Talking to kids about unhappy moments can be tough — BUT it’s a necessary thing in life.
Educating them about Veterans Day, Remembrance Day and war is one of those occasions — it’s not a pleasant topic to discuss but one that needs to be talked about with the next generation.
It’s important for our children to honor and appreciate what others have done for all of us and to understand some of the sacrafices that each person makes during wartime. So today, we’re sharing some great resources for introducing kids of all ages to the topic of wartime and service to your country.
5 Ways Kids can Honor Veterans Day & Remembrance Day
Typically, when people mention war, many of us parents cringe at the idea of sharing graphic images or sad outcomes with our kids. I fully admit, this is a TOUGH topic. But I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at how much they’ve already overheard during family conversations, while listening to television or even reading books.
It’s never a good thing to only have partial knowledge of a subject so these resources will help you share more of the story behind what people who served in a war have given up for each of us and our country. I’m including ideas for families to do together along with affiliate links for books and movies that we’ve found helpful when expanding our kids’ knowledge.
1. Visit a Memorial
If there’s one thing I would recommend to families just beginning these discussions, it would be to visit a memorial! In addition to being visually impactful, memorials are FULL of information and details about the history, events and people involved in a specific conflict.
We are blessed to live in a place that is home to the The National World War I Museum & Memorial. It’s an OUTSTANDING memorial! When you first walk into the building, you cross over a glass bridge that allows you to look down at a field of poppies representing all who lost their life during WWI. It’s a very impactful and moving experience.
There are monuments worldwide dedicated to the men and women who lost their lives during wars. Visit one near you or one that has a personal connection with a family member.
If you aren’t able to get out and visit a memorial, you can visit a few of them online. Here are a few web tours of memorials that families can take together:
2. Say “Thank You” to a Veteran or Military member
Older kids especially will understand some of the sacrafices that others have made during wartime. Telling a neighbor, family member or other friend who has served or is serving in the military ‘Thank you!’ is a key to honor them.
If you don’t have a personal connection with a Veteran, send a letter through Operation Gratitude — a group whose goal is to thank all who have served.
3. Use Books or Movies to Introduce Experiences
There are some amazing books that share what people experience during times of war — some of these stories are especially impactful for children when we discuss how hard it would be to give up things like cookies (for example, when sugar was rationed) or go without winter coats/shoes because a country wan’t able to have retail stores open due to fighting.
Here are a few books and movies we’ve used to talk about what families and citizens experience during times of war:
Boxes for Katje is one of our favorite books that show how children can have a positive impact on the world! This is a great picture book that explains what people had to do without during wartime and how others around the world rallied to help the children in Europe.
I’m Still Scared and For the Duration: The War Years are both part of Tomie dePaola’s 26 Fairmount Avenue series. These two short chapter books introduce what it was like to live in America during the early 1940s. I especially like how the introduce things like air raid drills, blackout curtains and other lifestyle changes that many people had to make during this time in history. The books can initiate some great discussions with kids.
Pennies in a Jar and Coming on Home Soon are two more outstanding picture books that focus on kids who had to live without their parents because they were either fighting on the front lines or had to move away to work. Reading about other children who had to live with uncertainty and fear on a daily basis helps kids to build empathy for what life was like during war.
Three chaper books that we recommend include:
The Victory Garden — 11 year old Teresa is asked to take care of her neighbors garden when he is hospitalized and in the process, she learns how to keep peace, be brave and earn money for the war effort.
I Survived #4: I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941 — a more action-based story about what life was like in Hawaii after the bombing that brought the US into World War II.
Lily’s Crossing — shares the friendship between Lily and Albert. Lily’s father has been drafted into the miliary and Albert is a Hungarian refugee who has left war-torn Europe to live in America.
And for younger kids (under age 12 years) two movies we would recommend that DO NOT have any graphic images and show what kids may have experienced during the war —
Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front is a look at what life was like in America during the 1940’s. Molly’s father is a doctor who heads to the front lines, her mother has to take a job and her neighbor has lost her son during the fighting. There is some good discussion and scenes about how life is very different due to war.
And I know you might think this an odd selection, but Peter Pan Return to Neverland is good to use with children ages 4 – 7 years who don’t understand what war “looked like”. The early part of the movie shows Jane (the main character) during air raids that took place in her town. I admit this isn’t totally realistic as it’s animated but it is a good way to introduce the subject to younger kids.
4. Do Something for Others
One way to honor those who served is to dedicate some time to doing something good in the world. See our 30 Ideas for Family Service Projects & Random Acts of Kindness for ways your family can volunteer to make the world a better place this month!
5. Create Something Beautiful & Pause to Remember
A popular activity for young children is to make poppy crafts in honor of Remembrance Day (which is Nov. 11th — the last day of fighting for World War I).
Try these Poppy craft ideas:
Felt Poppy Flower | Layers of Learning
Poppy Pinwheel Flowers | Mum in a Madhouse
Painted Coffee Filter Poppies | Happy Hooligans
One of the worldwide practices is a pause of silence and remebrance that happens at 11:11 am on 11/11 (November 11th). Being involved with this small act (such as pausing to pray or remember) which is connected with a larger movement shows children that each of us can have an impact and make a difference in the world.
OTHER ACTIVITIES YOU’LL ENJOY: