ANZAC Day is one of the most important national commemorative occasions in Australia, marking the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand armed forces during World War One.
With 2015 comes the 100 year anniversary of the first landing of troops in Gallipoli, making this an opportune time to talk to your children about the importance of ANZAC Day. However approaching this topic with younger children and toddlers can prove challenging, therefore we have some tips on how you can increase their understanding from a young age.
Keep it Simple
The key at the send of the day is to keep it simple.
- Focus on the collective pride of the country.
- The spirit of ANZAC through courage, mateship and sacrifice
- Talk about the freedom we have to feel safe because of their sacrifice
- Talk about caring about each other and the world as a whole
- Let them ask the questions, be open to their ideas on what they think it was about and guide them gently to the truth
- Numbers can be overwhelming, especially for school aged kids who learn how many soldiers lost their lives. Follow this sad realisation with the reinforcement of how they did this to keep our country safe, that this is why we live in such a peaceful place today, how thankful we are to them.
- Have a moment of silence in honour of those who fought so hard for our freedom, holding hands as a family.
- For older children a dawn service may also be appropriate or the city parade to see the collective pride of the community.
Depending on the age and comprehension of your toddler, visuals are a great tool. There are a lot of books and visual resources available with younger audiences in mind to explain war and related themes.
Here are some recommended books:
ANZAC Ted – Belinda Landsberry
Written and illustrated for the youngest audience in mind, this book tells the story of a teddy who has seen better (or worse) days, tying together Anzac Ted’s life from then and now.
My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day – Catriona Hoy
A picture story about a little girl who has a grandad who marches in the ANZAC Day parades after having served in war. While not great quality video, there is a full reading of the book on youTube.
Meet the ANZACS – Claire Saxby
Meet the Anzacs is an illustrated introduction to how the troops ended up in Gallipoli, with a focus on the united relationship between Australia and New Zealand.
Below are a few more options to consider. Although they may be a little advanced for toddlers and young children, the illustrations can assist with explaining ANZAC Day.
- Memorial – Gary Crew
- Ceasar The Anzac Dog – Patricia Stroud & Bruce Potter
- The Poppy – Andrew Plant
The Australian War Memorial website also offers some great free resources to help you gain a deeper understanding before explaining to your children, as well as free printable resources. The “Their Spirit, Our History” booklet is a great visual aid full of images, letters and information relating to ANZAC Day, its origins, and background on each of the significant wars in history.
Video can also be a great tool for educating the younger kids, using easy to understand animated clips that are without any graphic material. This one by Swirk is popular in primary school classrooms and may be a good tool to help you explain to your toddler:
Other ways to expand their understanding is to work together on ANZAC activities, such as colouring in pages, puzzles and craft projects. There are lots of free online resources for ANZAC Day activities. You may also wish to make ANZAC biscuits, explaining that they were sent to soldiers at war from their families.
Once your toddler has gained some basic knowledge of ANZAC Day and the meaning, a great way to reinforce their learning is to take them to an ANZAC Day service and parade.
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