Well, we’ve been in school for about 3 weeks now. We’re getting into a routine, both in my classroom and at home. Extra-curricular activities are in full swing after school. In a few days, it will be September. Fall is nearly upon us. It’s time to pack away the summer gear and settle into a new season.
This is where Labor Day comes in, right? The unofficial end of summer. A day off from school. Grills are lit for the last time, pools are open for one final day, and people host one final gathering in their backyard before the patio furniture is put away until spring. This is what Labor Day is about! Memorial Day ushers in summer, Labor Day bids it a fond farewell.
This is, most definitely, NOT what Labor Day is about. Nor is Memorial Day a celebration of the beginning of summer, but that’s a post for another time. When I ask kids what Labor Day is about, the unanimous answer is usually that it is a day off from school. Now, I’m not going to deny that having a day off school is great fun, especially because it means a day off of work for me and all other hard-working teachers in this country. But I do take time to explain to my kids where the holiday came from, and why it is important we recognize those who work so hard in our country.
Labor Day became a holiday in 1894, to honor the working class in America and its contributions to the prosperity and well-being of our country. Typically, the day was celebrated with summertime activities and parades, and these traditions hold true today. So, how do we help children remember what Labor Day is really about? Here are some suggestions:
- Take your child with you to work one day: Introduce them to people in your workplace, and encourage them to learn about the role each person plays. Maybe see if another relative or close friend would be willing to have your child tag along to their job one day.
- Visit businesses that allow tours for kids: Most fire and police stations are open for tours at scheduled times. This is a fun way for kids to ask questions and get a sneak peek behind the scenes. My daughter’s kindergarten class is taking a field trip to a local grocery store, dairy and library this year. Apple season is upon us, and we have a local cider mill and orchard that gives tours.
- Talk about the jobs people do while you are frequenting a business: How many people does it take to make Target/Toys R Us/Red Robin run successfully? Discuss all the different people working at the dentist’s office or school. Talk to your kids so they appreciate the hard work these people do every day. My brother wanted to be a shoe salesman when he was a kid. Clearly, our trips to the mall for shoes made an impression.
- Hit the library for books about various professions: I have quite the collection of occupation books in my classroom, because we have the kids do a report on what they want to be when they grow up. You can find many “A Day in the Life of….” books that are easy for kids to understand.
No matter how you celebrate Labor Day, take time to thank those who work hard to keep our lives running smoothly. They are the ones who truly deserve a day off.