Photos and story by Monica Guthrie
Fireworks stands are opening up as we get closer to Fourth of July. But aside from potentially causing a grass fire, here are some other ideas you can do with your family to celebrate our independence day.
Red, white and blue snacks
Snacks can be as simple as adding dye to ice cubes before dunking them in lemonade or as elaborate as a parfait. Actually a parfait can be pretty easy:
1. Make gelatin in whichever color you choose (I prefer blue).
2. Gather small, clear, plastic, cups (or if you’re feeling fancy, you can put them in plastic wine glasses or clear martini glasses).
3. When gelatin is ready, put some on the bottom of your cups.
4. Layer with whipped cream (white) and top with strawberries (or cherries or raspberries or even watermelon).
Learn about the Fourth of July
My husband says I make everything nerdy, but that’s OK with me. I want smart children. My 3 year old might be too young to understand the details of our nation’s birth, but my oldest (11 years old) can grasp it. I’m a fan of Schoolhouse Rock’s Fireworks (that great classic, which you can find on YouTube).
Watching it with my family lets me relive my childhood while ensuring I’m doing my part to raise children who have an idea about where our country came from. If I had more kids, I’d suggest they put on a play, while I made popcorn and filmed it for Facebook so our family and friends could watch it.
Learn about the Stars and Stripes
This, like the previous suggestion, is an educational activity. Children can make a flag while an adult tells them about the history of the Stars and Stripes. For my older son, I had him start off by telling me what he knew about the flag and I filled in the gaps. Cutting out stars may be tricky for small fingers so I suggest picking up some star stickers from the dollar store to make the process easier.
Make a care package
During this holiday, take a moment to remember those in harm’s way by creating a care package for service members serving overseas. Take the children to the dollar store and ask them to select items they think service members would like to receive. They can help pack the care package and write a note thanking the service member for protecting them and keeping them safe. If they’re too little to write, an adult can help write or young children can draw a picture.
This has been one of my most favorite ideas given to me this summer. Baseball is America’s pastime and substituting water balloons for baseballs is a great way to get children in a celebratory mood. Fill up a tub of red, white and blue water balloons and let everyone have a moment of batting practice – the bigger the splash the better. You can also use water-bomb balls made of fabric that can be soaked and reused repeatedly. And since no one is running the bases, everyone is a winner! If your family is like mine, the baseball game will turn into a water fight so keep towels close at hand!
This one is messy and time consuming – which probably sounds like two strikes against the activity, however if you choose to do it, you might win the “most fun family” award.
1. Cut the top 2½ to 3 inches from a clean plastic bottle. Keep the top and discard the rest.
2. Cover the cut edge with tape (so kids don’t cut themselves on ragged edges)
3. Stretch the mouth of a balloon over the mouth of the bottle. Work the neck of the balloon over the threads of the bottleneck.
4. Cut paper into confetti, then pour the pieces into the popper.
5. Hold onto the bottleneck with one hand, and pull down on the bottom of the balloon with the other. Let the balloon snap to launch a shower of confetti.
6. Get your oldest child to vacuum up the mess (wink!).
Visit a local military installation
I know this isn’t applicable to many of you but for those of you who live near a military installation, give the public affairs office a call and see what time/where they are doing their Fourth of July ceremony. At many of the military installations we have lived at, the tradition is to have the Army band play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with cannons. My youngest loves hearing the “big booms” as he covers his ears. Some places have a procession of flags, announcing them in order of their adoption into the union (as audience members from those states and territories cheer for their home). It’s free and full of all the great pomp you expect from a military event. Be sure to check with the installation’s visitor’s center to get a pass (go the day before so you don’t get stuck waiting in line and miss the ceremony).
Monica K. Guthrie is an Army brat, an Army veteran (Rock of the Marne!) and now an Army spouse with two boys. She is currently the media relations officer for the public affairs office at Fort Sill, Okla., and writes a weekly column called the Okie Bucket List. She also has a photography and graphic design business, Pro Deo Creations, that she maintains between potty training and kissing scraped knees.
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