Why Do We Celebrate Presidents’ Day? Lessons for Every Child
Chances are good that if you check your calendar, the third Monday of February is Presidents’ Day. Why do we celebrate Presidents’ Day? Is it just another patriotic day or a day to take off from school? Initially, the holiday began in 1885 to recognize George Washington, which is why it’s still called “Washington’s Birthday.” For that reason, it was set as February 22nd, which is Washington’s actual birthday. However, in an effort to honor all presidents, the holiday was moved to the third Monday of February.
Presidents’ Day Facts
- The Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, created by Congress in 1968, was meant to provide more “designated Monday” holidays. The idea behind this was to give people more three-day weekends and scale down absentees in the workforce. The bill passed in 1971, leading to Presidents’ Day being established as the third Monday in February. (Thanks, George Washington for the extra day off!)
- Technically speaking, the holiday isn’t even called Presidents’ Day. It’s actually still called Washington’s Birthday.
- Car dealerships, restaurants and many other stores like to take advantage of the holiday to promote their businesses. See how many “Presidents’ Day sale” ads you can find around town!
- That same Uniform Holiday Bill Congress passed was meant to pay respect to Abraham Lincoln (whose birthday is February 12th) and include another president.
- Presidents’ Day didn’t actually become an official holiday until Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law.
Presidents’ Day Activities
- Have your children or teens guess which state produced the most presidents. (You’ll probably want to clarify that by “produced” you mean states where presidents lived when elected, not where they were born.) Keep track of these guesses and write them down. Next, have your children do some research. You may want to split this activity into assigned tasks. Older children can do the research while younger children keep track with tally marks or a bar graph. When finished, compare the results to initial guesses. Did the data support their guesses?
- Your students can create a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting two presidents. To start with, have them compare and contrast George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, since this holiday was largely about those two presidents historically speaking.
- From inaugurations to vice presidents, these president social studies games will boost your child’s knowledge about our country’s leaders.
- Invite your child to engage in some president trivia games (answer key included)!
- If your child or teen is a fan of puzzles, check out these president crossword puzzles.
- Young children will enjoy this easy science activity. Squirt lemon juice into a bowl and add a few drops of water. Then add some old pennies (for Lincoln) and quarters (for Washington). After about five minutes, remove the coins and polish them. Can your children identify the president on each coin?
- These president learning games cover several different presidents and teach language arts skills, too.
- Learn more about George Washington with this creative president word search!
- Need a change from the usual spelling activities? Try these Presidents’ Day spelling games.
- President Andrew Jackson was one of the most controversial presidents. Have your child or teen write about him with this president writing prompt that focuses on him.
Presidents’ Day Unit Studies
- How knowledgeable are you on all the U.S. presidents? Whether your child is in elementary, middle or high school (or has graduated already), learning about all the Commanders in Chief who helped shape this nation should be a must. Keep checking this page for the latest unit studies on U.S. presidents.
- George Washington fast facts learning game!
- President William McKinley (25th U.S. president) facts and unit study
- Learn more about the 16th president of the U.S. (Abe Lincoln) in this unit study
- How well do you know the 40th U.S. president Ronald Reagan? Find out here!
Tasha is a homeschooling mom to 5 and has been homeschooling for 14 years. Currently, her children's ages span from toddler to young adult. Tasha has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Social Sciences from Florida State University and is working on her MBA through SNHU/Berklee School of Music.