As we mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, it’s an important opportunity to talk to your kids about the day that forever changed our country and the world.

Educators say it’s crucial to have a conversation with your children because if you don’t, kids will find out about it elsewhere. As a result, the information they hear from friends may be incorrect, incomplete and trigger emotions that should be discussed with you.

The September 11 memorial waterfalls in New York City. Credit: ©

Experts from the Child Mind Institute suggest discussing it factually and simplistically. Start by “saying something like, ‘Once there was an attack on the U.S.’ or, ‘Have you been hearing a lot about 9/11? What have you heard?’

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum website is an excellent place to start your discussion. Here are some interactive activities you can do with your kids that will teach them about “courage, compassion, resilience and hope,” according to the website:

You can join students and teachers from around the world to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 by registering for the 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s free Anniversary in the Schools program. View a film highlighting first-person accounts of the attacks and their aftermath and connect with Museum staff in real-time through an interactive live chat. The 30-minute program will be available on-demand beginning Friday, September 10.

Look for the Lights
To mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum has once again partnered with NYC & Company and buildings throughout the city to light up their facades and rooftops in sky blue. “Tribute in Lights” is a unique, but simple gesture of collective remembrance and a good conversation starter for children.

Thank a Hero
Your kids can write a letter or create artwork to honor and thank those in your own community who have helped people affected by COVID-19. Twenty years ago, kids wrote similar thank you notes to the first responders of the 9-11 attacks. This is an opportunity to reinforce the importance of showing gratitude and appreciation for the service and sacrifice of first responders and essential workers.

Create a Paper Crane
A paper crane “represents both long life and healing and reminds us of the importance of community during an emergency,” says the 9-11 Memorial & Museum website. This activity teaches kids how to fold paper cranes, and make their own chain to symbolize peace and healing.

Design a First Responder Badge
This is an excellent activity to explain how first responders heroically and bravely help people in their time of need.

 Create a Survivor Tree Leaf
“The Survivor Tree is a symbol of hope and resilience for many people who visit the 9/11 Memorial,” says the website. This activity teaches your kids about the tree by having them create a tree leaf as a symbol of hope and resilience.

“Weeks after 9/11, a single Callery pear tree, which became known as the Survivor Tree, was discovered buried in rubble at Ground Zero. It was burned and badly damaged, but it still showed signs of life,” says the website. Today, that same tree stands tall on the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. This YouTube video about the tree’s journey of being nursed back to health is an inspiring story to share with your kids.

The museum website also offers expert guidance on how to talk to your kids about terrorism. You can also schedule a live, interactive virtual tour of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum for your child’s school. Tours are offered for students in grades 3-12.

You can also visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum with your child. The Memorial is free and open to the public seven days a week. The Museum is open five days a week and you must purchase tickets in advance. Be sure to review the COVID-19 health and safety guidelines before your visit.