War II to learn how propaganda was used to promote patriotism during WWII. Then they can create posters promoting peace.

Education World provides Thinking About Our Troops, which provides "a handful of ways for kids to connect with America's soldiers serving around the globe. (Grade K-12) and Memorial Day: Graphing Our History of Sacrifice to "Learn about the significance of Memorial Day by using an online graphing tool to graph America's war history. (Grades 3-12)."

Kids may be used to seeing the red paper poppies that are made and sold as fundraisers for veterans groups this time of year, but they may not know the significance of the poppy. Poppies were chosen for several reasons.

Caledonia-Mumford Veterans explains:

Each year around Memorial Day, Veterans of Foreign Wars members and American Legion Auxiliary volunteers distribute millions of bright red poppies in exchange for contributions to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans. The program provides multiple benefits to the veterans and to the community. The hospitalized veterans who make the flowers are able to earn a small wage, which helps to supplement their incomes and makes them feel more self-sufficient. The physical and mental activity provides many therapeutic benefits as well. Donations are used exclusively to assist and support veterans and their families. The poppy also reminds the community of the past sacrifices and continuing needs of our veterans. The poppy has become a nationally known and recognized symbol of sacrifice and is worn to honor the men and women who served and died for their country in all wars.

They also provide a brief history of the artificial poppy:

In the World War I battlefields of Belgium, poppies grew wild amid the ravaged landscape. How could such a pretty little flower grow wild while surrounded by death and destruction? The overturned soils of battle enabled the poppy seeds to be covered, thus allowing them to grow and to forever serve as a reminder of the bloodshed during that and future wars.

The poppy movement was inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields" written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian forces in 1915 before the United States entered World War I. Selling replicas of the original Flanders' poppy originated in some of the allied countries immediately after the Armistice.

Here is the poem that inspired all those little paper poppies.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

John McCrae, 1915

Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time. The “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed in 2000, which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.”

This is also a good day for children to call or visit veterans in their lives to thank them for their service.

You can find lots of other Memorial Day web sites here and many more Memorial Day resources here.

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