If you’ve ever had your kids ask What is Independence Day? and found yourself stumbling around for the correct answer, our contributor Samantha Lee has put together 36 Independence Day lesson plans, activities, and even recipes to help your kids better understand and celebrate!
Every year, as Independence Day in the USA approaches I always tell my husband that once July 4th hits (Independence Day date), it is essentially Christmas in the retail world.
Within the next two weeks, stores will begin putting Halloween decorations on the shelves, soon to be followed by Christmas.
Mark my words, it will happen!
As (ridiculously) early as it may seem, retailers have the freedom to make those choices.
Freedom is a recurring theme this time of year.
But before we put on our red, white, and blue tie-dyed shirts and light up the grill, it’s important to acknowledge what is it that we are celebrating and how we came to be afforded those freedoms.
What Is Independence Day?
Why do we celebrate Independence Day?
On July 4, 1776, during the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence was signed, proclaiming the legal separation of the original thirteen colonies from Great Britain – making them free and independent states.
According to Military.com:
“At certain times, the concept of what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America may seem unclear. While many citizens are very passionate about our country, there are others who cannot accept patriotism as a wholesale, no-strings-attached concept. For those who already deeply love the United States, and for those who are struggling with the idea, the Declaration of Independence can be a guidepost. It is an unassailable document that embodies what it means to be an American, and everything we hold dear.”
Independence Day for Children
What Is Independence Day: Beyond the Stars and Stripes
Every time my sons see red, white, and blue together – they call them “America colors.”
Pretty much everything about Fourth of July celebrations are filled with excitement for a young child.
Hot dogs, popsicles, parades, swimming, baseball games, parties with friends and family, fireworks – what more could you ask for when you’re little?!
But as my children get older, and the idea of patriotism becomes muddled in an ever-changing political climate, it is important to me that they know more about why we celebrate Independence Day and what it means to be an American.
Independence Day is a wonderful time to show gratitude for our freedom and to model civic responsibilities to our children.
We can reinforce the ideas that good citizenship includes learning about your country’s history, obeying the law, practicing kindness and tolerance, and being active in your community.
Questions to ask your children about America:
What are some of the freedoms we have in America?
What would you do if you were President?
What does the government do for us?
What do the stars represent on the American flag?
Can you sing the National Anthem?
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36 Lesson Plans, Activities, Recipes for 4th of July
Independence Day Lesson Plans and Activities
- Visit the National Archives website and view the Declaration of Independence and other important founding documents.
- Read the Presidential biography of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence.
- Download this printable .pdf on Independence Day from PBS Learning Media.
- Review this lesson plan from Center for Civic Education on Independence Day, which includes important terms, discussion questions, and additional class activities.
- Education.com has an assortment of various worksheets for both kindergarten and middle school aged children.
- Review an Independence Day timeline and other age-appropriate activities here from Time4Learning.
- View a live feed from the U.S. Capitol on July 4th, read about July 4th history, and more on PBS.org.
- The Library of Congress website has classroom resources which could be adapted for a smaller group setting involving key concepts of the Declaration of Independence.
- Teach children the symbolism and importance of the U.S. Flag with this “Stars and Stripes Forever: Flag Facts for Flag Day” lesson plan.
- Review the Declaration of Independence and other supporting documents, letters, and printings in a comprehensive collection available through the University of Virginia Library.
- If you cannot visit the Nation’s capital on July 4th, do the next best thing and virtually join in on the festivities on the National Archives website page dedicated to the Fourth of July. You can even follow along on the day of by using #ArchivesJuly4 on social media.
- Learn all about the science behind fireworks from Everyday Mysteries: Fun Science Facts from the Library of Congress.
- Cool off with this clever red, white, and blue ice melt science experiment from Little Bins for Little Hands.
- Have a little one who is afraid of the loud noise of fireworks? Why not make some fireworks in a jar?
- Children will love discovering the secret patriotic mystery picture using the coordinates in this graph from Teachers Pay Teachers.
- Have a builder on your hands? Celebrate the holiday and get creative with this Lego American Flag build inspiration.
- Inspire your child to ponder America’s history with these patriotic writing prompts.
Fourth of July Inspired Crafts and Projects
- Enjoy this simple, yet adorable firework craft using only Q-Tips!
- Create fun designs and work on those fine motor skills with 4th of July Play Dough Kit.
- Entertain children and with this colorful and patriotic sensory bin.
- Make an Uncle Sam Paper Plate mask.
- Keep little hands occupied with some Star-Spangled Slime.
- Create some patriotic fidget spinner art with this fast and fun project!
Books about Independence Day and America’s History
- Read Magic Tree House “Revolutionary War on Wednesday” and accompanying non-fiction companion Fact Tracker “American Revolution” by Mary Pope Osbourne.
- The Night Before the Fourth of July by Natasha Wing
- The 4th of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh
- The Story of America’s Birthday by Patricia Pingry
- Hello, Fourth of July! By Martha Zschock
- Blue Sky, White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus
- Curious George Parade Day by H. A. Rey
- What is America? By Michelle Medlock Adams
4th of July Recipes
With all this learning and crafting, your little one is certain to work up an appetite. Here are a few of our favorite recipes for some truly patriotic grub!
- Red, White , and Blue Rice Krispie Bites from Two Sisters Crafting
- Fruit Sparklers from Tastes Better From Scratch
- 4th of July Firecracker Dogs by Handmade in the Heartland
- Spinach Berry Salad from Modern Honey
- Patriotic Deviled Eggs from Plain Chicken
Wherever you find yourself this Independence Day, “from the lakes of Minnesota to the hills of Tennessee,” we wish you and yours a blessed, safe, and very Happy Fourth of July!