Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She’s a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion, and is writing a book based on her personal blog, ConversionDiary.com. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their five young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. You can follow her on Twitter at @conversiondiary.
Summer is here! Well, technically we have a few more weeks until the summer solstice, and those of us who live on the surface of Venus—err, I mean, Texas—have been experiencing summer weather for a few months now, but Memorial Day marks the cultural beginning of summer. In the midst of all the fun of the three-day weekend it’s easy for kids to come to think of this holiday as representing nothing more than the end of school and the beginning of barbecue and pool party season, so I scoured the internet to find the best ideas for simple and fun family crafts that gently introduce children to the deeper meaning of Memorial Day.
1. Create a memorial flower boat
This is an easy but beautiful craft that uses materials that you probably have lying around the house. Though it is based on the Navy’s tradition of floating flowers out into the ocean to recall sailors whose lives were lost at sea, it could be used to honor fallen soldiers from any branch of the military.
2. Write a letter to a soldier
Talk to your children about what our men and women in uniform do for our country, then have them write a letter or draw a picture to send to someone who is currently in the military. Mail it to Kidz 4 Troops at:
KIDZ 4 TROOPS
PO BOX 851980
YUKON, OK 73085
3. Do a Memorial Day word search
A good indoor activity to avoid the mid-day summer heat, this simple word search offers an opportunity to start conversations with kids about tough topics like war and death. Terms like service and sacrifice juxtaposed with memorial and grave give parents the chance to gently bring up what we’re really remembering on this holiday.
4. Take flowers to a veterans cemetery
Check this list of state veterans cemeteries to see if there’s one near you. If there is, consider stopping by with a bouquet of flowers on your way to your Memorial Day plans.
5. Make a pin for a veteran you know
If you have a friend or family member who is a veteran, have the kids make one of these pretty pins to honor the service he or she provided to our country. This is a good opportunity to talk about where this person served, why he or she was there, and to mention the fact that some of this person’s fellow soldiers were not so fortunate as to make it back home to their families.
6. Make an American flag cake
You won’t have any problem convincing your kids to help make this Memorial Day cake that is as delicious as it is easy to put together. Working together in the kitchen is always a great opportunity for family bonding moments, and in the process of icing the cake and laying out the flag pattern, chat with your kids about what the American flag represents, and all the people who have given their lives to defend it.
7. Say a prayer for the souls of departed soldiers
The easiest suggestion of all, simply take a few moments today and have your family pause to say a prayer for the repose of the souls of all the men and women who gave their lives in the service of our country.