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Sharing Anzac Day with our kids

Anzac Day with kids

War and peace are tricky topics to talk about with kids, especially in the current moment where the peace our children enjoy in Aotearoa is not the reality for children in other parts of the world.

Yet as Anzac Day approaches, we have an opportunity to reflect on the price that was paid for peace in our land, and to honour those who bravely paid it. And there is an invitation here for our children to stand alongside us as together we say, we will remember them.

Your approach to Anzac Day commemorations will probably depend on the age of the tamariki in your whānau. The following ideas are simply a place to start, and may inspire your own responses that best reflect your family's unique circumstances and story.

What's it all about?

As we said, this conversation could be a biggie! Here’s a way of talking about the essence of Anzac Day in simple terms, touching on concepts our kids can think about whatever their age and stage:

  • It’s a day to remember and thank everyone who has helped to look after our country, especially those who bravely went to war

  • It’s a day when we pause to be grateful that we live in a such a wonderful, peaceful country

  • It’s a day when we think about how important it is to look after everyone in our community, including our older people who helped make our communities such great places to live

These are good conversation starters, perhaps even an encouragement to get our kids thinking about honouring our past and looking towards the future. Deep stuff!

On the hearts and minds of many New Zealanders on Anzac Day is the contribution our own relatives made to war and peace, both at home and abroad. Here are some simple ways we can bring our kids along with us as we honour those who've gone before us.

Share stories

Anzac Day is a time to share stories, memories, reflections and photos. It's the ideal moment to pass down the stories of our ancestors to the next generation, but you don't have to have your own whānau stories or photos to share – there are plenty around and all New Zealanders are a part of them in some way.

Check out your local library for kids' books with an Anzac theme. Here's Anzac Ted by Belinda Landsberry being read aloud if you're looking for a little inspiration.

Books and stories invite our kids to reimagine history in vivid ways. Our middle daughter, Lottie, was fortunate enough to be given a book about Lottie Le Gallais, a nurse who went to the aid of Anzac soldiers in Gallipoli. Needless to say, it's a powerful and moving account, probably best suited to older tweens and teens, but a perfect example of how sharing a story brings history to life.

"Anzac Day is a special time where we remember our great-grandpas who fought in the war for us to live in freedom here in Aotearoa. We also talk to our kids about the brave Māori Battalion soldiers and how people from other countries and cultures came together to stop power-hungry leaders from taking over the world. Sometimes we spend the day at Piha with my extended family to attend the beach memorial service held at Lion Rock. We look at old photos of our great-grandparents, and make Anzac Day crafts out of paper plates and online colouring printouts. And my daughter makes her famous chocolate Anzac biscuits."

- Kim Smith, Parenting Place Marketing Director and mum of four

Create something beautiful

Creativity is a wonderfully therapeutic outlet, and one kids can easily get involved with.

A special feature of Anzac Day 2020 was the ingenious ways people expressed honour and respect for the moment using whatever they had lying around their locked-down homes. Kids' artwork appeared in windows, and driveways and letterboxes featured homemade sculptures, wreaths and crosses. Poppies burst into bloom made of all sorts of innovative materials – plastic bottles and tops, old painted records, plywood found in the garage, tissue paper, paper plates, buttons, cardboard, flax, crocheted wool...

Making a poppy with your kids can be a great moment to chat about the flower itself, the story behind it and why we wear and display them in commemoration of Anzac Day.

And speaking of creating things, three cheers for the humble Anzac biscuit! Click here for Nadia Lim's recipe – these biscuits are super easy, reasonably nutritious (for a cookie!) and high in energy (hence their history of being shipped off to soldiers on the front line), and a perfect opportunity for junior chefs to roll their sleeves up and have a go at the mixing bowl.

Stand in remembrance

I remember standing at the end of our drive at dawn, looking down our street and seeing our neighbours standing by their letterboxes too – all of us together; stopping and remembering and showing our respect and gratitude.

You might not be able to rally the troops to be up early enough to attend a dawn service (although this is rich and moving experience and well worth the bleary eyes), but there other ways to stand in remembrance at Anzac Day. You could take your children to your local war memorial and lay a wreath or some homemade poppies. You could visit a museum, attend a local Anzac Day service (many are not actually at dawn!), or even just take inspiration from 2020 and stand for a minute's silence at the end of your driveway.

"During Covid restrictions, dawn services were a little different obviously. A couple of years ago, I remember standing at the end of our drive at dawn, looking down our street and seeing our neighbours standing by their letterboxes too – all of us together; stopping and remembering and showing our respect and gratitude. Our kids are still very young, but even with preschoolers, we can spend some time talking about those who have gone before us and being grateful that we get to call this beautiful land of Aotearoa our home."

- Dayna Galloway, Parenting Place Presenter and mum of two

Ellie Gwilliam

Ellie Gwilliam

Ellie Gwilliam is a passionate communicator, especially on topics relating to families. After 20 years in Auckland working mainly in publishing, Ellie now lives in Northland, with her husband and their three daughters, where she works from home as content editor for Parenting Place. Ellie writes with hope and humour, inspired by the goal of encouraging parents everywhere in the vital work they are doing raising our precious tamariki.

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