I believe the best way to teach a child about history is to make it come alive. “Show not tell” was one of my guidelines when I used to prepare independence day crafts or independence day activities for my own children. There are many Fourth of July ideas for kids, Fourth of July activities for kids, or Fourth of July crafts for kids available on the internet. However, I wanted to make Independence Day for my children come alive. As my children were growing up, I wanted them to experience the history of our Independence Day.
Here are some of the unique and memorable Independence Day activities that I used for my children:
1. No Cars
One of the fun activities to do with children on Independence Day is participating or watching a July 4th parade. We used to do both. However, to make the historical Independence Day come to life, I would also take my children to a horse ranch just before July 4th and arrange some time on a horse for them. Before and during their riding experience, I would tell them stories about how the soldiers were fighting on horses, how they were carrying flags, and how they communicated with each other by riding with the speed of lightening. Since I also ride, I would spend time with my children on the horse and relive history with them.
I don’t like guns or any kind of weapons. But shortly before Independence Day celebrations, my husband and I would take our children to a shooting range. The experience of holding a big gun, trying to shoot a target, and imagining the force that it would take to actually kill someone leaves tremendous memories behind.
Our local historic park used to have a blacksmith. He was amazing and showed our children how he softens iron in a fire, how he bends the iron, and how he would put it on horses. Besides horse hoofs, he also had heavy helmets, iron tools, and other tools and weapons that reflected life during the time of Independence Day. Our children felt like travelling back to the time of Independence Day by wearing the helmets, holding the swords, and getting close to the irons in the fire.
While at the historic park, we also visited an old printing office where the children could see how the original document was printed, how much effort it took, and how difficult it was to distribute the Declaration of Independence. Most historic parks or museums have printing presses.
5. A Child’s Declaration of Independence
Usually before July 4, my husband and I would write our own declaration of independence with our children. Our kids got to pick the kind of paper they wanted to use, the ink they liked, and, most importantly, the items they wanted to list on their “Declaration of Independence.” We still laugh today as we go back each July 4 to see what our children wanted to be independent from when they were little. No washing dishes, not having to go to bed early, wanting to decide on their own movies – their declarations of independence were wonderful insights into their minds and wishes.
6. Not everyone is there
During some years, we would ask our children to include grandparents, aunts, or uncles that were not available to sign their declaration of independence. When our children would say, “but they are not here”, we made it a wonderful lesson to teach them that during the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence not all of the members were there either and that some did not sign the important document until later.
Even though our children are in their twenties now, their childhood declarations of independence and all of the experiences they had shortly before and during Independence Day have become a time capsule of unique and memorable July 4, 1776 activities.