The third Monday in February is quickly approaching, and you’re likely on the lookout for fresh, engaging Presidents’ Day ideas for kids to use in your classroom. School may be closed that day — it’s a federal holiday, after all — but the days leading up to and after the holiday offer ample opportunities to dive into teaching your elementary school students about American history, the US form of government and the commanders in chief who have shaped our nation.
Not sure where to begin? We know you’ve got your hands full in February with cold and flu season, holidays, and more, so the Teach Starter teacher team has put together a full array of teaching resources to make Presidents’ Day more than just another day off from school.
Head over to pick out printables and load up on activities for Presidents’ Day now.
Or keep reading for ideas that will inspire you to plan positively presidential lessons!
Why Is Presidents’ Day Important for Kids?
Before we talk about our favorite ideas for celebrating Presidents’ Day with kids in the classroom, we need to touch on the big question we always ask before we tackle a topic with our students: Why?
While some districts push teachers to include the federal holiday in the curriculum, others give it a wide berth. We’ve found that setting aside some time to talk about presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and why this date is about more than some really good sales can be beneficial for kids of any age — and not just those studying Colonial America or the Civil War in social studies.
Presidents’ Day lessons are part of kids’ development of an overall understanding of the office of the presidency and why it’s so important. These lessons can lay the groundwork for their active involvement as citizens down the road, making them more inclined to see voting as a civic duty and an important part of their role as Americans.
Learning about the presidents can also help kids understand the principles and values that have guided the nation, as well as the challenges and decisions that the presidents have faced. In addition, kids may be fascinated by the stories and accomplishments of the presidents, or by the fact that they have held such a powerful and influential position.
Kids in America tend to have an overall positive view of the presidency — regardless of party — and political scientists who have studied what kids think of politics have found that’s remained stable over the past five decades. In fact, their focus has remained largely on the office itself, rather than on the person in the office, and no doubt that’s because of the important work of teachers.
Presidents’ Day Ideas for Your Classroom
Before you wish your students a happy holiday weekend, give them a chance to explore the themes behind this important day with some fun and interesting classroom activities! Whether you’re looking for something serious or a little more light-hearted, we’ve got everything you need to help your students engage in this important day.
Take a Virtual Field Trip to the FDR Presidential Library
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only American president to serve more than two terms — paving the way for what we now know as “term limits” here in the US. Take your class on a virtual (and free) trip to this historic president’s official home in upstate New York to learn about his presidency and the work of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Looking for more free virtual field trips for your class? We’ve got those too!
Discuss the Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence may have been written before our nation had any presidents, but it was largely drafted by the third man to hold the office — President Thomas Jefferson — and it bore both his signature and that of future president John Adams.
You can start off by introducing the concept of independence and what it means to be a sovereign nation. Discuss the reasons why the colonists wanted to break away from British rule, and explain the concept of natural rights, including the ideas of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as outlined in the Declaration of Independence.
Finally, discuss the role of the Declaration of Independence in the Revolutionary War. Explain how it served as a statement of the colonists’ grievances against the British government and their justification for seeking independence.
Read Fun Books About Presidents
There are plenty of fun children’s books about presidents — from the books about the actual people who have lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (or the former home of the commander in chief) or those about kids who become president of … something. Does your school have a student government of some sort? Take the time to talk and make the topic of Presidents’ Day relate to their every day with some of these books about kid presidents:
- Grace For President by Kelly DiPucchio
- Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents (Kid Legends) by David Stabler
- If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier
- Marvin Redpost #5: Class President by Louis Sachar
After reading, have each student create their own presidential mini book! You can print off a template dedicated to Thomas Jefferson here!
Discover How Coins Are Made
For most kids, the closest they will ever get to a United States president is seeing his face on their money. But just how does a president’s face end up on a coin? And how are coins made?
Explore the concept of our currency with a virtual visit to the US Mint to see how the money is made. Consider supplementing the lesson with a listen to the “How are images chosen for coins?” episode of the popular kids’ podcast But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids.
Extend the money-based lesson by adding a chance to design their own currency into your President’s Day activities, or save these worksheets for financial literacy lessons at any point in the year. Analyze a dollar bill with your class, and then let them take over by designing their own currency. Your kids can also plan and illustrate a coin.
See more fun (and free) podcasts for kids to listen to in your classroom!
Presidential Coin Cleaning
Give science class a taste of Presidents’ Day with a coin cleaning experiment. Gather pennies (bearing Washington’s face, of course) and nickels (bearing Jefferson’s profile), as well as water, vinegar, ketchup, and baking soda to determine which chemical reactions will do the best job cleaning the coins.
Students can make predictions about which substances will do the best job of cleaning the coins and why, perform the experiment, observe, and of course, record their results.
Build a White House
Flex those fine motor muscles with a White House building challenge made just for the primary set! This President’s Day activity for pre-school or kindergarten includes a free download of the president’s home, and kids can add some creativity to their version of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
If there’s one holiday better than any other for teaching kids about the importance of appropriate apostrophe placement, this is it! Despite not being officially Presidents’ Day, it’s widely accepted that the third Monday in February now celebrates all presidents — from President George Washington to President Joe Biden.
Discussing grammar in the classroom? Take the chance to discuss how the placement of the apostrophe after the “s” in Presidents changes the meaning of the holiday.
Create a Presidential Timeline
Older students may benefit from completing a biography research project on a president of their choice! Why not use our Biography Timeline Template to help your students create a presidential timeline of their chosen figure?
This handy template helps students develop the skills of sequencing and recording changes over time.
If I Were President …
Do you ever wonder what your students would do if they were president of the United States?
This free If I Were President… worksheet is perfect for writing centers to challenge students to think creatively as writers and also think about the world around them. Students can think about what they’d do if they were president of the United States or think more locally as president of a school government association. What would they change? What would they try to do, even if it might not be successful? This worksheet can fit nicely within the context of helping your students build a growth mindset.
This Presidents’ Day writing center activity can also be used as a research prompt. It is a great way to examine how other presidents have helped to develop the United States throughout history.
Hold a Mock Election
There’s no reason to wait until November to talk about elections with your class — in fact having the discussion around Presidents’ Day can take some of the heat out of the conversation that comes with parents at home talking about particular candidates in the lead-up to Election Day. Use this less politically charged time of the year to talk about the electoral process and hold a mock election in the class!
Grab an electoral process poster to help your kids keep track of all it takes!
Set Up a Presidents’ Day Word Wall Display
Start your Presidents’ Day lessons with a quick discussion regarding some of the vocabulary important to American history, from “democracy” to “Mount Vernon.” Our Presidents’ Day Word Wall Vocabulary resource has more than 55 vocabulary cards. Create a Presidents’ Day word wall chart in your classroom to help immerse your students in the day.
Why not have a class discussion about additional vocabulary that could be included?
Funky Uncle Sam
Maybe you’ve seen our funky resource collection with Zentangle art fun including penguins and snowmen? There’s a perfect Presidents’ Day craft hiding in the mix: the Funky Uncle Sam Craft Activity.
Help your students get into the patriotic spirit with this fun fine-motor activity. Students can draw lines and patterns to decorate Uncle Sam before cutting and pasting the template to a colorful piece of construction paper.
Bonus: Teach your students about the origins of the name Uncle Sam, and introduce them to the real-life Samuel Wilson, aka “Uncle Sam.”
Learn the History of Presidents’ Day
You can’t explore Presidents’ Day in the classroom without sharing this Presidents’ Day – Teaching Presentation. This slide show takes your students through the history of Presidents’ Day leading up to now. It also makes a great resource to share with any students who may be learning from home.
Revisit the Revolution
Without the founding fathers and the American Revolution, we wouldn’t have a United States of America or an American presidency. Use this February holiday as a way to introduce the key figures who played significant roles in the American Revolution and the drafting of the Constitution.
Tell stories about their lives, including their motivations, accomplishments, and challenges, and offer up information about the presidents who were involved.
For example, did you know only two presidents — George Washington and James Madison — signed the US Constitution?
Explore a complete collection of ready-made American revolution resources created by social studies teachers!
Presidential Oath of Office Vocabulary Activity
What does it take to become president? Besides earning enough votes to win the electoral college, the president must be willing to take the official oath of office. Download the free Presidential Oath of Office Vocabulary Activity to your activities to expand on students’ understanding of new words.
Help your students decode the message behind the oath by researching the definition, synonym, and antonym of the information used in the oath. See more Inauguration Day activities, including a word scramble, write your own inaugural address, and a “Build Your Own Presidential Cabinet” activity.
Presidents’ Day Finger Puppets
Young students will be so excited to use these Presidents’ Day Finger Puppets. Print the puppet template on cardstock, and place them in your writing center for some fun dramatic and imaginative play.
Discuss each president with your class and try one of the following activities:
- Practice identifying coins or presidents.
- Practice identifying coins by value, or adding and subtracting coins together.
- Use the templates to write facts about each president and work on handwriting skills.
- Use the puppets to present some facts to the class in ‘character’ as one of the represented presidents.
A final note on Presidents’ Day Lesson Planning
It’s important to be honest with students about our presidents and not portray them all as unblemished heroes. A discussion of President Andrew Jackson, for example, is not complete without bringing to light the atrocities of the Trail of Tears, while talking about many of the presidents from the Colonia era may require a look at their involvement in the enslavement of Black people. How the lesson goes will, of course, be dependent on your students’ age and grade.