It's hard to fault busy parents who indulge in a mini-vacation over the three-day Memorial Day weekend – the traditional kickoff to summer is a great time to get away or just relax. It's easy to lose the meaning of the holiday amid the barbecues and beach trips.
But Memorial Day weekend offers us a teachable moment – an opportunity to show children that Memorial Day is about more than fun and sun.
What's the best way to show your kids the historical significance of the holiday, and explain to them what the sacrifices of the nation's warriors have meant to the country?
Military.com, a national veterans and active military group, has some suggestions, starting with what can be an eye-opening visit to a cemetery. (The Star Tribune lists some metro-area cemeteries and memorials, with hours and events for Monday.)
In the metro, historic Fort Snelling National Cemetery puts on one of the best Memorial Day programs, and children are welcome. Music begins at 9:30 a.m. Monday and a ceremony is at 10 a.m. Officials say parking is limited and suggest visitors take the light rail. More info here.
This Minnesota mom blogger wrote last year about a visit to the Fort Snelling cemetery with her kids. "We talked about many things as we drove through the cemetery – wars that people have fought in, people in our family who have served in the military, and the fact that each person whose grave is in the cemetery had a family who mourned their death."
Or attend a parade. Eloquent blogger Audrey Kletscher Helbling, whose father served in the Korean War, had some really nice photos last year that illustrate how a small-town Memorial Day parade (this one in Faribault) can be an authentic way for children to get a sense of what the holiday means.
Another suggestion: Cook with your kids, following a Memorial Day recipe – and use the time to talk to them about the notion of sacrifice.
Yet one more tip from Military.com: Have your children create a card or picture and arrange to have it sent to a soldier currently serving overseas. Military.com has a list of groups that make mailing arrangements.
If your kids are old enough, you can also join the ranks of volunteers for a Veterans Affairs hospital. The Minneapolis VA Medical Center says that last year, 2,050 volunteers provided over 222,900 hours of their time. The VA offers some tips on how to volunteer.
Or consider putting together donations for veterans – officials recommend you go through the VA's Voluntary Services, which collects donations and money for a wide variety of needs.
The parenting site More4kids has more suggestions, including: Observe a moment of silence as a family – a national moment of remembrance is observed at precisely 3 p.m. local time, for the duration of one minute.
Other suggestions from the site: Teach children about how to properly fold a flag – and explain why that is important. Or do something kind for a family that has someone posted overseas – even a plate of baked goods is a nice thank you, and the gratitude the family returns might make an impression on your children.
Other parent bloggers have yet more suggestions, including craft projects like making matching T-shirts.