Teaching Children About Memorial Day FHE Lesson

Until this year, our family has never really discussed the real purpose of Memorial Day and just enjoy the day off work and school. We don’t have many family members that have passed on with graves close by, so we don’t usually visit a cemetery. My son asked me this year what is the purpose of Memorial Day, and he wasn’t the youngest one either.  This prompted me to create a FHE specifically about exactly where Memorial Day came from.  I have pooled from various resources in my home and on the internet to create this.  I want my children to understand why we celebrate Memorial Day, instead of it just being another vacation from school.

For many kids today, the real meaning behind Memorial Day is lost. They know that they get a three day weekend, they may know about all the huge sales going on during this time, and they also know that school is about over when this holiday rolls around. However, Memorial Day is a lot more than just a day off from school and kids need to be taught about this day and the meaning behind it. Finding ways to teach kids about the significance of Memorial Day and how important it is to honor those who have protected the freedom of this country is important.

Teaching Children About Memorial Day FHE Lesson PDF

Opening Song: I Have a Family Tree – PS 199 or Faith of our Fathers – Hymn 84

Opening Prayer:

Scripture: Exodus 12:14

Lesson: Teach Your Child the History of Memorial Day

Many kids do not know the history behind the day, and you may even be rusty on the history that led to this day becoming a national holiday.

The history of Memorial Day goes all the way back to 1866, right after the nation was recovering from the Civil war. Both the North and the South saw soldiers coming home with serious injuries and many towns had lost friends and loved ones to this war. In Waterloo, New York, a drugstore owner named Henry Welles came up with the idea that on one day all the shops would close down to honor those who had been killed during the war. It was May 5th that everyone in the town went to the graves of those in the local cemetery and put out flowers and crosses on their graves. A similar ceremony was planned by Retired Major General Jonathan A. Logan, which was for soldiers that had survived the Civil War. He took veterans through town to decorate the graves of comrades with flags. It was a memorial, not a celebration, and it was called Decoration Day.

Decoration Day was proclaimed by Logan to be a day for decorating the graves of those who had died defending the country. These two ceremonies were joined together to be one in 1868. ON these days songs were sung, veterans would wear their uniforms and medals, veterans would go to cemeteries to remember the fallen, and town people would decorate graves with flags, flowers, and photos.

It was not until 1882 that the name Memorial Day was actually used and the day was made to be a remembrance to all soldiers who had died fighting for this country. President Nixon would then declare it a federal holiday in 1971, to be on the very last Monday in the month of May. Still today though, Waterloo, New York is considered to be the birthplace of this holiday.

Remind Kids that This is a Time to Remember

After you teach your children the history behind Memorial Day, you also need to remind kids that this is a time to remember. It is a time to remember all those Americans who have fought in the past to keep this country safe and free. It is a day to honor and respect the armed forces, those who have already died, and those who continue to serve our country still today. Of course, remember to teach children that this day isn’t just limited to honoring and remembering those in the armed forces. It is a wonderful time for personal remembrance as well, remembering family members and friends that have been lost. It is a day to reflect upon the losses of those who have made our lives better.

Encourage a Moment of Remembrance

As you are teaching your kids about Memorial Day, it’s a good idea to encourage a moment of remembrance on this holiday. Consider finding ways that you can celebrate this holiday in your community or join the rest of America at 3pm on this day to have a moment of remembrance. Kids can pick out a way for them to spend this moment. Ideas include having a moment of silence, taking a moment to say a prayer, or perhaps ringing a bell in remembrance of those who have done so much for this country.

Don’t allow your children to go on thinking that Memorial Day is just another day off school or just another holiday. This is an important day that kids need to know about. Teach your kids the history and importance of Memorial Day and remember past American heroes together.

 For Teenagers:

I LOVE the History Channel and so does my oldest son.  What better resources to use than this?  They have a wonderful video you can use as part of your lesson.  It’s called “History of Memorial Day”.  You can view it on our website below, or go directly to the History Channel on the internet.

Relating the Lesson to your family:

Ask if your children know of any family member who has fought in a war.  If not be prepared to teach them who it was and what war they fought in.  If possible, obtain a picture of each person and display it for the week as a reminder of this lesson.

Fun Activities you can do with your family:

Make an annual family flag to fly outside your home on Memorial Day, in addition to the American Flag.  (We have a video on Family flags you can resource for ideas.)

Travel with your extended family to all the places where your ancestors are buried.

Visit a cemetery as a family. The other day I realized we had never taken our children to the Salt Lake City cemetery where all our past prophets are buried.  This is a beautiful place and filled with so much history.

Visit a Family History Library in your area.  Take a tour and learn how to use the sources available to research and find the members of your family. You may even find someone “famous” to whom you are related.

Take a Memorial Day hike to somewhere that is rich in U.S. History.  I was recently able to take a walk with my friends in South Carolina at The Battle of the Cow Pens war site.  It was fascinating to learn more about areas that were key points in the Revolutionary War.

Closing Prayer:


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Posted on May 30, 2011, in Everything Family, Family Home Evening, Holidays & Traditions, LDS Families, May and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Thanks so much for sharing. My husband’s father was a Navy veteran and is buried directly across the road from our house. What a great idea to honor him tonight especially.

  2. Valerie Bybee


    Thank you so much for letting me know of your appreciation for this post. I love it when gratitude is in the air! Valerie

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this FHE idea. We just finished our FHE and my boys loved it. Thanks!

  4. Jennifer Lundgren

    I am not Mormon but think many in other denominations can learn much from your resources on how to have a Family Worship Night. Thanks for posting your ideas.

  5. Reblogged this on Prayers and Promises and commented:
    We Remember

  6. This was exactly what I was looking for to help my children understand. This means so much to me. Our family is a long line
    of veterans and my grandfather was a prisoner of war for 4 years on Guam. This is truly a hard day, but one that needs to be talked about and talked about with respect. You did an amazing job with this lesson. Thank you~Bree

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