Armistice Day occurs every year on 11th November, and it marks the day in 1918 when the guns stopped on the World War One battlefields as negotiations started to end the war and find a peaceful settlement. Armistice is Latin for “still arms” and it started at 11.00am. on the 11th day of the 11th month (November). Today, we mark the moment with a two-minute silence across the country and many countries around the world do the same in their time zones.
Remembrance Sunday is observed on the second Sunday in November (as close to Armistice Day as possible) and is a day of commemoration across the globe when people stop to remember the lives lost and sacrifices made in human conflicts since World War One.
Whilst most adults understand the significance and importance of marking these events, it can be difficult to relay this to children without worrying them or frightening them about some of the events in our human past, especially when certain parts of the world are at war even as the wreaths are being laid.
However, there are ways that early years settings can introduce children to the important messages of Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, in an age-appropriate and compassionate way, so read on for some ideas that you can use.
Main themes to consider
Rather than focusing on the terrible loss of life and sacrifice that wars bring, think about the following themes that are still relevant to Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, but which are more age-appropriate.
- Saying thank you to people who look after us and keep us safe, such as servicemen and women, as well as police, fire crews and ambulance/health workers
- Acknowledge the contribution that brave people have made to our society and what it means to be brave and stand up for what is right
- Help children think about people in the past who have made life possible today and the differences across time
- Show pride in our country whilst recognising and embracing how we can work together with people in other countries to overcome adversity
Practical things to do
Making poppies is relevant to early years and there are lots of craft ideas online that you can use to make poppies to wear as buttonholes, to decorate home-made wreaths, or add to a wall display. Red poppies are used to remember the members of the armed forces who died in conflicts in World War One and since, but there are other colours of poppies that can be used to represent other groups as well.
- Purple poppies – commemorate animal victims of war
- Black poppies commemorate the contributions of Black, African and Caribbean communities to the war effort either as servicemen and servicewomen or as civilians
- White poppies are often worn to remember those who died, but emphasising an end to the conflict
Think about ways to create poppies using different media including:
- Paint with thumb/handprints or stencils
- Tissue paper, card, and straws
- Felt and material
- Paper plates
- Play dough or clay
Use storytime to share stories of people being brave or working together to overcome events and concentrate on the camaraderie and unity that people have found during hard times, rather than the conflicts. Talk about the importance of peace and discussing differences so that children can understand other people’s points of view and respect their different cultures. Search for books and stories which are age-appropriate. There are lots of age-appropriate videos on YouTube telling the story of Armistice Day and the Poppy Appeal.
Take the children on an excursion to your local war memorial to explain how people can be remembered even when they are no longer around. Show them the names on the plaques and memorials and explain that they have been left there so that they will never be forgotten. You could then ask the children if there are people in their own life who they like to think about.
Make a display in a corner of your setting using battery-operated tealights to represent people that the children would like to remember. This could introduce the children to the act of thinking about people who are not with them now (not necessarily deceased) so they could think about their parents, grandparents, friends, neighbours or pets, or anyone else who is special to them. You could make some tealight holders from paper cups and get the children to decorate them, perhaps getting staff to write on some words that the children use to describe each person.
Sing songs about peace and living together to reinforce the values that you want to promote in the children. You can also find songs about giving thanks to the world around you and introduce the idea that you want to give thanks for the people who serve in the Army, Royal Navy, and Air Force for everything they do to keep people safe. There are some simple songs on YouTube which you can use to sing along to and get the children to join in. Or think about writing your own words to a well-known tune like “Frere Jacques” or “London’s Burning”.
Why not commemorate Remembrance Sunday this year and help your older children learn about and understand their emotions at the same time? Ask the children to think about things that they remember and then ask them to describe how they feel and why they feel like that. For example, you can help them think about things like a day out with their family, or a food they like or a pet. Then talk about how they feel and give them some vocabulary around that to help.
Observe a moment of silence
Explain to the children that on Armistice Day, or Remembrance Sunday, you would like to remember the special people who have served their country in times of war and peace. Explain that the rest of the country will also stop what they are doing at a particular time (11:00 a.m. on 11/11) and ask them to join you to think about special people in their own lives. Remember, you may have children of servicemen and women in your setting too so be sensitive to this. You might find that 2 minutes is too long for your children, but even a few moments of silence can help get the message across.
Whatever you do, send us your pictures and stories to email@example.com.