Memorial Day Honorabilia, Courtesy of the KidsI wrote a post on my blog about the lack of Memorial Day parades in the metro Atlanta area, where I currently live. In it, I made the case that these parades not only bring people together in celebration of those who have served our country, but they also serve the purpose of introducing the concept of Memorial Day to our children in an engaging way, allowing them to assimilate the true meaning of it as they grow and evolve.
After getting over my initial grump about the lack of the marchy marchy in my immediate vicinity, I started to wonder about how I might incorporate something exciting into the weekend to help my children – who are 3 and 4 years old – start to “get” what Memorial Day is all about. I thought about placing a few hundred flags around my lawn, but I decided that would be less meaningful and more just plain old messy.
When working on this project, two things are imperative from the get-go. First, if you plan to involve children, take a deep breath and realize that mess is an almost certain (and likely fun!) part of this project. Second, determine if you want your plaques to be relatively disposable or long-lasting. This second point will determine your materials. I decided that our plaques would be disposable. Why? Well, first of all, they’ll be sitting out on the lawn, so who knows what kinds of messes may come their way during the day? More importantly, I want to do this project anew every year with my kids as they grow and learn to appreciate the meaning of the day. I see this as an annual opportunity to reintroduce my children to their great-grandparents and to the heroism of each individual’s commitment to serve. I’m kind of a sucker for nostalgia.
One 18”-to-24” tall American flag per veteran
White posterboard, preferably non-glossy (I used 20” x 27”)… 1 sheet for every 2 veterans
Paper print-out of a photo of each veteran (shoot for minimum 6” x 6”)
Glue stick, preferably heavy duty: 1 per child
Black Sharpie or wide marker
The rest of your materials are up to you, but we used:
Several glitter colors: red, blue, gold
Blue and red sequins
Gold sequin stars
U.S.A.-esque red, white and blue stickers
You could also use (for example):
Colored construction paper to cut out shapes to paste to the plaques
Paints, both regular and raised
Ribbon (which would probably require a hot-glue gun)
Cut the white posterboard in half; each half will become a plaque for a single veteran.
Using the glue stick, paste one veteran’s photo onto a plaque. Place the photo about 4 inches below the top of the plaque to ensure your veteran’s image is high enough off the ground to be seen from a distance but low enough to allow space for his or her name to be written at the top of the plaque. In tall lettering (3”-4” tall), print the veteran’s name across the top of the plaque; I recommend block lettering.
Next, allow your child or children to place stickers around the plaque. I know it’s tough not to help, but try not to direct the placement too much! However, I recommend reminding small children several times not to decorate the veterans’ faces, then watching them pretty closely. My 3-year-old did not heed this request during the sticker phase of the project, and after getting a good laugh about how “starry-eyed” my step-grandfather looked (yes, his eyes were covered with star stickers), we ended up reprinting and repasting his photo. Not a tragedy, but inconvenient.
After this, it’s up to you how best to decorate the plaque, depending on your preferences, materials and the child’s or children’s age(s). For us, our children’s ages and the fact that we really wanted them to be relatively independent with this project dictated us sticking with easily-glue-able and very sparkly materials. We poured piles of each color glitter and each type of sequin onto paper plates, for easy access by tiny hands. We then handed each child a glue stick and allowed them to create independently. For the adults, our jobs included pouring off excess glitter or sequins, encouraging the kids’ efforts and the ever-necessary ooh’ing and ah’ing.
Let the plaques dry, then shake off or replace any loose materials.
To wrap this up, I’ll share a little conversation I had with my 4-year-old tonight at bedtime. He asked me, “Mommy, why did we do that project for Memorial Day?” I thought a moment, then said, “Well, what are the first three syllables of the word ‘Memorial’?” Together we said, “Mem-o-ry.” I asked him, “So what does that make Memorial Day?” My lovely son smiled and said, “It’s a day for Remembering.” From out of the mouths of babes.