Fireworks, barbecue parties, and American flags are some ways we commemorate the Fourth of July every year. Kids love the festivities of the day, but some of them may not know the reason why we celebrate. They learn about democracy and US history in elementary school, but it’s easy to forget about the struggle our country’s forefathers had to go through for independence.
Why is July 4th important? What does it mean? And why do we still celebrate it? As the holiday approaches, here are some ways you can teach your kids about the importance of July 4th and some fun activities you can do together.
Talk About the Meaning of Independence Day
During this important holiday, talk about what the Fourth of July means. It celebrates the day the Declaration of Independence was signed and adopted on July 4, 1776. Ask them what they know about freedom, patriotism, and the forefathers of this country. It can be a great way to teach your kids a little history about the United States and how important freedom is to us.
You can talk about the day as our country’s birthday for younger children. It was the day we were allowed to make decisions on our own.
For older kids, you can talk about what freedom means. It means making choices and respecting the decisions others make as long as it does not hurt anyone. In a free, democratic country, it’s okay for people to be different, believe in different things, and make mistakes.
Discuss the Meaning of the American Flag
Talk about what the stars and stripes on the American flag mean. You can look up pictures of the original American flag that had stars for the original 13 colonies and discuss how a star was added for each new state. The flag’s colors have significance as well:
- Red stands for valor and hardiness, which means working hard for what you believe in.
- White stands for purity and innocence, which means doing the right thing no matter what.
- Blue stands for perseverance, vigilance, and justice, which means not giving up.
This could be a good time to talk about patriotism as well. Patriotism is the love people have for their country. As patriots, our duty is to love, support, and respect our country’s flag, laws, and Constitution.
Read Books About American History
As July 4th approaches, read books with your child about the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, George Washington, and other forefathers. Children need to know how crucial figures and documents shaped the country we live in today. Some books you can read with your young children are:
- The Story of America’s Birthday by Patricia A. Pingry
- O, Say Can You See? America’s Symbols, Landmarks, And Important Words by Sheila Keenan
- The 4th of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh
- We the People: The Constitution of the United States by Peter Spier
- The Flag We Love by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Sing Patriotic Songs
This could be a fun activity for you to do with your children. You can teach them patriotic songs for older kids and then talk about the meaning behind them. For example, you can talk about the famous “Star-Spangled Banner” lyrics and how it tells the story of our country’s birth. Other songs you can sing with your children are:
- “God Bless America”
- “This Land Is Your Land”
- “Yankee Doodle”
- “You’re A Grand Old Flag”
- “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee”
- “America The Beautiful”
Take an Online Trip to a Historical Landmark
For many of us who don’t live near a historical site connected to America’s beginning, virtual tours are available. You can take a virtual tour of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens and see where the first president lived while learning about his significance to America’s history.
There is a virtual field trip hosted by the Museum of the American Revolution where children can see documents and artifacts from the American Revolution, hear the stories of two soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War, and see the tent George Washington lived in during his travels with his soldiers.
Another virtual tour you and your children can view is the Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania, which is considered the turning point of the American Revolution. The website contains podcasts for kids between ages 8 and 12, including lessons and activities about the American Revolution.
Before you and your family celebrate the Fourth of July this year, take the time to teach your kids about the historical significance of this day. It can add so much more meaning to your celebrations as you enjoy fireworks, BBQ, and parades. It’s a day where we can remember why we love the United States of America and be thankful for the privileges that come with our freedom.
Happy Independence Day!
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.