How we Remember Together: Educating Children on Remembrance Day

On November 11th each year, Canada commemorates Remembrance Day, which marked the end of World War I in 1918. It may also be commonly known as Armistice Day. 

On Remembrance Day, Canadians take time to honour the men and women who have served and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict, and peace.  

The poppy flower is the symbol of Remembrance Day. In his 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields,” Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian poet, soldier, and physician, paints a piercing, evocative image of poppy flowers growing on the makeshift graves of those fallen in the Battle of Ypres.  

Today, the poem continues to be a part of Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canada and other countries throughout the world. The poem, written after the death of a close friend, was first published in Punch magazine and led to the adoption of the poppy as the Flower of Remembrance for the British and Commonwealth war dead. 

The importance of talking about Remembrance Day with children: 

Celebrating holidays in every culture focuses on teaching traditions, history, and the reason a group of people cares for one another. Remembrance Day is the time to talk to children about the importance of honouring the history of Canada and the previous generations of Canadians. For many, this is the time when the older members of the family have a chance to share their personal stories. 

Holidays build a strong bond in a family and community, promoting feelings of security and belonging. The seasonal nature of some holidays creates a sense of predictability and comfort in the familiar for young people.  

At the end of October – the beginning of November children will see poppies on the lapels of the people around them, and the Poppy Boxes in stores across Canada. Talking to them about the history of the day can help them make sense of what they observe around them. 

Gaining accurate and respectful understanding of Remembrance Day, broadening their worldview, and creating a context for their experiences can become powerful learning outcomes for children.

Commemorate Remembrance Day with children of different ages: 

If your centre chooses to include Remembrance Day activities in your curriculum, there are several ways you can do so.  

For preschoolers and school age, focusing on veterans could help educators to discuss the idea of service and peace without broaching the complicated topic of war. Remembrance Day also gives us an opportunity to talk about the privilege of living in a safe country, and how those serving in the Canadian forces provide support and assistance to those in need overseas and at home, for example, during natural disasters, such as blizzards, floods, etc. such as during the 1997 Red River Flood. 

To encourage youth to participate in Remembrance tradition, The Royal Canadian Legion created a Teaching Guide in order to assist Canadian educators, by providing them with brief notes on Canadian history and its important symbols, Remembrance songs and poems, as well as suggested activities. 
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The teaching Guide offers several craft activities that can be offered to children of different ages. 

  • Draw or paint a poppy and put it on your window 
  •  Craft a paper poppy
  •  Paint a poppy on a stone to put on the gravesites of Canadian Veterans

Remembrance Day Activities & Crafts

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Remembrance Day Craft Kit: 

Our convenient Remembrance Day Poppy Craft includes materials for 50 poppies – tissue paper and chenille stems – as well as a teaching guide. Watch the video below for easy-to-follow instructions. 

Video: Remembrance Day Poppy Craft

Activities for preschool and school-age children: 

To engage a child in an activity, we can set up what is called a ‘provocation’ in the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Similar philosophy is behind the painting/drawing trays in the Montessori approach. Debra Honegger from Journey into Early Education defines a provocation as “deliberate and thoughtful decisions made by the teacher to extend the ideas of the children.

Teachers provide materials, media, and general direction as needed, but the children take the ideas where they want. This allows children to develop skills of creativity, inventiveness, and flexibility in thinking, planning and reflecting.”  

Open-ended, process-based activities promote children’s creativity and individuality, foster their sense of self, and allow them to explore and express themselves freely. 

Loose Part Poppy 

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Offer a child a frame with a pipe cleaner or two, for stems, and a variety of materials (pom poms, buttons, beads, foam shapes, pieces of felt, wood, etc.) in green, red, and black – and watch them create a poppy. Each flower will be unique! Some might even work in 3D! 

Process based art opportunities allow children to create independently. Through free exploration they learn the physical properties of the materials, their own abilities, and are not limited in their experimentation. Such opportunities foster children’s sense of autonomy and trust in their own creative abilities. Process art is child-driven, and the result of such experience is unique and individual for each child. 

Suggested Materials: 

Remembrance Day Suncatcher  

It is traditional to display poppies on our windows on Remembrance Day – and what better way to let children’s creativity shine but with a vibrant suncatcher? 

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Prepare a flower-shaped frame made of black paper and glue an insert of tracing paper inside it. Provide the child with plenty of tissue paper pieces, the middle piece (a circle of black paper with a fringe, cut with scissors by a teacher or the child), and a glue stick.  

Attach the completed poppy to the window – and watch the sunshine and glow through it! 

Suggested Materials: 

Activities for the younger ones: 

It is challenging to come up with an activity for infants, especially when trying to start a conversation on such a complex topic as the history of service and commemoration. At the age 0 to 18 months, children perceive the world on a sensory level. They are attracted to bright colours, new textures, and so on. We can provide the youngest children with the experiences that they will grow to associate with the season and Remembrance Day. 

Sensory play is important for children, because it provides fun and engaging experiences, while allowing children to explore, experiment, and make observations. It is proven that sensory play helps to build nerve connections in the brain; encourages the development of motor skills; supports language development; encourages ‘scientific thinking’ and problem solving; and can involve mindful activities, which are beneficial for all children. 

Remembrance Day Sensory Bin: 

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Offer the child a bin full of red, green, and black, age-appropriate materials with different textures, to touch, squish, and poke! 

Suggested Materials: 

Those who choose to commemorate Remembrance Day and to observe it in childcare centres, emphasize the importance of the conversation about the past, so we don’t forget its lessons and can continue learning from it and growing, remembering and honouring the sacrifice of those who served and continue to serve in the times of war and peace. 

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row, 
    That mark our place; and in the sky 
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 
We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 
        In Flanders fields. 
Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
    The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
    If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
        In Flanders fields. 

John McCrae

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