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What kids really need to know about Presidents' Day

Molly Cerreta Smith loves writing about all things mommy, parenting, food, health and travel. When she's not staring into the face of her Mac, she loves to hike, read, do messy crafts with her kids and compete in BBQ competitions with he...

Presidents' Day lessons every kid should hear this holiday

If your child is under the impression that Presidents' Day just means another day off school, there are a few quick and easy ways to add meaning to the holiday. These age-appropriate lessons can be used to teach kids about our nation's history — and to keep them entertained on their day off.

Which presidents does Presidents Day really honor?

The federal holiday — Washington's Birthday (often called Presidents Day) — falls on the third Monday of February. It honors George Washington, our nation’s first president, for his birthday on Feb. 22. However, in some states the holiday has also come to honor second president Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday was Feb. 12. And in other states, the holiday honors Thomas Jefferson, our third president, even though his birthday isn’t until April 13, and doesn’t include celebrating Lincoln’s birthday. Yet other states recognize all three on this day.

Each of these presidents has an important legacy in our nation’s history so you can create some fun lessons for kids about any or all of them.

More: 6 Women in history your kids (and you!) should know

Honesty is the best policy

George Washington could not tell a lie, and as a young boy, admitted to his father that he chopped down his father’s favorite cherry tree. Draw a cherry tree with your child as you discuss the importance of honesty.

Beyond his childhood, Washington was a respected war hero. He spent a great deal of time surveying the wilderness and creating maps for his soldiers.

More: 20 Crazy ways we show love to our kids

Advocate for others

Abraham Lincoln is best known for his role in abolishing slavery in the United States. Teach your children the importance of Lincoln’s impact on our country today thanks to this initiative. You can tie in lessons about Martin Luther King, who similarly advocated for African Americans in his day, and teach them why it is important to speak up for those who may not be able to speak up for themselves.

For a fun craft, make tall top hats like Lincoln wore out of construction paper.

Freedom, exploration and trying new things

Thomas Jefferson was known for many things — including penning the Declaration of Independence and organizing the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804.

But your children may be more interested in the new foods he introduced to the country — waffles, ice cream and macaroni. He was also the first person in America to grow a tomato, as prior to that tomatoes were believed to be poisonous.

In honor of Jefferson, try a new food, take your kids out for waffles or ice cream (or kill two birds with one stone by getting ice cream in waffle cones), plant tomato seeds or arrange a fun scavenger hunt and go exploring around your neighborhood.

More: 10 Beatrix Potter quotes full of wonder and wisdom

Other ways to commemorate Presidents Day with your kids:

  • Teach your kids all the presidents’ names in order of their service.
  • Ask your children what they would do first if they became president.
  • Get out some money and talk about the presidents featured on coins and dollar bills.
  • Give your kids a mini history lesson about the significance of Mount Rushmore.

Updated by Bethany Ramos on 2/8/2016 

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