It started as a day to honor George Washington’s birthday but now the third Monday in February serves to honor all American presidents. In this article, you can learn more about President’s Day and use our activity ideas to help teach kids about the holiday.
History of Presidents’ Day
The U.S. government established President’s Day in 1885 to take place on George Washington’s birthday, February 22. Many states use President’s Day to celebrate both George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which is on February 12th. In fact, some states even refer to President’s Day simply as “Washington and Lincoln Day.”
In 1951, the President’s Day National Committee was formed to honor the American presidency, although not any specific president. In the 1980s, the name President’s Day arose from pressure from advertisers to create a more concise name that was easier to brand. Instead of closing on this holiday like banks, retailers wanted to offer sales and promotions to increase revenue instead.
We started to celebrate President’s Day on the third Monday in February in 1971 as a result of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which aimed to create more three-day weekends. As a result, President’s Day no longer lands on either Lincoln’s or Washington’s birthday.
Some states have different ways to celebrate American presidents, instead of or in addition to the third Monday in February. In Massachusetts, May 29th honors the presidents who are from or lived in Massachusetts. This includes John F. Kennedy, John Quincy Adams, John Adams and Calvin Coolidge. In New Mexico, Presidents’ Day takes place the Friday after Thanksgiving. In Alexandria, Virginia, the entire month of February brings with it celebrations of George Washington.
While most banks, schools and the stock market are closed on President’s Day, it is a major retail holiday. Marketers often use this three day weekend to advertise big sales. Specifically, you can expect to see great sales prices on new mattresses, kitchen appliances and computers. In some cases, these sales might be better than what you would see on Black Friday.
Significance of Presidents’ Day
George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are widely heralded as extremely honorable leaders. It’s generally agreed that they had significant impact on the founding and historical path of the United States. Washington not only commanded the Continental Army during the American Revolution and presided over the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, as the first president, he oversaw the blueprint for the presidential role.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, successfully kept the United States together during the Civil War. He ended slavery by passing the Thirteenth Amendment. When ranked by experts, Lincoln was rated the highest for leadership qualities, accomplishments, crisis management, political skills, appointments, character and integrity. Lincoln is sometimes referred to as the nation’s greatest president.
Since the late 1960s, Presidents’ Day honors all presidents, not just Lincoln and Washington. All presidents work hard to protect and further the interests of Americans. The holiday is a good opportunity to discuss American history, the role of the president and what it means to be a president in the U.S.
President’s Day also is an important time to remember our military forces. In 1932, on George Washington’s 200th birthday, the Purple Heart military medal was revived to give to injured soldiers. The medal has George Washington’s image on it.
The Role of the President in the U.S.
There are lots of young kids who dream about being president. It’s one of the most intriguing and highest profile jobs in the world. And it definitely comes with challenges! In addition to overseeing every agency of the executive branch of government and being the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces, the U.S. President:
- Manages crises, such as wars and natural disasters
- Creates positive relationships with other world leaders
- Performs ceremonial duties, such as throwing the first baseball each season
- Sets political agendas and national discussions to bring attention to important priorities
Fun Facts about Favorite Presidents
There some little known, fun facts about some of our favorite presidents that kids enjoy:
- President Theodore Roosevelt named the White House
- Bill Clinton launched the White House website in 1994
- Barack Obama hasn’t liked ice cream since he worked at Baskin-Robbins as a teen
- Abraham Lincoln is in the Wrestling Hall of Fame
- John F. Kennedy liked to doodle pictures of sailboats during meetings
Becoming president often means that you have to follow specific rules. Some rules that impact the president are:
- Presidents are not allowed to go to movie theaters during their time in office
- To eat at a restaurant, it first must be secured and a food taster must try foods first
- Presidents are not allowed to drive even after leaving office
For more interesting facts to share with your kids:
- Good Housekeeping’s 44 Interesting Facts You Never Knew About Each President of the United States
- National Geographic Kids’ Presidential Fun Facts
Fun President’s Day Activities for Kids
President’s Day doesn’t have a set activity to do, like other holidays like Valentine’s Day or Easter. That doesn’t mean that your family can’t start its own tradition. Here are some ideas.
Play Name That President
You can play a game by printing out pictures of each president with their names on a different sheet of paper. Encourage kids to match the names with each presidential portrait. For older kids, you can ask them to put them in the correct order based on the years that they served as president.
Make Cherry Flavored Desserts
George Washington is heavily associated with cherry trees. There’s a story that George Washington damaged his father’s cherry tree and couldn’t lie to his father about what he had done. (Sadly, it turns out, this is a myth and not true!) To celebrate, you could make cherry pies or simply eat tasty cherries together.
Sew Your Own Teddy Bear
Teddy bears were created in 1902 in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt and his refusal to kill a bear. Sew your own teddy bears to celebrate him. You can easily make a teddy bear from two pieces of fabric cut out into a teddy bear shape, sewing the pieces together, and stuffing the fabric with a stuffed animal filler or scrap fabrics.
You can find some other awesome crafts and activities to celebrate President’s Day at these sites:
- Childfun.com’s President’s Day Activities and Fun Ideas for Kids
- Rock Your Homeschool’s 40 Fun & Easy Ways to Celebrate President’s Day
- Miami Seaquarium’s 10 President’s Day Activities for Kids
- Homeschool Hideout’s 12 Last Minute Ideas to Celebrate President’s Day with Kids
- 21 Fun Presidents Day Activities and Crafts from Tip Junkie