November 11th every year is Remembrance Day. Your child may ask about this day after seeing people wearing poppies or selling them or seeing you observe two minutes of silence on that day. Yet, many parents feel conflicted about how much to share with their young child when it comes to Remembrance Day. To explain Remembrance Day, they have to explain World War I, and to explain that, they have to explain why there are wars in the world, and how many people and soldiers die because of war, even to this today. This can be overwhelming and confusing to a two-year-old who is just learning to be kind to others. The horror of war and the notion that grown-ups (the people they look up to) fight each-other in wars is not simple to explain to a child, so most parents simply go about wearing their poppies and paying tribute without involving their children.

It is, of course, a parent’s decision how much to share with their child and when, but in my opinion, unless a young child has grown up in a war zone, or has parents or relatives in the military, or other similar circumstances, it is too early to tell a child that grown-ups fight in wars, and that often they die or are severely injured. Our young children are just learning how to solve conflicts peacefully, how to share, how to be kind to one-another, and to see that we, as adults, have not always been able to do that is quite discouraging and sends mixed messages.

Having said that, I created my CEFA Early Learning schools with the belief that children are also citizens, and that from a very young age, they should be encouraged to participate in and to contribute to our world. The more children can be a part of finding solutions to world problems, the more practice they will have, and the more prepared they will be to change the world as adults. I think there is a way to include our children in thanking our troops that is both sensitive and developmentally appropriate. Here is what I recommend:

Explain to your child that “Soldiers are like police officers, but instead of protecting our cities, they protect our entire country, and sometimes other countries too. For example, when there are natural disasters, like hurricanes, or tsunamis, or earthquakes, or very large fires, our soldiers are the ones who rescue the people and help prevent more damage. Some soldiers go by ship, or even submarines, some go by helicopters or planes, some by trucks or tanks. They train very hard at military school to become really strong and also really good at fixing things and operating complex machines. They have to exercise everyday sometimes for many hours to be that strong, so they are prepared in case of emergencies. They are ready for disaster and humanitarian relief. Sometimes, while they are helping, they get burned, or get badly injured, and lose a leg, or an arm, or sometimes both. This makes it difficult for them to continue being soldiers (for example, they can’t run without their legs, or they can’t lift things without their arms) and they have to retire. They become veterans. On November 11th every year, at 11am, we observe two minutes of silence to thank those soldiers who have risked their lives to help keep our country safe. Some people also sell poppies that we can wear to show that we thank our soldiers, and the money they collect from selling poppies goes towards helping veterans after they come back injured and can’t work anymore. Would you like to buy a poppy to wear on Remembrance Day? You can also draw your own poppies and sell them, and I can help you send the money to our veterans.”

It is a little simplistic as an explanation, but it is one way to introduce very young children to Remembrance Day without introducing them to the horrors of war, be it WWI or current conflicts. It also explains the concept of people wearing poppies to raise funds and gives them an opportunity to participate in this activity. Plus, it means they can honour our veterans and understand what events taking place on November 11th are for. This gives them a much clearer picture of Remembrance Day.

Remembrance Day is observed on the 11th day of the 11th month (November) at the 11th hour. At that time, we pause for two minutes to remember all the brave soldiers who risk their lives to keep us safe.

Now is the part I find most important – teaching your young child to contribute, to be part of a solution, to help others. On this day, there are a few things you can do: 

1. Buy a Poppy, Wear a Poppy or Sell a Poppy
Poppies are worn on this day because a Canadian soldier, many years ago, after a great disaster (we know it is after World War One but are not talking to our children about war just yet) saw a field full of poppies, and felt that it was a symbol of hope, and of the beauty of our world. He wrote a poem about it called in Flanders Fields. Since that day, people make poppies to sell to support our veterans, and also wear them on their Left side (close to their heart) to show that they will always remember the effort that our soldiers make in order to keep us safe, and that they appreciate it.

Here are three things you can do:

  • Invite your child to earn some money to buy a poppy to wear, knowing that the money they donate goes towards helping our soldiers.
  • Invite your child to wear the poppy they purchased, and talk about the meaning of wearing it.
  • Invite your child to make a poppy to sell and help them send the money they collect from the sale to the troops (or drop it in one of the receptacles for donations they have where they sell them. Here is a template you can use.

2. Invite your Child to Participate in the Peace Crane Project

I believe every child, even the little ones, can a part in changing the world and ensuring it is a peaceful place to live for everyone. I know your child is ready to make a difference! Invite them to participate in the Peace Crane Project. This initiative every child on the planet to fold an origami crane (some might need a little help with the folding), write a message of peace on its wings, then exchange it with another student somewhere in the world. The Project builds friendships, strengthens hand-eye coordination and writing skills, teaches geography, exposes students to new languages and cultures, and empowers children to make a difference in their community, country, and world. It is free and its website also offers many interesting resources you can adapt for your young child. You can join here.

3. Send a Letter or Thank-you Card to our Troops
Your child can write a letter or send a drawing to our Canadian soldiers or veterans to express their thanks for their service, and send it using this website.

4. Talk about Peace and What it Means
This is an amazing discussion you can have with your child and will build in your child the habit of contribution. Practice looking inward to see what they can give of themselves to others in order to achieve peace. It will also foster empathy in your child. There are some books you can read together on the subject, to get you started. As you read, discuss the book and find examples your child can relate to from their everyday life.

Here is one of the books read by its author:


And here are a few more books:

When your child is older, here are some books you can read to them about Remembrance Day and war, but there is time for that, let’s preserve their innocence for a little while longer.

I hope your family has an opportunity to get involved and make a difference!
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