There is nothing quite like the thundering celebration of the 4th of July, perhaps because families are able to take a break in the middle of the summer season for another excuse to have fun in the sun with friends and family. Whether you are campers around the a fire or suburban families who gather at the city park for fireworks, there are many ways for you and your family to celebrate the 4th of July – and teach your kids about the reason for the holiday in the first place.
Did you know that John Adams firmly believed the holiday tradition should be celebrated on the 2nd of July? Gather for a special “pre-celebration” with your kids and make a new tradition in your family. Your kids will love to have an extra special holiday built into the summer and they will probably be more likely to remember this nontraditional gathering. July 2nd was the day that the actual votes were cast in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence, and the 4th of July was when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Ironically, Adams and Jefferson (the main author of the Declaration) were divided on the issue of when to celebrate the occasion, but both died on July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing.
Make It Red, White & Blue
For whatever reason, the clothing, decorations, and food just seem a little more festive when there are patriotic colors. Use these colors in your picnic-ware, serve colorful berries together with a little whipped cream, or even plant flowers with these colors. Share a little fact with your family about the colors of the country. White symbolizes purity, red hardiness and valor, and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
March in a Parade
If you won’t be near a parade route or don’t want to fight the crowds to have your toddler frightened by the noise of 37 fire engines roaring by, gather the kids and let them form their own parade. They can decorate wagons and pull them through the neighborhood, or even the campground. Older kids can turn their bikes into patriotic floats, complete with streamers, balloons, and maybe a basket of treats to throw out along the way.
Make a Birthday Cake
Help younger kids understand the significance of the holiday by baking a birthday cake with them to celebrate the birth of the country. Use 13 candles to signify the 13 colonies that fought for and won their independence. Play some patriotic music, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or even use sparklers instead of candles.
Read The Declaration of Independence with Your Kids
While it is not likely that young children will understand the historical significance of the document, reading it aloud helps to put that language into their minds, and helps adults remember that celebrating the 4th is about more than grilling and swimming. It might not be the easiest read, but even taking a moment to look at the signatures will help imprint the document on the growing minds of young kids.
Play Trivia Games
Enlist older kids to go on an information hunt to gather facts about the history of the 4th of July. You could have them do this before the big day, or set aside some books and a laptop for investigating early in the day. Turn their information into trivia question cards for a game to be played while waiting for the burgers to grill or the fireworks to begin. Hand out small prizes, such as sparklers or water balloons.
Set Up a Scavenger Hunt
Forever the teacher in me, I like to make clues for the kids that teach them more about the event. Even young kids can play along by finding small items throughout the house or yard that have been “stamped” but small flag stickers. Older kids can be challenged with a map of 13 clues representing the 13 colonies, or perhaps information about the authors of the Declaration of Independence.
Make a Backyard Obstacle Course
Use everyday items to make a course that even Mom and Dad have to navigate. Include everything from hula-hoop stations, to bean bag toss, to a three-legged race.
Have the kids create their own special boats (again, use it as a teaching moment on the role of the English Navy during the Revolutionary War or maritime science concepts). Use items such as milk or egg cartons, newspaper, plastic bottles, or Popsicle sticks. Encourage the kids to decorate them with red, white, and blue, and give them colored tape and stickers to complete their projects. Have a boat race on a lake or even in the backyard pool.
Birthday parties are favorites of children, and the 4th of July lets adults remember the childhood joys of summer festivities. Use a few simple household items and a little imagination to create a 4th of July celebration that you and the kids will be talking about for weeks, and looking forward to again next year.
I originally posted these ideas at BetterParenting.com 🙂