How To Get Kids Involved With Memorial Day

Get children interested in Memorial Day with events, easy crafts and a little history.

Most families consider Memorial Day the unofficial start to summer, but there is so much more to this important national holiday. It’s the country’s tribute to those fallen heroes who died defending our freedom. To celebrate Memorial Day in Atlanta, there are events to attend, crafts to make, history and poems to share, and so much more.

Memorial Day Events in Atlanta

  • Memorial Day Weekend at Stone Mountain Park. The Big Rock, as it is affectionately called by Atlanta natives, is one of our city's most family-friendly attractions. The park is set to honor America’s troops and their families with a three-day celebration of American spirit during Atlanta's largest Memorial Day weekend celebration. The renowned Lasershow in Mountainvision will salute the troops with a special extended show, followed by a fireworks finale on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (May 26-28) on Memorial Day weekend. Plus, all active and retired military personnel will receive one free Adventure Pass with valid ID and will save up to $10 off per person for immediate family members.
  • Veterans Remembrance Day at Atlanta History Center. On Monday, May 28, spend a day in the company of veterans and hear their stories of wartime through personal accounts and memorabilia. Living history interpreters will represent soldiers of previous wars, including World War I and the Civil War, by showing authentic dress, equipment and vehicles. This program is free with a paid general admission ticket.
  • Memorial Day Weekend at Callaway Gardens. May 25-28. Kick off Summer 2012 with a splash! Callaway Garden’s Memorial Day Weekend Festival at Robin Lake Beach is better than ever with events and activities for the entire family. Enjoy live music, specialty food vendors, Lowline Customs Car Show, the Silver Wings Night Pyrotechnic Parachute Team, special FSU Flying High Circus performances, beach activities, including swimming, Aqua Island, Blaster Boats and Light Striker Laser Tag, plus a Kids Zone and more. Price is $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, $12.50 for kids 6-12, and free for children 5 and under.
  • Roswell Remembers. Monday, May 28. This is the largest Memorial Day ceremony in Georgia. The 2012 program features Major General David R. Bockel. It kicks off at 10:15 with pre-ceremony music and features the presentation of colors, the laying of the wreath, a 21-gun salute and a bugle “Taps.” Afterwards, the food tent opens and guests will enjoy a free concert. It takes place at the Roswell City Hall at 617 Atlanta St.
  • Memorial Day Jam in Sandy Springs. On Monday, May 28, Top Shelf Productions is hosting an all-star, patriotic Memorial Day Jam starring Atlanta Rhythm Section, Wet Willie and special guest Tommy Talton. It takes place at Heritage Green in Sandy Springs and tickets are still available for as low as $25 for general admission. Doors open at 3:30 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased online at Ticket Alternative.
  • Smyrna Memorial Day Ceremony. Monday, May 28 at 20th Century Veterans Memorial. The ceremony is a public event and all are invited to attend and participate in a memorial service to honor those who have sacrificed in defense of our nation. Seating will start after 8 a.m. and pre-ceremony/ceremony activities will begin promptly at 9:30 a.m.

Memorial Day Crafts

This weekend is a great time to talk to your kids about our fallen heroes and why it’s important to keep them in our hearts forever. To involve kids in Memorial Day, here are two easy-to-make craft ideas.

  • Red, white and blue wreath: Start by cutting out the center of a paper plate - discard the center. Cut red, white and blue tissue into 6"x6" squares. Scrunch a piece of tissue up and dab it into the glue and place on the plate. Continue doing this and alternating colors until the plate rim is filled all the way up. Add a little sparkle by adding some silver streamers or ribbon here and there. Staple a pipe cleaner to the back of the wreath to make a hanger. You’ll need: a paper plate, red, white and blue tissue paper, silver streamers or ribbon, silver pipe cleaner, glue and a stapler.
  • Handheld ribbon streamers: Wrap striped red, white, and blue ribbon around a paper towel tube, applying tacky glue under the ribbon as you work. You can wrap the ribbon at an angle or horizontally, whatever you prefer. After ribbon is applied and glue has dried, punch 9 holes in the bottom of the paper towel tube with the hole punch. Cut three 46” strips of red ribbon. Cut three 46” strips of blue ribbon. Cut three 46” strips of white ribbon. Tie a knot in the top of each strip of ribbon. Pull each of the strips through the holes so the knot is on the inside of the tube. You’ll need: paper towel roll tube, tacky glue, scissors, rolls of red, white and blue ribbon, hole punch, measuring tape, ruler or yardstick.

The History and Traditions of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, celebrated on the last Monday in May, was formerly known as Decoration Day, which was first enacted to honor Union soldiers of the Civil War. The official term of Memorial Day was first used in 1882, but did not become more common until after World War II. On June 28, 1968, the United States Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved three holidays from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The holidays included Washington's Birthday, now celebrated as Presidents Day, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30th date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.

The tradition of the red poppy has become a formality of Memorial Day, which is often overlooked. Inspired by a poem entitled, “In Flanders Fields”, the poppy has become the flower symbol for the Memorial Day holiday. From the poem, written by Canadian physician and soldier John McCrae, Americans developed a sense that the poppy represents the blood shed by soldiers during times of war. After World War I, many women began selling red poppies in honor of Memorial Day, to raise money for families affected by the war.

Today, honoring soldiers on Memorial Day often takes the form of special ceremonies, speeches, a national moment of silence, and laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Memorial Day Poem: “In Flanders Fields”

Here is the text of the poem, "In Flanders Fields" to commemorate Memorial Day 2012:

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.

- Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

God bless the USA this Memorial Day. The soldiers who lost their lives defending our freedom should never be forgotten.

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