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Teach your kids about the 4th of July (for real)

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

The real Independence Day

The 4th of July is an American tradition filled with picnics, barbecues, parades and fireworks, but all of that pageantry may be taking the focus off of the real reason to celebrate.
American flag
The real Independence Day

CelebratE america

The 4th of July is an American tradition filled with picnics, barbecues, parades and fireworks, but all of that pageantry may be taking the focus off of the real reason to celebrate.

This quintessential summer holiday provides the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about American history... without taking out the fun. Moving forward, the celebration should be less about hot dogs and more about celebrating Independence!

Why bother?

It may be easier to stick to what you know when the 4th of July rolls around but, collectively, we’ve been going with the flow for way too long. Plenty of kids and — let’s be honest — adults have no idea what Independence Day is all about. Need proof? In this ABC News poll 14 percent of teens surveyed said America declared independence from France all those years ago (5 percent said Canada!). Don’t let another opportunity to educate your children about the importance of the Declaration of Independence elude you. If parents don’t teach this vital information, chances are kids just won’t learn it.

Read about inspiring kids to learn history >>

Theme party

Declaration of Independence

Since the 4th of July truly celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, why not have a party and invite some of our country’s early patriots? When sending out invitations, ask friends to dress like a particular Founding Father and to come prepared to share a fact or two about this man. Go the extra mile by recreating Independence Hall (on a smaller scale of course) and asking guests to ceremoniously sign a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Don’t forget to send the children home with their very own copy!

Find out how to throw a kid-friendly July 4th party >>

Expand the repertoire

More than any other time of the year, patriotic songs are particularly popular during the 4th of July. Unbeknownst to many, most of the songs have more than one verse! Teaching your kids additional verses of "The Star Spangled Banner," "America the Beautiful," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Stars and Stripes Forever" will greatly expand their repertoire of patriotic songs — and the words will probably stick with them well into adulthood.

Discover the top 10 patriotic movies >>

Independence Day Lapbook

Lapbooking is a great project for kids that enjoy hands-on, visual learning. Whether you’re a lapbooking pro or a newbie, Independence Day provides the perfect backdrop for cutting, pasting, folding, defining, drawing and coloring. While creating a handmade lapbook, kids will learn about geography, vocabulary, national heroes, important dates, traditions and organizational skills. First, decide what you want your kids to learn. Pull some important vocabulary words, coloring pages, recipes, maps, etc. and work with your kids to arrange the information in a file folder. Decorate the outside with an American flag and you have a creative keepsake. Specific lapbooking instructions and templates can be found at Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett.

Find free learning materials for kids >>

Get competitive

Resurrect the family game night tradition, with a holiday twist. You can still enjoy a festive parade and barbecue but dedicate the afternoon or evening to a homemade trivia game designed to educate and entertain. Gather interesting 4th of July facts (there are plenty of resources online) and create a trivia game or play a Founding Fathers-edition of "Who Am I?" Perhaps your kids will be inspired to learn about Independence Day when bragging rights are up for grabs.

More about a kid-friendly 4th of July

4th of July crafts for kids
Fourth of July games for kids
4th of July party planning tips

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