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!)
School House Rock: The Tea Party/No More Kings
School House Rock: The American Revolution
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!
Megan Abbott says
Great ideas! I’ll try to use some of them with my kiddos! Love it!
Love everything about this, Saren! Thanks so much for putting this together.
Thank you!! This is what the focus should be on. Thanks for the great resources.
Thanks so much for the ideas! I had the same desires this year and came up with the same results from my online searches. Your article was just what I’ve been looking for…. Happy Independence Day!!!
Thank you so much for sharing. We had never heard of Liberty’s Kids, we watched one you posted and are slowly making our way through the whole series and my kids are loving it. What a great way to make the holiday more meaningful. Love this site and the work that you do. Thank you thank you thank you.
Love it! We just purchased “Take your hat off” last month and my 5,4 and 3 year olds go around singing parts of the Declaration and Constitution all the time. It is awesome. Also…I know this is about the Constitution and not the Declaration but another really great movie your kids would love is “A More Perfect Union”…great story about the making of the constitution.
My dear mother gave us the cassette tape of “Take your Hat Off” years ago when my kids were small, and we have listened to it many many times. I still have the tape and hope to share it with my own future grandkids. I’m glad to know that there is now a CD available.
These ideas are great – but I think the problem with your web searches is that you used ‘4th of July’ instead of ‘Independence Day.’ I did a google and pinterest search for independence day ideas for kids and got stuff actually connected to the holiday.
Today I found an awesome packet of Constitution lessons for families produced by the Mormon Church in 1987 for the bicentennial of the constitution. I’ve filed it to do with my kids in September.
This was a big year for me…trying to introduce this holiday effectively to 3 newly adopted kids from Taiwan (4,5 and 6 y/o). I was raised by an American history loving dad, and he was a great model. A few ideas: we always watched 1776, a musical…I’d say it’s for the 12 and up crowd, unfortunately a good bit of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Another blog introduced me to a Disney miniseries called the Swamp Fox, based on a biography about a soldier in South Carolina. I found it on youtube. Also, a great picture book for the younger crowd is In 1776 by Jean Marzollo. Two other favorites are The Founders and The Signers, both by Dennis Fradin…gorgeous woodcut illustrations and great bios. I used that book one year to make a game of matching a picture of a signer of the Declaration with information about that person. BYU did the movie A More Perfect Union about the Constitution and it’s very well done, but won’t appeal to younger kids. My plan next year is to grab a bunch of biographies and books about the Revolutionary War and read them in the weeks leading up, like I try to do at Christmas.
Thanks Michelle and Saren! All of this is very helpful.
Millenial choirs and orchestras just released a new cd ( on iTunes) titled “to be American”. It’s a fabulous edition to the family music library.
Leah Spencer says
I’m thinking of organizing a flash mob type event spontaneously on the 4th in a crowded place, where we start out reciting the declaration, and then slowly more and more people join in. Could be powerful!
That’s an awesome idea!
Rebecca Malouf Franson says
Going to a naturalization ceremony with President Bush presiding on the grounds of Montecello was my most memorable 4th of July!
Thank you, Saren! Love Dennis Prager’s celebration.
LOVE Power of Moms! Thanks for the great suggestions!
PatrioticMoms.com (my site) has additional helpful resources for moms.
Here is the post for Independence Day:
Wishing you a WONDERFUL celebration!
I really appreciate all you are doing for moms!
I am really passionate about teaching about this holiday as well. Thanks for all the great resources. We also love Ronald Reagan’s Memorial Day speeches and 4th of July speeches. He was a great teacher.
We always have the kids recite the pledge, we usually sing a few patriotic songs together, and usually I tell them about a few of our ancestors who fought in the revolutionary war or read them stories from the library (a good one we found was about Molly Pitcher who took over shooting the canon when her husband was injured during the battle). One story we read was about how the “star spangled banner” came to be written.
This made me think that I will have my kids do letters or cards for refugee kids at the camps in Greece. I worked in the Camps last year and it took the meaning of freedom
to a new level.
Saren Eyre Loosli says
What a great idea! Thanks for sharing. It’s so easy to take what we have for granted…
Bridget Munger says
Great ideas thanks! I actually did a post on this on my blog if anyone wants to check it out! There are some links to some great ideas we do with my kids that I found in my search a couple of years ago! Hope it helps!
Saren Eyre Loosli says
Thanks Bridget for sharing your post!
Larisa Lee says
We LOVE the sader from Prafer University! My brother introduced it to us 4yrs ago and we’ve been doing it ever since. It really gets kids, -adults, the whole family involved to remember the meaning of Independence Day. And we always leave fired up and excited, loveing our country and ready to celebrate it more.
Dennis Prager also spoke about this game on his show once; it includes role play and looks like fun: http://www.celebrateourcountry.com/Home_Page.html
Thanks for these great ideas! We are definitely having a discussion about what the 4th of July really means at our house this year. In fact I just posted yesterday about great patriotic books for kids of all ages! https://www.bookitysplit.com/patriotic-books/
Jennifer Shurtliff says
I love to get my kids up for a community flag raising ceremony. Last year they also retired old flags and we got to help. It really taught my children reverence for the flag and those who fought to protect our rights.
I have looked and looked for the Prager University Declaration of Independence Script and I can’t find anything it. Your link says “access denied”. Do you have the script or a different way to access it? I LOVE the idea.
Andrea Davis says
Sarah, did you get what you needed? If not, please let us know! Sorry I just saw this!