According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. For many families, though, the holiday is a celebration of backyard barbeques, downtown parades, and picnics on the beach. The holiday can have less to do with celebrating the social and economic achievements of the United States, and more to do with celebrating a day off—a three-day weekend to do with what we like.

Labor Day, like most three-day-weekend holidays, has taken on new meaning for families over the last few decades. And rarely discussed are the history and significance of the holidays. Donna Lackie, an early childhood consultant responsible for parent education services in Oakland, Michigan, says many parents are missing out on opportunities to introduce their children to exciting and interesting lessons in social studies. “Young children are eager to learn about the people and places in the world,” Lackie says. “Through explanation and participation in holiday celebrations, parents will support their children’s early learning in social studies.”

Social studies lessons aren’t the only learning opportunities in Labor Day weekend. Parents can parlay Labor Day, or any other holiday for that matter, into a full weekend of thinking and sharing ideas. From discussions of professions and types of jobs to discussions of work and how different things (machines, for instance) work, you can use this opportunity to engage children in conversations that are interesting to them.

Lori Radun, a parenting coach who speaks around the country for parenting organizations and other groups, says parents should set aside some time during the holidays to read to their kids. “I always use books and stories to help my children understand new things,” say’s Radun. Consider taking the kids to the library or bookstore this Labor Day weekend, and checking out books on occupations (such as Everybody Works, by Shelly Rotner and Ken Kreisler), or on how things work (such as Machines at Work, by Byron Barton). “Holidays are also a great opportunity for parents to introduce culture and history into our children’s lives,” Radun says. “Check out a book that helps the children understand the significance of Labor Day.”

Whether you will be pulling out the dress-up clothes or barbeque this weekend, or both, don’t forget that Labor Day offers families a chance to spend a little extra time away from work and with one another. “Holidays are a great time for creating family traditions and memories,” says Lackie. Family rituals that honor and celebrate the holiday will make the traditions more meaningful for children and will encourage them to think about why they get this extra day at home with mom and dad.

Need some ideas for family rituals or activities for older kids? Here are a few to get you started!

  • Play a game of occupations charades (or community helpers charades).
  • Work together to make a family meal.
  • Share important or interesting work you feel you have done over the past year.
  • Brainstorm jobs or careers your child might like to have in the future.
  • Share and discuss a favorite book read in the last year that features a character with an interesting profession.
  • Discuss one new profession that you learned about this year or one profession that you would like to learn more about.

Looking for other fun labor day activities? Find out how to Make a Labor Day Career Book.