Observing Memorial Day with Kids
Memorial Day has been observed in the United States since shortly after the Civil War. It is a way to honor those who have died serving those in the U.S. military and, since 1971, has been observed on the last Monday in May. Read more about the origins of Memorial Day at history.com. While many may be taking advantage of a long weekend to get out of town Memorial Day Weekend, here are some fun activities you can do with kids if you’re staying home.
1. Sidewalk Chalk Flag
I thought I was doing a good job keeping track of the star layout…but came up way short for the amount of space I was using!
Sidewalk chalk is one of those activities that can be adapted to any occasion. So it is definitely something to keep on hand during this extended quarantine! For Memorial Day, decorate your sidewalk with an eye-catching flag. Or any other patriotic images you come up with!
2. Cotton Ball Flags
For this activity, all you need is some washable tempera paint (red, white and blue of course!), a sheet of cardstock or watercolor paper, cotton balls, and something to use as a palette. Paper plates are not ideal, but if you double them up, it’ll work!
When I saw this online, I think the idea was to use clothespins to pick up and dip the cotton balls. This probably helps with dexterity practice and keeping fingers a bit cleaner! But it isn’t necessary, if you have a dearth of clothespins.
3. Balloon Paint Poppies
Idea from rufflesandrainboots.com
According to history.com, “The Great War, as it was then known, also ravaged the landscape of Western Europe, where most of the fiercest fighting took place. From the devastated landscape of the battlefields, the red poppy would grow and, thanks to a famous poem, become a powerful symbol of remembrance.” Today, the red poppy is associated with Memorial Day, so this activity is a good opportunity to engage in some crafty fun while also talking with your children about the symbolism behind the activity. Click here to learn more from history.com.
To make this activity, all you need to do is put some red and orange washable tempera paint on a plate or other surface. Blow up a balloon just a little bit. Dip the balloon in first the red, then the orange paint, and press the paint-covered surface onto a piece of thick paper. Repeat until you have the number of poppies you want. Let dry.
Next, take some black paint and make a small circle in the center of each poppy. (Mine probably should have been a bit smaller). Let this dry, then add some green stems using a marker or green paint.
4. Read “In Flanders Field”
The aforementioned poem that gave the poppy prominence as the symbol of remembrance is “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae. McCrae was a soldier and physician who served during World War I. Learn more about the inspiration behind “In Flanders Field” at poetryfoundation.org, which is where I also found the poem as printed here:
In Flanders Field
by John McCrae
5. Bake Patriotic Pavlovas
I didn’t plan ahead to make these, so didn’t have whipped cream for filling. Ended up adding Blue Bell Black Walnut Ice cream, which was a little odd. I’d recommend going with whipped cream so you don’t have a bunch of extra sugar–the meringues are sweet enough!
If you are looking for a Memorial Day Weekend treat, try some meringues! Chances are, you have the necessary ingredients on hand: sugar, egg whites, salt and cream of tartar.
Meringue Stars (I used this recipe)
- 4 egg whites, room temp.
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Red and white food coloring, if desired
- Preheat oven to 225 F. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add egg whites, cream of tartar and salt. Begin beating on low until the mixture becomes foamy, then move to the mixer speed to high.
- With the mixer still on high, gradually add the sugar, a Tablespoon at a time, until it has all been incorporated. The finished mixture should be glossy, with stiff peaks, and not gritty. Grit indicates that the sugar has not been incorporated thoroughly.
- At this point, beat in your vanilla and food coloring. Or, if you want to do multiple colors, simply beat in the vanilla.
- Take a pastry bag and fill with about a third of your white meringue mixture. You can use a large star tip if desired, or no pastry tip. It’s up to you. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, trace out a star and fill in the center. Repeat until you’ve used up all your white meringue.
- Take another third of your meringue mixture, add it to a medium-sized bowl, and whisk in some blue food coloring. Put this in a pastry bag as you did before, and pipe around the edges only of your white meringue stars. Repeat with the remaining third, only color this mixture red instead of blue.
6. Bake for about 60 minutes, then turn off the oven and let the meringues cool down inside the oven.
7. Once the meringue has cooled, remove from oven. Carefully remove from your cookie sheet. Fill the shells with homemade whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, and top with berries, berry sauce, you name it.
I’d recommend making yours smaller than we did! That was…quite the sugar rush.
6. Pause: National Moment of Remembrance
Each year on Memorial Day, Americans across the nation pause at 3 p.m. to remember those who have died serving in the armed forces. Talk to your children ahead of time about what Memorial Day means and why we are remaining silent for one minute.
This article was originally published in May 2020 as part of Tara Rittler’s Spaghetti on the Wall blog post.