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Celebrating Memorial Day with Toddlers and Preschoolers

Child holding American flag to the sun

Here are some ways you can make Memorial Day meaningful for toddlers and preschoolers.

For many of us, Memorial Day is the eagerly-awaited arrival of summer; time for a pool, a picnic, or even a parade. It’s also the time we set aside to honor and celebrate the service of our veterans and their families. Memorial Day differs from Veteran’s Day because it focuses on those who died in service of our country. We encourage you to keep it simple and help your toddler or preschooler focus on remembering the heroes around them, like people who serve in the military, while also learning about gratitude.

Here are some ways you can make this holiday meaningful for toddlers and preschoolers:

1. Start with gratitude for those who care for us, such as service members and other helpers like doctors and firefighters. Research shows an attitude of gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression and anger. We can nurture this outlook in our children starting from an early age. Check out this article and this message of thanksgiving to find out how.

2. Answer children’s questions about the military.

Why is that person wearing a uniform?
For our military, the uniform is a way for them to know they are all on the same team. Kind of like a sports team!

What can we say when we see someone in uniform?
If you know what service the person is in, you can share that with your child. “See, those people in the parade are wearing the Marine Corps uniform. They are Marines.” If you don’t know, you can ask! “My child and I see you are in uniform. Are you in the military?” You may learn a little about the different branches of the military this way, or you may learn the person serves as a police officer, fire fighter, or other uniformed service. Or you may find out the person works as a National Forest Ranger or Park Ranger. Sharing this helps your child know there are different ways people serve our country and in our communities.

If you feel comfortable, you can help your child say “thank you for your service” to the uniformed person. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can say to your child, maybe just loud enough for the person in uniform to hear, “we are really grateful for people who volunteer to serve our country.”

Why are we having a parade?
Share with your child, “Today is Memorial Day, so this parade is to say thank you to all the people who serve in our military.” If you personally know someone in the military, you might say, “like Mr. Lee next door” or “like grandpa, who was in the Army.”

3. Share family stories. Use photos to talk about parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles who are veterans or active service members. To learn more about supporting military families, visit these resources from ZERO TO THREE and Sesame Workshop.

Wherever you are this holiday weekend, take a moment to be grateful: for veterans, for family, and for the promise of summer.


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