For many, Veterans Days is just another holiday on the school or work calendar. But for those who serve and have sacrificed (and their families), it’s more than a day off work. It’s important for those – especially children – outside the military community to connect with this meaningful and symbolic day.
Children’s perspectives and cognitive abilities are limited. They are unable to understand the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women or the concept of risking one’s life to voluntarily service in time of war and conflict. Children cannot fathom grown-up decisions and shouldn’t have to contemplate these issues until they are young adults.
However, as impossible as it is for children to grasp the concept of selfless service, we have a duty to teach them to honor the veterans of yesterday and today, as we owe our freedom to these veterans. Veterans and freedom will always be intrinsically linked; American freedom cannot exist without the accomplishments of centuries of American veterans.
So how do we teach children to appreciate intangibles such as sacrifice, honor, volunteerism and duty without exposing them to concepts too complex for them to process?
The answer: Build a connection.
Connecting children to the men and women who serve in uniform is a meaningful way to teach children the importance of Veterans Day. Connect them through conversation and art. We have hand-picked six great Veterans Day art and school projects that dive a little deeper than coloring pages and flags:
- Family Tree
Less than one percent of Americans serve in the military today – a much smaller percentage than served during previous times of conflict – and therefore very few children have a close relative who is a veteran. However, nearly all families can proudly name ancestors who served during Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea, World War II or earlier conflicts. Connect your child to a family veteran by helping them construct a family tree and including basic details of the veteran’s military service record. This personal linkage to a family veteran will drive home the significance of Veterans Day.
- Veteran Collage
Connect your child with a veteran by building a collage or poster. Task the child to research the military branch, occupation, service locations, rank and decorations of a chosen family member or historical figure. Then have him or her depict their newly-gained knowledge on a collage or poster. This project provides many benefits, including learning family history; learning military history; appreciating service and volunteerism; and more.
- Medal of Honor
- The Poppy
The poppy is a symbol of remembrance of WWI. Native to Europe, the flower bloomed amidst the war-torn earth. The flower is a symbol of reflection for those who gave their lives when their nations called on them. Teach the meaning of remembrance to students during Veterans Day – remember not only those who are gone, but also those who are currently willing to give their lives to protect the American way of life. The poppy is a colorful flower that can easily be incorporate in crafts in the classroom and at home.
- Send a Note of Thanks
Sending a thank you note to a veteran is a simple way to connect children with those who have worn the uniform. Don’t forget law enforcement and emergency response personnel, too. Send the cards to a local Veterans Administration home, American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post. Veterans Day is about honoring, recognizing and thanking those who have served. Our nation’s cohort of aging veterans will truly appreciate this small effort; they will know they are not forgotten.
- Student Reporters and a Guest Speaker
Inviting a veteran into your child’s classroom is a great way to connect students with service members. Break the class into small groups focused on different topic areas (family history, military duties, challenges, family, deployment, etc.) and have the children interview their guest then write a brief news article or report for the school or local newspaper. Don’t forget to take pictures, too!
Visit Families on the Home Front’s Pinterest board Celebrating Veterans Day for other great ideas to connect children and veterans. Veterans Day is much more than a holiday!