Celebrating the Fourth of July with your children

Ideas to celebrate Independence Day with young children.

There are many ways to celebrate Independence Day with young children.
There are many ways to celebrate Independence Day with young children.

July 4 is a time for family, fireworks, picnics, and of course, celebrating America’s birthday. This year, on July 4, we are celebrating America’s 240th birthday! What does it mean for a country to have a “birthday?” What does “independence” mean? Take time this Independence Day to teach your child about our country while celebrating July 4! Michigan State University Extension offers the following ideas to celebrate Independence Day with your young child:

  • Learn about Independence Day. What is Independence Day? Why do we celebrate it? On July 4, 1776, our country’s founders declared the independence of the United States from Great Britain. This meant that our country didn’t have to follow the rules of the king of Britain. It was very dangerous to say you wouldn’t follow the king’s orders, and by saying our country would be separate, we ended up having a war with Great Britain, called the Revolutionary War. Visit your local library for books about July 4 and why we celebrate this special day. Suggested books include “Fourth of July, Sparkly Sky” by Joan Holub for toddlers and "The Story of America’s Birthday" by Patricia A. Pingry or "We The Kids" by David Catrow for older children.
  • Make a care package or cards for our troops. July 4 is a great time to teach children about the men and women who serve our country in the military. Read a book such as "My Mommy Wears Combat Boots" by Sharon McBride or "A Year Without Dad" by Jodi Brunson. Talk with children about what it means to serve in the military and what we can do to say thank you! Put together a care package, make thank you cards or organize a donation drive for items for care packages. Find ways you can help through Operation Gratitude or Joining Forces.
  • Teach about the flag and flag etiquette. While it’s fun to decorate your bike with the Stars and Stripes, does your child know what the flag means or that there are etiquette rules about our flag? Each part of the American flag stands for something. The 50 stars stand for the 50 states and the 13 stripes stand for the original 13 colonies that first declared their independence on July 4, 1776. As the symbol of our country, it’s important adults and children alike know how to treat our flag. General flag guidelines include making sure that when mounted on a pole, the union (blue section with stars) is at the tip of the pole and on the viewer’s left-hand side, making sure the flag never touches the ground, bringing the flag in when it starts to rain or gets dark, and always treating the flag with respect.
  • Teach a patriotic song. Teach your children a patriotic song, and once they learn it, have a parade around the house or neighborhood! A fun song for kids to learn is “You’re a Grand Old Flag” by George M. Cohen. Other ideas include: “America the Beautiful,” “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee),” “This Land is Your Land,” and of course, “The Star Spangled Banner.” If learning the words is too much, enjoy listening to patriotic music during your holiday festivities.
  • Have fun with red, white and blue. From patriotic-themed clothes to decorations, crafts and snacks, fun ideas are easy to find this time of year! Allow your child to explore with red, white and blue paint. Serve blueberries, strawberries and vanilla yogurt for snack. Help your child make patriotic decorations and wear their favorite red, white and blue to the parade. Keep your lessons about history fun, and exciting for kids.

Taking time to teach your children about the reason we celebrate Independence Day, and what the freedoms of our country mean to you and your family. The Fourth of July means more than hot dogs, fireworks and parades. It is a time to celebrate our country’s independence, democracy, freedoms and history. Enjoy celebrating with your family this Fourth of July! Happy Independence Day to your family from MSU Extension!

For more information about early childhood education and other topics, visit the MSU Extension website. 

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