November 11 is Veterans Day; a day to remember the commitment and service of our troops and to honor their contributions. It’s also an ideal day to introduce kids to community involvement.
“Veterans Day gives kids the opportunity to serve,” says Nancy Levy, director of donor relations for Operation Gratitude, an organization that provides volunteer opportunities for Americans who want to express their appreciation to military personnel. “That’s a really great way for parents to approach the day, because we do want our children to be philanthropic and to give in whatever way is possible for them.”
Here are five ways for kids to serve on Veterans Day:
- Write a Letter to a Soldier or Veteran
Sending a thank-you letter to a veteran or soldier is an easy activity to do with all ages. Older kids can write and decorate their letter, while younger kids can draw a picture. Operation Gratitude puts the letters in each care package that they send out. With more than 200,000 care packages going out every year, they are always in need of more letters. Levy says soldiers treasure the letters most.
- Host a Care Package Party
Bus tickets, travel-size hygiene products, and hand- and foot-warmers are welcome year round at VA centers and Operation Gratitude, says Levy. Kids can collect any needed items and assemble the care packages. Beanie Babies are also a popular care package item. They are appreciated among soldiers, and can help them build relationships with the communities in which they are stationed. “We have had children point out to our military personnel where IEDs and insurgents are hiding, all because the soldier gave the children a Beanie Baby to hold onto,” says Levy.
- Make a Paracord Survival Bracelet
A paracord survival bracelet is an easy-to-make braided bracelet that uses parachute cord (or paracord) that can hold up to 550 pounds. Paracord bracelets provide seven and a half feet of rope or string, which can be unbraided and used for life-saving purposes, such as making a makeshift sling, stitching a wound, repairing gear, or making nets. Operation Gratitude accepts donations of paracord bracelets to include in care packages. Check out their blog post for bracelet instructions.
- No-Sew Fleece Blankets
No-sew fleece blankets are “perfect and easy to do at home,” says Vanessa Gates, youth and family program coordinator for Volunteers of America, Colorado Branch. “Kids can have a sleepover, bring a pair of scissors, the fabric, and cut and tie up the blankets.” The no-sew blankets keep homeless and housed vets warm, and are easy enough to make in front of the TV. Simple instructions are available on Instructables.com.
- Patriotic Hand Flag Craft
Commemorate the day by making this patriotic handprint craft. Kids can easily turn their finished piece into a card for soldiers by writing a message on the back.