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Explaining ANZAC Day to Toddlers and Kids

Talking about ANZAC Day to toddlers and young children? Here are some ideas that you might find will help you explain ANZAC Day to toddlers – some very tough concepts.

How do I talk about ANZAC Day to toddlers and kids?

ANZAC Day is an important cultural day that is steeped in tradition, remembrance and respect. It is a day and a season of remembering those who have given so much for their country so that we might enjoy the freedoms we experience today. Remember to explain that it is not about a glorification of war but of a celebration of the very human faces and stories that have helped to shape modern Australia.

When we visit the ANZAC Day marches we see generations of families paying their respects to those who have gone before. The last diggers amongst us proudly wave and smile at the young children in the crowd and it’s hard to fight back the tears as you look out across the sea of shining eyes and filling hearts.

The littlest members of the crowd, the toddlers and young children, have lots of questions about what ANZAC Day is and why we celebrate it. Some of the questions are tricky and can cause us to pause for a moment before answering. Balancing conversations about war, history, respect and honour required some thoughtful explaining so here are some ideas for you that may make the process a little easier.

The Importance of Explaining Tradition

anzac day toddlers medals

Young children can understand tradition. They are active participants in traditional celebrations like Easter and Christmas. They have taken part in family celebrations for birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. They have cut cakes, sung ‘Happy Birthday’ and unwrapped presents.

Introducing a new tradition that is NOT centred on presents or food is not an impossible task. Explaining ANZAC Day to toddlers as a special day when your family does certain things (like march in the parade or attend a Dawn Service) is not too much of a stretch for them to be able to comprehend.

When introducing a new tradition to a young child, talking to them with clear explanations in the lead up is vital. This will mean they are more prepared for the day (and you may have less questions as well – potentially, anyway!). Information is power so when children feel like they have a little knowledge they may find adjusting easier.

  • What will be happening?
  • What should we expect?
  • What will happen afterwards?

Talking About War with Toddlers and Kids

ANZAC Day doesn’t have to actually be about war.

The refrain is, “At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them”.

ANZAC Day is about remembering people who worked hard and sacrificed for our country. It does not have to be a discussion about fighting, death, bloodshed and loss. These may be concepts that older children are ready for but they will likely terrify younger children.

If the topic of war enters the conversation, one approach may be to acknowledge that sometimes people fight because they want what is best for themselves. You could discuss how, in your family, you always use words instead of physical fighting. You could mention that people who went away to fight in wars did so because they were worried that if they did not the people back home might become afraid.

It’s admittedly a very tricky conversation. The way it’s framed in your household and the preparation you do proir to explaining it will be reflective of the way that you parent and the understandings that your child already has.

Families Magazine compiled some ANZAC Day facts for kids that may make this aspect easier to explain. We also have ANZAC Day books for kids that could help you!

Traditions Surrounding ANZAC Day

Beyond attending the marches and community services, you could involve your children in a range of other traditions that complement ANZAC Day.

Making ANZAC Day cookies with your children would be a good way to discuss rationing and making sacrifices when times are tight.

Making, collecting or purchasing ANZAC Day poppies with your children would be a good chance to discuss symbolism and how we wear certain things or colours to remember those who have left us.

On ANZAC Day itself, you could take the family to an outdoor space for a picnic. The chance to all spend time together in the beautiful South-East Queensland weather is the perfect celebration of the sacrifice of the ANZACs. They gave so that we may experience the freedom that Australia has to offer. Spending time with family and friends, having fun and enjoying time off is a legitimate and peaceful way to give thanks and say ‘we remember you’.

Talking about ANZAC Day with toddlers and kids

Have you had any success stories when it comes to this topic in your house? If you’re willing to give advice or suggestions for our readers, please leave your thoughts in comments. We ask that all comments remain respectful in light of the spirit of the content of this article.

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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