Episode Description: Jack’s the new dog at school and the newest recruit in Rusty’s army. Jack struggles with following instructions and always forgets his hat but Rusty will make a soldier of him yet.

A few words first…
I had a request to write up “Army” in the lead up to ANZAC day. I struggled with the idea because of my complex feelings around war and violence. As an American I’ve been robbed at gunpoint, and now living as and ex-pat observing gun culture in the US from afar has led me to the decision that we don’t do pretend guns in our house – and I’ve had frank discussions with my kids about why. They still play plenty of superhero games that involve killing bad guys, or similar themes. It’s not the kind of play I’d ever lead them towards, but I accept it as a normal part of child-directed play.
So, while the idea of encouraging my kids to play army doesn’t sit comfortably with me, I know that is not everyone’s choice. If your play already involves toy soldiers or role-playing as drill sergeants, then by all means, go for it! And certainly Rusty’s version of playing “Army” is more tactical than weapon-based. The activities I’ve written up are a bit more focused on history and it might be worth reading up on how to talk to kids about war and having a think about how you frame discussions based on the age of your child(ren) and your own family’s experiences, beliefs and relationship to ANZAC day.


  • If you’ve got family members who have served that’s a great place to start in talking about the experiences of soldiers and those who have served in other war efforts. You can look at photos and ask your kids questions about what it might have felt like to be going off to war – or having someone you loved go off to war.
  • “ANZAC Ted” is also a lovely book to begin discussion about who the ANZACs were. This video of it being read aloud also includes a bit of history.
  • I’m of the opinion that any discussion of Australian history should involve perspectives of our first people.
    • Deadly Story have a great page about the roles of Aboriginal men and women who have served. You can read some of the stories, or if your child is old enough, have them choose one of the veterans listed and write a brief biography of him/her.
    • Consider adding “Alfred’s War” by Rachael Bin Salleh or “Dreaming Soldiers” by Catherine Bauer to your bookshelf for future reading.
    • This video explains a bit about what indigenous soldiers experienced after returning home form war.
  • Rusty uses hand signals to communicate with his recruit. Hand signals are also used by life guards, cyclists, scuba divers and more. Who else might use them and why? Learn some from YouTube tutorials or come up with your own. What signals could you use while out bushwalking, for example?
  • Making ANZAC biscuits is also a fun hands-on way to incorporate a bit of history. I found this ABC article (including recipe) interesting in understanding the biscuits’ muddy history – in particular the way a housewife’s recipe cards were used. It’s a great way to start a discussion about how historians learn about the past. Perhaps over some biscuits and milk you can talk with your kids about how future historians might learn about us!
  • Drop and give me twenty! Put those kids through some basic training. You could even set up a small obstacle course or send your little troops army crawling under chairs.


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