Bottle rockets whizzing by! Super loud crashes and booms! Explosives! Even more explosives! Spending loads of time outside in the heat and humidity - with mosquitos! And staying up way past bedtime! The Fourth of July is the perfect holiday for babies and toddlers! Wait, maybe it’s a terrible holiday for them? No - it can be great fun! It’s such a quintessentially American summer holiday that we’ve pulled together some ways to make sure the whole family is involved for a good time.
Things to Craft
Patriotic slime or oobleck
I didn’t know about oobleck until my oldest was in preschool and let me tell you, it is awesome. It’s a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning it has properties of both a liquid and a solid - hooray for science! - and is made from just cornstarch and water. And slime, well, we are all probably too familiar with slime for our littles. Make it red or blue glittery and add some star confetti for extra festivity…because nothing says ‘Fourth of July’ like slime? Not really, but kids love the stuff and it’s great for sensory play!
Tie dye with red and blue
Now this can be a tricky task with toddlers. (Permanent dyes in squeeze bottles - yikes!) But it can be a really fun way to play with mixing colors and the end products are so much fun to reveal. Think beyond the basic white shirt and dye a beach towel, library bag, pajamas, face masks, or even a pillow case. Do it all outside with your toddler in old clothes so spills and dribbles don’t matter.
Shaving cream marbling with red and blue
Swirl together droplets of food coloring on shaving cream, overlay with card stock, and then scrape off the excess for a dazzling final product.
Fizzy chalk fireworks
Mix up your own sidewalk chalk with baking soda (look online for specific recipes) that your littles color fireworks designs with and then spray with a vinegar solution to watch the colors fizz and bubble on the pavement.
Cut the ends of a cardboard tube so that they splay outward in a sunburst array and let your kiddos dip them in paint and stamp away to create their own firework masterpieces. For those with ultra high arts-and-crafts tolerances, you can even sprinkle with glitter for a sparkly effect.
Create a paper flag to attach to a craft stick - your little one can paint it or use red, white, and blue washi tape along with star stickers. Either way, they can begin to recognize symbols of the United States while also getting some nice fine motor skill fun.
Things to Eat
Red, white, and blue treats galore
Make fruit kabobs with strawberries and blueberries, Rice Krispie treats that are colored red or blue, a cake topped with berries in an American flag design, watermelon cut out into star shapes, ice pops made with layered fruit, large marshmallows covered in red and blue Jell-O for a festive look. (I mean, that’s a LOT of sugar, but it’s a holiday, right?) Just do a quick search online for some festive treats and you’ll have more than enough ideas to make with your kiddos and get them excited.
An apple pie
I mean, the saying goes there’s nothing more American, right? And baking with your toddler is a super fun activity to do together.
Patriotic sugar cookies
It can be a fun winter holiday tradition to decorate sugar cookies, but why not do it during July as well? Buy some flag, US, and star shaped cookie cutters, whip up red, white, and blue icing, and buy sprinkles…aaaaalllll the sprinkles, and decorate to your heart’s content. You’ll have fun decorating together and you’ve got dessert ready to go.
Fire up that grill
Sure you can go all out Fourth of July BBQ and grill up some dogs and burgs, but don’t forget to throw some veggie kabobs or even halved peaches on there as well. (And top those warm peaches with a scoop of vanilla ice cream - so good!)
Homemade ice cream
Another one of those traditional summertime desserts that’s fun for the whole family to get involved with. If you have an old-fashioned machine, everyone can take a turn cranking the ice cream, or, just add ingredients to an electric ice cream maker and let it do it’s thing. You can also make mini batches of ice cream in mason jars by shaking up and freezing cream, sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Everyone can add their own toppings or flavors in the jars to personalize them.
Things to Do
Dress the fam patriotically
I’m not talking petticoats and powdered wigs here. And in general I’m not personally one for matching outfits, but it is fun to don as much red, white, and blue as you like on the Fourth. My partner even has an American flag bowtie that makes an annual appearance and I love it.
Attend a parade
I always feel a positive energy when I’m at a Fourth of July Parade. People are cheerful with those low-stakes holidays - no gifts and shopping, no major time spent in the kitchen. It’s all just about getting together and having a break from the norm! And there’s often some tasty food vendors at those parades - snow cones, funnel cakes, ice cream treats - and trust me, I’m not mad about it.
Make a parade
Get the neighbors together and decorate all those strollers, scooters, trikes, bikes, and wagons with streamers, flags, ribbons, balloons, etc. Think ‘more is more’ in terms of decorations and take over a street to mosey down for the route. Bonus points if you end at a cooler full of popsicles for the littles.
Watch a fireworks display…on TV
If you’re planning to take your kiddos out to view a display in-person on the Fourth, think about letting them watch a few displays online or on television leading up to the big night. This can help get them acclimated to the sounds and visuals of all those explosions. (They can be scary for some kids.) It might also let you know ahead of time if your child may be a little young for a massive display. Better to know before you’re all situated on a hillside and socially-distanced from hundreds of others and have to carry a terrified, crying kiddo through a crowd. If your kiddo seems intimidated by a big display, sparklers in the backyard might be more your family’s speed.
Read some patriotic books
Little kids often learn through repetition and anticipation is a great way to build excitement. Leading up to the holiday, familiarize your toddler with the Bill of Rights and other founding documents - only those who can recite the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence get ice cream. No, don’t do that! But there are some fun books geared toward little ones that can help make the Fourth feel special. The Night Before the Fourth of July by Natasha Wing, Curious George Parade Day by H.A. Rey, and Eloise and the Big Parade by Lisa McClatchy are a few to check out.
Hope you find a few helpful ideas above for celebrating Independence Day with your whole family. Be safe and enjoy that extra time together this Fourth of July…and wear that red, white, and blue!