ANZAC day is just around the corner and is more than just a public holiday where we can relax at home or go to the beach. It is a day to reflect on our country's war heroes, and can be the perfect opportunity to teach some valuable and meaningful lessons and stories to our children!
But first, what is ANZAC Day?
Over a hundred years ago, New Zealand and Australia Army Corps (ANZAC) had their initial military campaign by joining the fight in Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I in 1915. There were 14,000 kiwis and 50,000 Aussies serving in the war, with casualties of 3000 Kiwis and 9000 Aussies.
We signify this historic event as it indicated that New Zealand had become a distinct nation, despite its small population. We remember and celebrate the heroes who lost their lives through ANZAC day, as without their sacrifice and service, we wouldn’t have the freedom and opportunities that we have today.
So, what does this mean for our children?
Celebrating ANZAC day is the perfect time to show our children how to respect and remember the past. It teaches them about humility and pride, it gives them a sense of belonging and encouragement, and instils in their minds to stand up for what they believe in, just like soldiers on a battlefield - whether or not they realize it.
Showing and telling children stories of how our soldiers stepped up when we were a small nation can evoke a sense of power and potential to push children into the spotlight of their own journeys – it can fire up the spirit inside them, all they need is a bit of encouragement from you!
How can our children learn about ANZAC day?
Children are more responsive when they are introduced to hands-on and sensory experiences to help them explore and learn about ANZAC traditions, which we can easily provide through prominent symbols that consist of shapes, colours, and sounds, that are simple for children to understand.
The red or ‘Flanders’ Poppy was one of the first flowers to regrow and bloom again on the battlefields of WWI and was made famous by Canadian medical officer, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, through his poem ‘In Flanders fields’. The Poppies became a symbol of regrowth and a fresh start after the war ended, which now we wear on ANZAC to remember it. When children consistently see this bright red flower, they will get curious and will begin to ask questions. It is the perfect opportunity to open up and explain to them the reason behind wearing them. It could be a fun creative activity for children to make their own Poppies – through painting or making their own out of coloured paper and decorating them how them like.
ANZAC biscuits were claimed to be shipped off to soldiers in war by their wives and women’s groups as the biscuits did not spoil easily and lasted the long journey to Turkey. Nowadays, these ANZAC biscuits are a tasty way to connect history to children. A fun activity could be to make these biscuits with children while also explaining how they were used to keep the soldiers fed - and perhaps getting children to recreate this situation by helping them make it for their parents! By fitting the historic information within the task, kids can absorb the information while progressing through the brimming steps of baking!
The Bugle is an instrument that was used to signal the soldiers for important events and errands, such as getting up in the morning, food calls, and a signal of the days’ end. The Bugle was also used to send commands through different tunes over distances where they couldn’t communicate. In present day, Bugles are played at dawn services to honour and respect those who died in the war. Sound is a great way to grasp the attention of children and by playing some Bugle songs in class (from the internet or if you’ve got access to a real Bugle), the different melodies can result in a fun ‘bugle boogie’ time that can bring out fun and excitement for the children and energizing them for the day!
All of these symbols evoke the historic importance that can be brought to your children through fun activities, so why not give them a try?