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Memorial Day this year falls on Monday, May 29. If you’re looking for some family-friendly activities to help your kids learn about and honor the true spirit of Memorial Day, read on for some helpful ideas. But first, a little history about this important day to honor those who gave their lives serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Memorial Day’s origins trace back to 1864, when a group of women in Pennsylvania began visiting the graves of the deceased Civil War soldiers, placing flowers on them in memory of their service.

In 1866, after word spread about visiting and decorating the graves, women in Mississippi began doing the same thing and “Decoration Day” was born.

Waterloo, N.Y., is the first place that officially celebrated a holiday called Memorial Day, and on May 5, 1868, General John Logan made the day official as flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at the Arlington National Cemetery.

After World War II, Memorial Day became a day to honor all deceased veterans of any war or service instead of just those who had died in the Civil War. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved Memorial Day from its fixed date of May 30 to the last Monday in May. The law went into action on the federal level in 1971.

Family Activities for Memorial Day
There are a number of ways families can take advantage of a late spring Monday off while still paying respect to America’s protectors past and present.

While reading to children is a stellar way to spur their imaginations, Ellen Sturm Niz at Parents Magazine suggests using Memorial Day as a prompt to help kids better understand its meaning. She suggests The Wall by Eve Bunting and Memorial Day Surprise by Theresa Golding.

In The Wall, a young boy and his father travel to Washington, D.C. to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to find Grandpa’s name. In Memorial Day Surprise, a mom tells her son that there is a “big surprise” at the Memorial Day parade, which turns out to be his grandfather, a veteran, being applauded as a hero at the end of the procession.

The bloggers at believes Memorial Day is a perfect time to introduce or remind youngsters about flying the American Flag, visiting a National Cemetery, or even building a care package for an in-service vet or one who is being cared for at a regional veterans hospital.

You can access a list of approved agencies to help get your care package delivered here.

This Memorial Day we pause to remember and honor the brave Americans who have died in service to the country.