Memorial Day weekend is an excellent opportunity to pay respect to those who have died during military service. If you have kids, use this weekend to teach them about America's military history. Talk to them about what you---and they---believe it means to be a hero, and schedule in a few moments of remembrance among all the festivities.
Most offices give their employees a long weekend for Memorial Day, so take advantage of that extra time by planning a mini family vacation. Those on the East Coast could journey to Washington, D.C., to learn more about the fallen soldiers being honored. If a weekend trip to Washington is unrealistic, traveling to a military base, famous cemetery or military museum would also be appropriate. When visiting memorial sites, bring flowers for the unadorned graves of soldiers. Take a minute to pay respect to these veterans by saying a quick prayer or pausing for a moment of silence and reflection.
Instead of staying in a comfortable hotel this weekend, pack up a tent and go camping. Roughing it can give families a small opportunity to reflect on the lives of soldiers in the field. When darkness falls, build a campfire and tell stories. If anyone in your family is a veteran, ask them to share memories from their time in war. Take some time to talk about and remember any soldiers your family knows who gave up their lives in battle.
Cookouts are traditional for those staying home for Memorial Day weekend. Get your whole neighborhood involved in the festivities. Keep your mind on the meaning of Memorial Day by decorating with red, white and blue, and creating thematic treats. Prepare a thin, flat layer of flavored gelatin, and use cookie cutters in the shapes of each American state to cut out patriotic snacks. Challenge guests to find all the states they've lived in or visited. Make a patriotic cake covered in white icing. Use strawberries to create the red lines in the flag, and blueberries to fill in a blue background where the stars would go. Ask everyone to arrive wearing either red or blue. These colors will provide an easy method for forming teams for outdoor games, such as basketball, kickball or freeze tag. If the weather is warm enough, celebrate the approaching summer by opening the pool, setting up a slip and slide or filling up some water guns.
War Movie Marathon
Set aside some favorite war movies to watch each evening during Memorial Day weekend. Ideas include "Saving Private Ryan," "Pearl Harbor" or "The Patriot." Keep in mind that some war movies might have scenes you wouldn't want your youngest kids watching, so save those for after bedtime.
Writing to Soldiers
Get the kids involved by sending notes to today's soldiers, expressing thanks for their willingness to sacrifice their time and lives. This can be done online through various organizations, such as LettersToSoldiers.org. Helping younger children write letters will bring to life the purpose of Memorial Day.