Teaching our children the value of patriotism

by Maureen Ruby, DMD

Our recent national tragedy has prompted us to think about many issues – including the concept of “patriotism.” As defined by Webster, patriotism is “a love for or devotion to one’s country.” Just where does “patriotism” fit into our lives and the lives of our children in today’s world?

Henry James (1843-1916) said, “I think patriotism is like charity – it begins at home.” James’ words could never have more meaning than they do now. Our children, younger and older, have been literally thrust into the midst of a war – a war on home soil, which they see played out before them on the TV screens in our homes. Many have been intimately touched by the intrusion of war into their personal lives. First Lady, Laura Bush, in her September 12th letters to elementary, middle, and high school students (see talks about the feelings of loss, sorrow, fear, and confusion, as well as heroism, love, compassion, freedom, and resilience. In her letters, Laura Bush encourages children to speak to their families, those who love and care about them, about recent world events. We, our children’s first teachers, have the responsibility for laying the foundation for what our children value.

There are many ways we can “teach” patriotism to our children. As our children witness the frenzy to purchase and display American flags, we can teach them about the significance of our flag and teach them to respect the flag as a national symbol of patriotism and loyalty to our country. We can teach them the meaning of our “Pledge of Allegiance” and that Francis Bellamy wrote it in 1892 to encourage the school children of America to pay tribute to the flag in commemoration of Columbus’ discovery and to revive their patriotism. Bellamy insisted that Americans needed more than to just salute the flag: “We need a vow of loyalty, a warm, human pledge of allegiance, based on what the flag stands for.”

Children can learn patriotism by being included in the voting process. Take your children with you into the voting booth with you on Election Day. Explain the process in a meaningful way and help your children experience the power and privilege of voting by encouraging family “voting” in your decision making at home.

We can instill a sense of national pride in our children by looking beyond the commercialism and re-discovering the meaning of our national holidays. Teach your children that the intent of Memorial Day, July Fourth, Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving is not to glorify war, but to honor those who fought and sacrificed for our country and to be thankful for our freedom.

Teach the meaning of patriot by re-examining with your children the concept of “hero” and what it means to them. Encourage our children to don the costumes of firefighters and law enforcement officers, rather than the violent action figures of past Halloweens.

Infuse patriotism into fun and appropriate activities at home. Craft activities and snacks that we make with our children can shift the focus from war to patriotism. Make a patriotic wreath for your home or help your children make pretzel sparklers for an after school treat. Turn on some patriotic music. Read books that instill patriotism, and teach about our nation’s history. Have your children speak with grandparents about the “good old days” and history as they lived it. In so doing, we can recapture for our children that sense of “appreciation” for all that we have and to diminish their reliance on “instant gratification.”

Yes, Henry James, patriotism does begin in the home!

Edible Fun: Craft and Snack Activities

Pretzel Sparklers

You will need:

  • long rod pretzels
  • white chocolate, melted
  • sprinkles (red, white and blue) or star cake decorations

Melt the white chocolate. Dip the pretzel rod halfway into the melted chocolate then sprinkle the sprinkles over

Fourth of July Wreath

Make this simple wreath and look like a star this 4th of July. Hang it on your front door to welcome your friends and family or take it with you as a gift to YOUR host.

You will need:

  • 11 yards 1" wide red-white-and-blue ribbon
  • 20" grapevine wreath
  • Three 4" x 6" American flags
  • Floral wire

Weave 2 1/2 yards of ribbon through the grapevine wreath. Glue the ends of the ribbons together the bottom of the wreath. Arrange three flags at the bottom of the wreath in a fan shape so they slightly overlap; glue the flags in place. Use a small amount of glue to secure the edges of the flags where they overlap. Cut two 36" lengths of ribbon and fashion a small multi-loop bow from each piece; tie with floral wire. Glue a bow to each side of the wreath.

Use the remaining ribbon to make one large multi-loop bow. Glue bow to the bottom of the wreath to cover glued sections of ribbon and flags.


  • The War by Anaiis Vaugelade, Carolrhoda Books, 2001, All Ages.
  • Fireworks, Picnics and Flags by James Cross Giblin, Ursula Arndt (Illustrator),Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983, Reprint Edition, Ages 4-8
  • The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh, Marie Nonnast (Illustrator), Marie Nonast (Illustrator), Aladdin Paperbacks, 1995, Reprint Edition, Ages 4-8 
  • The Flag We Love by Pam Munoz Ryan, Ralph Masiello (Illustrator), Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000, Ages 4-8 
  • Hurray for the Fourth of July by Wendy Watson, Clarion Books, 1992, Ages 4-8 
  • I Pledge Allegiance by June Swanson, Rick Hanson (Illustrator), Carolrhoda Books, 1991, Ages 4-8 
  • A More Perfect Union : The Story of Our Constitution by Giulio Maestro, Betsy C. Maestro, Guilo Maestro (Contributor), Mulberry Books, 1990, Reprint Edition, Ages 4-8 
  • The Star-Spangled Banner by Peter Spier (Illustrator), Francis Scott Key, Yearling Books, 1992, Reprint Edition, Ages 4-8
  • Uncle Sam & Old Glory : Symbols of America by Delno C. West, Jean M. West, Christopher Manson (Illustrator), Atheneum, 2000, 1st Ed. Ages 9-12
About the Author: 
Dr. Ruby is a mother of four children and a regular contributor to All About Baby & Child. She has taught elementary school in grades K-3.  Currently she is in private practice at Red Gem Educational Services as an Educational Consultant, specializing in parent advocacy and Tutorial (Enrichment and Remediation).  Additionally, she is an adjunct professor in education at Southern Connecticut State University.  You may contact her at 203.530.0271.


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