Perhaps your 4th of July plans include the timeless tradition of the 4th of July parade, alive with the best Americana has to offer. Or, the classic picnic with friends and family, complete with burgers, brats, beer and pickup baseball. You're all set to have a memorable 4th, but would welcome fresh ideas to help imbed the meaning behind the holiday glam for your kids. To help bring home the significance of our nation's Independence Day, here are four broad categories with ideas (ranging from silly to serious in no particular order) to help infuse a deeper appreciation in your children for the good ole U.S.A.

READ:

Ok, you may be thinking, but it's the 4th of July and there's little to no time for anyone to read. Except maybe you have kids who need a bit of downtime before the festivities begin, or you have time in the car on the road. If you can fold in a bit of reading on the 4th, consider these four titles, ranging from picture-book happy-snappy-easy to chapter-book intermediate:

SING:

Why not create a 4th of July playlist to enjoy around the pool in the backyard, in the car en route to the parade or to enliven your picnic? Four must-have selections:

  • "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Whitney Houston

  • "The Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa

  • "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen

  • "America" by Neil Diamond

Or , watch a musical or movie/video with a soundtrack full of memorable songs purposely created to replay in your brain, forever! Here are four:

CREATE:

Review the design of the American flag, replete with 13 stripes and, originally, 13 stars. Remind your kids that the number of stars increased as we grew from 13 colonies to 50 states, and that the star symbolized the heavens and people's aspiring goals, while the stripe represented the ray of light cast from the sun. The colors offer symbolism as well, with white = purity, red = valor and blue = justice. Now pivot quickly off the history lesson and challenge them to create their own flag, explaining that it should represent who they are or want to become, or what they're interested in. And bonus, while they're working out their personal flag design, surprise them by playing Veggie Tales' " It's a Grand Old Flag " rendition in the background. I bet you'll get a few chuckles.

If stuck, encourage your kiddos to complete these four statements to trigger their creativity:

  • I love doing X when not in school because it makes me happy.

  • My favorite part of the school day is X.

  • When people meet me, I hope they notice my X (e.g., my beauty, style, happiness, confidence, sense of humor, intelligence, athleticism).

  • I'd love to be like X when I grow up.

PARTY:

It goes without saying that kids are hands-on creatures. Naturally, they'd love more than anything to actively participate in a fireworks display. It's equally true, though, that fireworks are dangerous. It simply can't be overstated that kids should never have access to fireworks unless under close adult supervision. Bearing that in mind, here are four safe firework novelties to enjoy with your kids:

  • Sparklers (age 7+): Insert the sparkler stick into the base of a plastic cup so that your child can hold the showy, sizzling sparkler underneath the protection of the cup.

  • Pistol Poppers: These cool gizmos won't fly, but instead will pop, ejecting confetti. Yikes - the perfect kind of scariness!

  • Booby traps and glow worms: With booby traps you simple pull a string to create the friction to elicit a popping sound. The glow worm requires lighting, resulting in glow-like ash and then, bam, colorful smoke.

  • Firecrackers, roman candles, rockets and aerial shells should only be used by older teens or adults.

    Insider tip: Just play it safe. Always.

As you revisit past 4th of July photos of the kids at the parade, adorned with their iconic Old Navy 4th-of-July T-shirts and drinking A&W root beer through red-white-and-blue curly star-shaped straws, the Americana nostalgia is strong. Here's to spicing things up a notch and making the meaning behind the fanfare just as significant.


Kathryn Streeter's writing has appeared in publications including AARP, The Girlfriend, The Washington Post and The Week. Find her at kathrynstreeter.com