Sure, the Fourth of July means fireworks and fun. But if you want to help your kids understand the meaning behind all the hoopla, Claire Haas, vice president of education for Kiddie Academy, a child-care franchise based in Baltimore with centers on Long Island, offers several suggestions:
Bake America a birthday cake. Decorate it in red, white and blue and sing "Happy Birthday." The country turns 237 this year. You and the kids could even create birthday cards. "If you have multi-ages of children in your home, everyone can be a part of the activity," Haas says.
Read sections of the Declaration of Independence together. Find the text here: http://1.usa.gov/16Frqo. Talk about the courage it took to break away from England and establish a new nation. This activity is geared toward kids in fourth grade and older who have an interest in history.
Research together why the bald eagle, Liberty Bell and Statue of Liberty are important symbols for the country. "Kids get symbolism," Haas says. Talk to them, for instance, about the eagle, what it does and how it looks. "Ask them, 'How does that symbolize our country?' " Haas says. "They begin to make those connections."
Learn a new patriotic song, such as "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Talk about its history. "Everybody loves to sing," Haas says.
Explore the story of the flag. The Smithsonian has this helpful stars-and-stripes website: amhistory.si.edu/ starspangledbanner. Examine the evolution of the number of stars and other changes over the years.