Celebrating President's Day
Can you name all of America's past presidents? If not, perhaps it's time you and your family brushed up on your U.S. history – and what better time than the annual celebration of Presidents' Day? This year, turn the holiday into a fun and educational experience for both you and your children with a patriotic adventure to honor our presidents for their contributions while at the same time learning a thing or two about the job of president.
A History of Presidents' Day
The third Monday in February, also known as Presidents' Day, is a holiday to honor all past U.S. presidents; however, this was not always the case. Many may remember that prior to 1971, two days were celebrated: Feb. 12 to honor Abraham Lincoln and Feb. 22 to honor George Washington. In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared one holiday, instead of two.
Patriotic Day Trip
A day trip centered on a governmental theme can uncover many new and exciting ways to celebrate Presidents' Day. Teri J. Brown, author of Day Tripping: Your Guide to Educational Family Adventures (Champion Press, 2003), recommends taking a day trip to initiate interest in the subject.
"One of the best ways to help a child become involved in a topic they have no interest in is to create a day trip that will spark their interest," says Brown. "Day trips bring subjects and topics to life. It gives children something they can see, do and touch. It is much easier for children to make learning connections if it is in front of them."
For your patriotic day trip, consider traveling to your state's Capitol. Touring the Capitol building can give you and your children a better understanding of governmental proceedings in your area. "You can explain to them that the state Capitol is where the state is run, and the U.S. Capitol is very similar, only it is where the country is run," says Brown. "Many children will be able to make the connection quite easily, and you never know where the conversation will take you!"
For more information on your state's Capitol and tour dates, visit www.50states.com.
Take a Virtual Field Trip
If the weather outside in your area is not cooperating, stay inside and take a virtual field trip with your children via the Internet.
Start your field trip at the White House's Web site at www.whitehouse.gov. Across the top of the page, click on History & Tours. This section is filled with information including presidential biographies, White House virtual tours, facts, photo essays and much more to give your children a glimpse at the life of a president.
Next, click over to the White House Kids site at www.whitehouse.gov/kids. Here your children can learn about the current president, vice president and first lady. Click on Barney's White House ABC's to learn fun facts on the history of the White House, then have your children take the Kid's Quiz to see how much they really learned.
After visiting the White House, travel over to the U.S. Embassy's Web site to learn all there is to know about Presidents' Day in their American Holidays section. Here you'll find dozens of links to online sources of presidential information including background information, links to online versions of historical documents, lesson plans and more.
For a primer on electing a president, visit BBC News' How to Elect a U.S. President page, which uses a baseball analogy to educate children on the process. By clicking on each of the baseball diamond bases, children can learn about the primaries, the convention, the campaign and Election Day.
Finally, stop by www.americanpresidents.org/ to learn everything there is to know about each U.S. president. Select a president from the pull-down menu across the top of the page to read important life facts, listen to a letter from the president, view portraits in the portrait gallery and learn about important events that occurred during each presidency.
A Learner's Paradise
One afternoon at your local library can uncover plenty of books and movies that will educate both children and adults alike on the presidents and presidential campaigns. Let everyone browse through different books, or sit together as a family to read a patriotic story.
Some suggested books for younger children include:
- The Story of the White House by Kate Waters (Scholastic, 1992)
- Abe Lincoln's Hat by Martha Brenner (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1994)
- George Washington and the General's Dog by Frank Murphy (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2002)
- The Buck Stops Here: The Presidents of the United States by Alice Provensen (Browndeer Press, 1997)
- Arthur Meets the President: An Arthur Adventure by Marc Brown (Little Brown & Company, 1992)
- A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln by David A. Adler (Holiday House, 1990)
- A Picture Book of George Washington by David A. Adler (Holiday House, 1990)
- Presidents' Day by David F. Marx, Nanci R. Vargus and Katharine A. Kane (Children's Press, 2002)
If your local library has a video section, look for these "presidential" movies:
- Portraits of American Presidents (Questar Inc., 1992)
- American Presidents: The Most Powerful Man on Earth (Bfs Entertainment & Multimedia, 1997)
- Air Force One: The Planes and the Presidents – Flight II (Mpi Home Video, 1997)
- Holiday Facts & Fun: Presidents Day (SVE & Churchill media, 1992)
- U.S. Presidents (Phoenix Multimedia Inc., 1999)
With a little forethought and creativity you can turn Presidents' Day into more than just a day off of school. Kids can have fun and add to their knowledge of our country.
Additional Online Activities
Below are Web sites that offer presidential crafts, projects and activities you can do with your kids:
- At Primary Games.com, you'll find coloring pages, games and printable stationery.
- Log on to Enchanted Learning.com for craft projects designed to honor the presidents.
- Education-World.com offers unique projects to honor this day, such as creating a presidential timeline, imagining you are president for the day and creating a presidential picture book.
- ChildFun.com has dozens of activities to celebrate Presidents' Day, such as creating graham cracker log cabins, making money rubbings, making a Lincoln bracelet, drawing presidential silhouettes and more.