Do your kids think July 4th is just about parades, cookouts and fireworks? Do you follow in those footsteps? This year, reverse that trend, and make the Fourth of July something you’ll learn about and appreciate. This doesn’t mean you have to take an in-depth history class; even simple educational or patriotic activities will create memories as you learn about America’s beginnings together. Here are 10 ways to help your kids learn about (and really appreciate) July 4th and America’s fight for freedom:
1. Read the Declaration of Independence – Really! Reading the original reason we celebrate the Fourth of July will help you and your kids gain an appreciation of what freedom is really about, and why Americans fought so hard for it. If you’ve never read it in-depth before, you’ll be amazed at the passion and courage demonstrated by its signers. For extra effect, look for an inexpensive reproduction of the Declaration, so you and your kids can appreciate the writing and signatures as well.
2. Read historic fiction – The American Girl book series “Felicity” is an excellent way to introduce the Revolutionary era to young kids in a way they can relate. Reading “Johnny Tremain,” the classic Revolutionary War children’s book, is another way you can help your kids learn about life at that time.
3. Watch Revolutionary War movies – If books aren’t your thing, there’s nothing like an exciting movie or TV series to broaden your kids’ horizons. Depending on age levels, consider watching the July 4th-themed “The Patriot,” “John Adams,” “April Morning,” or “The Crossing” together to really appreciate America’s fight for freedom.
4. Visit memorials – Take your kids to a history museum or memorial (no matter the battle), so you can help them understand the scope of war and patriotism in a real sense, not just abstractly.
5. Watch a battle demonstration – Watching battle reenactments is a great way to see history come alive. Search online to find Revolutionary War reenactments in your local area.
6. Visit Williamsburg – Plan a trip to Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown to get a taste of life during the Revolutionary period. Don period garb in Williamsburg, walk to the Governor’s mansion, attend church, view the prison, and more. Attend one of the many Williamsburg Ghost Walks to learn more about the history of the town, its residents, and their way of life.
7. Listen, learn, and sing along – Check out the music and book set “Take Your Hat Off” by Janeen Bradely, a dynamic, kid-friendly introduction to patriotism, America’s fight for freedom, and how our government works, all set during a Fourth of July parade.
8. Visit Philadelphia – Go where it all happened. If opportunity rises, take your kids to Philadelphia, visit the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and help them understand the ‘where’ of July 4th. Try to make a side-trip to Valley Forge while you’re in the region.
9. Visit a living historical village – If Williamsburg or Philadelphia are too far, research historic villages in your area. While there, discuss the differences of life in the present to life in the past, and explain the offenses the British took against the colonists (which you now know, after reading the Declaration).
10. Attend a patriotic concert – Whether civil or military band, take your kids to a patriotic band concert, for extra July 4th musical amazement you won’t find at your local parade.
Helping your kids learn about and really appreciate July 4th is not only a great way to create family memories; it will instill a love of country, respect for the past, and sense of patriotism that will last a lifetime. Make the Fourth of July a holiday that’s about more than hot dogs and fireworks, and start digging your teeth into American history, and our national fight for freedom.