Have you noticed that many holidays can end up being so focused on food and fun that the valuable meaning of the holiday gets overlooked?
When it comes to Independence Day, I have to admit I haven’t previously made a point of getting into the real meaning of the holiday. Our family typically celebrates with lots of great relatives in the little farm community where my husband grew up. If you’ve got a chance to attend festivities in a small town, I highly recommend it. We love the small-town parade (the kids are always in the parade with their cousins) and old-fashioned celebrations (watermelon-eating contest, gunny sack races, three-legged races, etc.). We have a barbecue and end the day by putting on our own family fireworks show. It’s wonderful.
But I’d like to couple the family-bonding traditions we have with some activities and discussion to help my children (and myself!) understand more about the real meaning of the holiday. I’d like to help them learn more about the events that led to the founding of our country and feel more gratitude for this great country and the sacrifices of those who helped make it great.
So I sat down this year to do some research for my own family and write up a Deliberate Mother’s Guide to Independence Day.
Here’s what Google and Pinterest offered me when I searched “Fourth of July ideas for kids”:
Great stuff. But everything was about cute crafts, great red, white and blue outfits, and fun food. NOTHING came up about the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence or anything like that. And while I’m all for creative and patriotic crafts, food and fashion, I think deliberate mothers can go beyond the fun fluff of the holiday and mix in some meaning.
So I’ve searched out ideas from family and friends and here are some great starter suggestions I’ve received (please add your own in the comments at the end!):
My children and I really enjoyed watching these little videos on YouTube – we all learned a lot!
Liberty’s Kids: The First Fourth of July (animated)
School House Rock: 4th of July (song with animation – I remember watching Schoolhouse Rock when I was a kid – and it’s still good stuff!)
Independence Day (a puppet shares a poem about what the 4th of July is really about – kids could memorize the poem)
Declaration of Independence Ceremony
Prager University created a simple 8-minute “ceremony” you can enjoy at the beginning of a Fourth of July barbeque. It’s very kid- and family-friendly and involves simple questions and answers about what this holiday really means along with eating specific foods to represent different parts of the story (iced tea for the Boston Tea Party, pretzels for the salty tears involved in the many lives lost in the Revolution, etc.). Click below for a video including a full explanation and see if this might be a nice thing to add to your Independence Day festivities.
Learning Through Fun Songs
Brite Music has a great book and CD called “Take Your Hat Off” that teach kids about the constitution in a very fun way. A friend suggested this and I remembered listening to it as a kid and learning so much. I’m ordering this now so we can listen to it during the rest of July and have it handy to listen to BEFORE Independence Day next year.
Podcast on the Constitution
And here’s a great 1-hour podcast you might enjoy listening to on your own or with your husband and/or older children (I’d say kids 12+). It helped me really think about the beauty and challenges of our Constitution.
Constitution USA (NPR)
We’d love more suggestions of good websites/movies/etc. that can help us and our children understand a bit more about our founding fathers, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and what there is to celebrate about the United States of America. Please add your ideas in the comments below!