7 Fun Ways to Celebrate Presidents’ Day with Your Children
A distinctly American holiday, Presidents' Day was originally established to recognize the contributions of George Washington, and later expanded to include Abraham Lincoln, who both have February birthdays. It is now considered a day to honor, and learn, about all U.S. presidents. Here are some ideas for teaching your kids about the legacy of each.
Get up close and personal with presidential history
The history of the United States, and our presidents, can be found everywhere. Many local museums are closed on Mondays, but some remain open to the public on Presidents’ Day. A full listing of U.S. Presidential Museums and Libraries can be found. (Note that the Washington Monument is closed for renovations until 2019.) These institutions feature exhibits and hold special events about American history and the lives of our presidents. If you’re on the East coast, you can also sleuth out local landmarks, such as those commemorating the Civil War, the abolition of slavery, or the Revolutionary War, and schedule a day trip. Other types of historical location that tell a presidential story include presidential birth places, historical districts, national landmarks, and national parks. For a full listing, check out the National Register of Historic Places. Who knows what facts about Presidents’ Day you may uncover? You can start with these little-known facts about the White House.
Presidents’ Day facts are as close as your phone
If your family is snowed in for Presidents’ Day or you don’t live within easy driving distance from a historical location, there are plenty of ways to learn, and engage, with U.S. presidential history without leaving the house, says Alexandria Abramian, content director at Forcefield, a parental-control app. There are so many kid-friendly apps that are chock-full of Presidents’ Day trivia. Abramian suggests Presidents vs. Aliens for grade school kids. “This app is a great way to learn about U.S. presidents, while having fun along the way. Questions about presidential facts, quotes, historical events, and nicknames, are given. With each correct answer, players can fling the president’s head at aliens, in a bowling-ball type game,” she says. Want more trivia? Check out 10 things you didn’t know about “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Glimpse into each president’s life on a virtual tour
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., features a vast, permanent exhibit called The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden. The exhibit includes 900 fascinating objects, which make presidential history come alive. They range from the personal, like Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson’s dessert plates, to the iconic, such as a portion of the rail fence, split by Abraham Lincoln. You may not be able to get to D.C., but you can still take your child on a virtual tour of the exhibit. Online, you can look up each president, and access the objects related to his presidency. The tour includes a treasure trove of Presidents’ Day trivia, and provides unique glimpses into day-to-day life at the White House. A favorite exhibit is the collection of First Ladies’ inaugural dresses.
Put on a Presidents’ Day play
Have your kids reenact a famous presidential speech, such as Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, which was named by Time as one of the top 10 greatest speeches of all time. You can even turn Presidents’ Day into a play date by inviting the neighborhood kids over to write, and star in, a play about a specific president. Hit the library first, and nab a few books the kids can read that provide rich descriptions and potential scenes that would work well in a play format. Some good ones to try include A Christmas Tree in the White House, a lovely children’s book about Theodore Roosevelt’s family, and his commitment to wildlife conservation, or George Washington and the General’s Dog, a true-life story about George Washington and an adorable pooch who wanders onto a battlefield. The day can include making costumes, memorizing lines, and painting scenery. Be sure to record the final result! For an even better play, try acting out the hidden talents of American presidents.
Communicate with the White House
Let your child know their voice can be heard by having them write to the current President, First Lady, or Vice President. They can communicate their hopes for the future, and their feelings about current events. “Your child can send a letter through the U.S. mail, or they can send an email. They can also post on the President’s official Facebook page, or send him a tweet. Just be sure to follow the official White House guidelines to ensure your message gets through,” suggests speech pathologist, Jann Fujimoto, MS, CCC-SLP. Fujimoto uses this empowering exercise to help children acquire confidence, and to master communication skills, and spelling.
Make Presidents’ Day crafts
Kids and crafts go together, like presidents and legislation. It doesn’t take a whole lot of supplies to get started, and there are tons of Presidents’ Day crafts you can access on Pinterest for inspiration. An easy one to recreate: Lincoln’s signature top hat recreated with black construction paper and glue. Another idea: An Air Force One paper airplane. “Simply fold your own paper Air Force One plane. and pretend it is taking off from Washington, D.C. This activity benefits fine motor skills. You can also incorporate facts about geography, by discussing where in the world your plane may land,”suggests Fujimoto.
Have your child “run” for office
“Help your child come up with a campaign slogan, and a platform of issues,” says Craig Bach, PhD, vice president of education for the Goddard School. “Ask if there are problems they can see, and what he or she would do to fix them. This is an excellent academic activity, because it helps children learn about government, and what a president does.” Bach suggests having your child craft campaign materials, such as posters, buttons, and flyers, to go along with their campaign. Then, you can stage an election, using your child’s stuffed animals or dolls, as the voters.