If your kids think the meaning of Labor Day is ‘barbecue,’ we need to talk

Kids need to know Labor Day is so much more than another day off school

Labor Day is that fun end-of-summer holiday that we’re used to celebrating with a barbecue or a shopping trip. We’ve done the same old “say goodbye to summer” celebrating so many times that it’s easy to forget what Labor Day is really all about. And if we don’t know the meaning of Labor Day, one can only guess what the kids think the September Monday means to America.

As the kiddos get older and start to ask all the questions, you’re going to be glad you have this Labor Day primer in your back pocket. Labor Day is a public holiday that falls on the first Monday in September, honoring the labor movement and those who work hard in the U.S. and Canada.

The history of Labor Day

Labor Day is dedicated to appreciating the contributions of the working class and how they help build our country’s strength and prosperity. Labor Day has been a national holiday since 1894 and is often celebrated with summer activities. For most of us, it’s the unofficial end to summertime — and yes, that means all the fun stuff, like last-minute barbecues, camping, picnics and parades.

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Take your child to work before the big day

Finally, finally, you get to flip the script and take your kids to work with you instead of spending the day carting them to all their activities. At your workplace, show your kids around and allow them to meet different people who can talk to them about their jobs too. This is a great way to expose kids to various types of work. Talk to them how each specific job is important and how each person contributes to the company and society.

Put them to work

Start ’em young, we always say, when it comes to teaching work ethic and the value of having passion for what you do. At home, even the littlest ones can participate. Kids can work by doing chores — from dishes to yardwork. They can also babysit, deliver newspapers, care for pets or help neighbors with chores. Discuss how certain kinds of work can help other kids — becoming a tutor to younger children, teaching computer skills, volunteering at kids’ clubs or helping out at children’s centers.

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Labor Day books

No matter what job you do, it matters. It’s this attitude that’s going to help kids stay connected and choose a career they are most interested in. You can check out library books to teach the kids about different jobs and how everyone’s work is important to the community.

Some book ideas for little ones include:

  • Kids Meet the Emergency and Rescue Vehicles by Andra Serlin Abramson
  • 7 Principles of Inspiring Kids to Be Leaders by Hannah Raybans
  • Kid Millionaire by Matthew Eliot
  • So, You Want to Be a Comic Book Artist?: The Ultimate Guide on How to Break Into Comics! (Be What You Want) by Philip Amara
  • When I Grow Up by Al Yankovic
  • How to Run a Lemonade Stand: Everything a Kid Needs to Know About a Lemonade Stand by Russell Cope

Labor Day crafts and games

Young children can cut out pictures from magazines of people doing different kinds of work and glue them to construction paper. You can also play games by asking children to match which type of tools (judge’s gavel, dentist’s drill, gardener’s rake, etc.) are matched to which job.

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Check out these other Labor Day crafts for kids including puppets, thank you cards and more. Or in the spirit of the holiday, keep it easy — and don’t work too hard — by printing off these Labor Day coloring pages to keep the kids entertained.

Originally published Aug. 2012. Updated Sept. 2016.