Nine Fun Labor Day Activities for Kids

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Labor Day is a great way to celebrate the end of summer, a perfect day for a picnic or barbecue and a kick-off to the back-to-school season. The weather is still warm enough to eat outdoors, and have fun at a family or neighborhood get-together.

Many kids today don't know that Labor Day actually started as a protest against unfair working conditions. Over 100 years ago, workers commonly labored six or seven days a week, up to 14 hours a day. Children as young as seven worked in factories, and pay was low. There were no laws protecting workers, and unsafe working conditions were common.

In 1882, the Knights of Labor, a leading labor union of the time, organized a parade in New York. Union members marched in demand of an eight-hour day, the end of child labor and a better life for factory and trade workers. The parade became an annual event, as worker's demands for workplace protections grew. The Knights of Labor called their days of parades and demonstrations labor day.

In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill establishing Labor Day as an official national holiday falling on the first Monday of September.

Spend some time on Labor Day reminding your kids of the value of hard work, the contributions made by working people to our country, and the ways they themselves will one day enter the workforce. Then enjoy some fun family time playing games, doing crafts and enjoying the perfect time of year to eat outdoors! Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Career Charades

  • This game is most fun with a fairly large group. Have each player write down various career titles on small slips of paper. Titles might include veterinarian, cook, writer and construction worker.
  • Collect all the papers in a bowl, and mix them up.
  • The first player selects a slip at random, and then acts out the job, without using any words or sounds.
  • Other players guess at the job being portrayed, and the first to guess correctly takes the next turn.
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2. Write a Thank-You Letter

  • Have kids each think of the hardest-working person they know. This could be a family member, teacher, child-care provider, neighbor, firefighters or police officers.
  • Help each child write a letter to the person they have chosen, thanking them for their hard work, and listing the ways that person makes the world a better place.
  • Let children decorate the letter with stickers, designs, or a picture of the person they are thanking.
  • Deliver the letters, and brighten someone's day!

3. Board Games

  • School-age kids will enjoy family time playing board games that deal with money, jobs, or daily life. Some great choices include Monopoly, Careers, Payday or Life. Use the time to talk about values such as responsibility, commitment, discipline and perseverance.

4. Occupations Collage

  • Younger kids enjoy thinking about "what they will be when they grow up". Have each child look through old magazines to find pictures that represent the job they hope to do someday. A child interested in being a veterinarian might use pictures of animals, doghouses, pet toys, dog or cat food, etc.
  • Cut the pictures out, and glue onto a large piece of construction paper, to create a collage. You can also find pictures online. Just print and use to decorate the collage.

5. Labor Day Cookies

  • Purchase refrigerated sugar cookie dough, or make your own.
  • Bake the cookies, and then have the kids decorate them. Use icing in red, white and blue for a patriotic theme, or decorate with colored sprinkles.
  • Have the kids write messages such as "Great Job", "Thanks" and "Well Done" using icing.
  • Have the kids give a cookie to people they appreciate.

6. Patriotic Parfait

  • Help your kids wash blueberries and strawberries, and cut the strawberries into halves.
  • In a glass bowls, layer blueberries, whipped cream, granola and strawberries for a red, white and blue parfait that will make a delicious centerpiece for your Labor Day barbecue.

7. Balloon Toss

  • Make sure to enjoy some traditional outdoor games at your barbecue. A balloon toss is always fun, and simple to organize. Use red, white and blue balloons in honor of the holiday.
  • Line everyone up in two lines facing each other, and toss a balloon back and forth between partners.
  • Everyone takes a step back between each toss. When the balloon bursts, that team is out.

8. Bucket Brigade

  • Fill up one large bucket with water and place it on the ground, with another empty bucket around 20 feet away.
  • Have the kids line up single file between the buckets. The first person in line dunks a large sponge, such as would be used to wash a car, into the water, then passes it over their head to the next person.
  • The kids continue to pass the sponge overhead from person to person until it gets to the end of the line.
  • The person at the end of the line squeezes all the remaining water out of the sponge into the bucket then takes the sponge back to the front of the line and everyone slides back one. The goal is to collect the most water possible in the bucket.

9. American Flag

  • Hang an old white sheet, and have your kids paint it to resemble an American flag. This can be the centerpiece of your backyard décor.

Labor Day is a wonderful chance to celebrate the end of summer, and spend time as a family before the demands of the school year fill your child's time. Family activities, games and meals enjoyed in the outdoors will create memories your kids will treasure as the days stretch into autumn. While enjoying family time, be sure to remind your children of the origins of Labor Day, and the push to create the safe working conditions we enjoy today.

Last Updated: August 31, 2011
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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