Some say the President of the United States of America is one of the most powerful people in the world. To honor and commemorate the lives and contributions of the 44 U.S. presidents every year, President’s Day is an annual celebration in the US that falls on the third Monday of February. It is also a national holiday. This year, instead of simply resting and watching Netflix over the long weekend, why not learn the history of this day, and engage in some fun activities with the kids!
1. Why President’s Day Is Observed in the US
Here are some fun facts about President’s Day to share with the kids.
- It was initially called ‘Washington’s Birthday’, as this day was established to honor the memory of the first ever American president, George Washington.
- His birthday fell on February 22nd. The commemoration used to be celebrated on Washington’s birthday every year, but later it was renamed and moved to the third Monday of February. This was to ensure that workers could enjoy more three-day weekends.
- In the federal government, this day is still referred to as ‘Washington’s Birthday’, while the American public oftentimes refers to it as ‘President’s Day.’
- On Washington’s birthday in 1862, a tradition of reading Washington’s farewell address was started by the Senate to boost morale during the Civil War. This tradition is observed to this day.
- Not only Washington’s life is commemorated on President’s Day. It can also be referred to as Presidents’ Day, as all American presidents, past and present, are honored. In particular, Abraham Lincoln is remembered in many US states as his birthday also fell in February, on the 12th.
2. What Do People Do on President’s Day in the United States?
Even though it’s a long weekend, many businesses remain open and hold special sales on this day. Some schools close for the whole week, starting from the weekend, for a mid-winter break. If you happen to be living in, or visiting the US, the following activities are not only interesting, but also fun for the kids to partake in on President’s Day 2018.
- Attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, and attend a reading of the Gettysburg Address. Learn about Lincoln’s presidency and legacy, and also enjoy the panoramic views of Washington D.C. from the top of the memorial.
- George Washington’s Birthday Parade is the largest parade held in the USA, and takes place annually in Alexandria, Virginia, where Washington once lived. The town itself has a wealth of historical buildings and other sites to visit.
- While there, don’t miss out on a free Washington Tour of Alexandria that traces Washington’s steps through his hometown.
- Visit the National Portrait Gallery for a painting of each American President. On President’s Day, the Gallery often offers fun family activities and events.
- Attend a Revolutionary War Reenactment. These are historic camp and tactical demonstrations that take place throughout the day, which includes a battle between the ‘Redcoats’ and the Colonials from the Revolutionary War.
- Visit Abraham Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldier’s Home in Washington D.C. to get a close and unusual look into his private and family life.
3. Why We Honor Our History/Heritage
It is important to stay connected to our history. This gives us a sense of belonging and lineage, also of our people’s values and traditions. After all, we are who we are because of our ancestors, so knowing our history adds to our sense of identity. It also allows us to acknowledge the many sacrifices made by others for us and our country, and is an excellent teaching tool, with valuable lessons to be learned, both good and bad.
However, many traditions and wisdom wouldn’t have survived if it weren’t for storytelling, and later writing. Books and other sources, such as the internet, are a very good way to stay connected with our forebears’’ knowledge and wisdom. Learning to read well is therefore very important for keeping in touch with our history, and one of the greatest gifts parents can give a child. Research has shown that even reading out loud to children from birth, will benefit them greatly later on in life. Look at what Sciencedaily says about the research:
New research at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting shows that reading books with a child beginning in early infancy can boost vocabulary and reading skills four years later, before the start of elementary school.
Lead author and research assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, Dr. Carolyn Cates said that reading to children from infancy can have a lasting effect on language, literacy and early reading skills.
It is never too late to instill a love of reading into children. The best way would be to encourage their reading skills from a young age. Red Cat Reading makes this possible for children at kindergarten level already.
4. Fun Things to Do with The Kids on President’s Day
To make it a happy President’s Day, here are a few suggestions as to how to keep the kids happy and occupied, without losing the historical significance of this day.
How About A Museum Visit?
Visit a national history museum, such as the National Museum of American History, or any national history museum in your own country. Often, museums have brochures in English for tourists, so have the kids read these out loud. Be sure to visit The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden exhibit, with almost 1000 objects and artifacts on display. Visit this site for a register of all the U.S.A. Presidential Museums and Libraries in the country. These institutions often feature special events about the lives of the American presidents, with exhibits to match. It could be a highly educational and fun experience for the kids that they will talk about long after.
After the visit, the kids could write a letter about their visit in English, perhaps to their grandparents or their school teacher, telling about their experiences and impressions of what they learned. The younger ones can write single words and illustrate their stories. This is a good way to not only cement their new knowledge, but practice vocabulary and expression in English.
Watching English movies is another great way to learn pronunciation and expand one’s vocabulary. After a visit to the museums, be sure to entertain the kids with Night at the Museum, a very popular series of three comedies that even features one of the American Presidents – Teddy Roosevelt.
Watch Videos and Make Presidential Masks for a Play
Watch some short videos about the American presidents here in English with the kids, and get a good dose of history. Afterwards, engage in some creative crafts! Make a mask for each president, and re-enact the videos in English. Learn here how to make the masks.
Other Crafts for President’s Day
More fun crafts kids can enjoy on President’s Day include making Lincoln’s Hat, the American flag, a Standalone Star or a Patriotic Pinwheel and Windsock. Here is a website explaining how to make these and many more.
What I Would Do If I Were President – essays
Another fun activity would be for the children to write short English essays with the title: What I Would Do If I Were the President. Each child can read their essay wearing a president’s mask for fun, and perhaps put on a play for their friends and the rest of the family.
President’s Day Word Search
Word puzzles are always fun! Kids can be given these worksheets, downloaded and printed from this website, to find and circle the words listed. This is a fun way to practice and expand their English vocabulary.
Take a Virtual Tour of the White House and Washington’s House
Can’t visit the USA national museum? No problem. It is now possible to visit the White House in a virtual tour. This symbol of the President and the President’s Administration can be viewed and enjoyed online with the children on this site. Also, ‘visit’ President Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon via this site, and ‘walk’ where he and his family used to, over 100 years ago. This can be a good opportunity to ‘Point and Say’ in English to practice and expand vocabulary.
Visit Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and the US President’s Gallery
The lifelike wax figures of all the 44 American Presidents are sure to ignite any child’s imagination. The museum is offers an interactive educational experience specially tailored for children of all ages. This is a time-travel trip the kids will never forget in a world-renowned facility.
Play a Game on any iOS Device with Apps
Search the various App Stores for games related to American Presidents. Presidents vs Aliens, for instance, is a fun and educational game that makes learning great fun.
Write A Letter to The White House
Give your kids the experience of having their voices heard by writing letters to the current President, First Lady or Vice President. Follow the White House guidelines carefully to make sure their letters reach the intended person. This is a good exercise to practice English writing skills and spelling, while at the same time making the kids understand empowerment.
We are who we are because of our history, and it is good to honor this. This is what President’s Day is about in the United States. Give your children the gift of reading, so they can follow and do their own investigation into your country’s undoubtedly rich history. Red Cat Reading makes this fun and easy.