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American Independence Day, July 4th, is one of the most important public holidays in America. But its cultural significance goes much further. The date is known throughout the world as a landmark for democracy and the right to self rule.
Despite its heavy significance, July 4th can also be a lot of fun. It’s a day when Americans eat, drink, parade and launch fireworks. It’s also the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time as a family, enjoying the hard-won freedoms that the date represents. Here are 10 ideas to make the most of the day, no matter where in the world you live.
1. Have A Picnic
Outdoor eating is a central part of July 4th celebrations, and a family picnic is one of the simplest and most enjoyable ways to do this. It’s also a good opportunity to arrange an outdoor playdate - two families with kids getting together for nibbles and park games. To make the event that little bit more special, see our guide to glamming up your picnic, or order one of these special luxury hampers. And if it rains, you could always hold an indoor picnic - perhaps not as satisfying, but at least the toilets will be handy!
2. Or Throw A BBQ
The other great July 4th eating tradition is to host a BBQ for friends and family. This, of course, takes a bit more thought and preparation, but it’s always worth it. We’ve put together a selection of family-friendly barbecue recipes, including ultimate cheese explosion burgers, veggie kebabs, halloumi watermelon skewers (don’t knock them till you’ve tried them) and even cauliflower steaks. Further meat-free recipes can be found here, with side dishes here. If the weather’s not cooperating, you could also recreate the barbecue experience indoors, with some nifty grilling techniques.
3. Get Your Child To Declare Their Own Independence
Here’s a fun, and potentially educational, idea. Get your kids to declare independence. They should start by writing down a declaration, such as “We the undersigned declare ourselves independent of mum and dad. We will act, think and behave independently and do our own thing at all times.” You can then test that independence throughout the day. Will they prepare their own meals? Find their own stuff? Do their own laundry? Probably not, and as each resolution is broken, it can serve as a lesson about self-sufficiency and cooperation (and appreciating how much mum and dad actually do!).
4. Watch Independence Day
The 1996 sci-fi action movie might be showing its age, but it’s still a rollicking adventure. Its central message of working together to overcome adversity is a universal theme. Plus, your kids will definitely want to learn how to code when they see how computer skills can help save civilization! The film carries a 12 certificate, so isn’t for younger children, but there’s nothing too horrific in there to give older kids the scares. The sequel is also fun in places, but is hardly essential viewing.
5. Learn More About The Declaration of Independence
What happened on that fateful day in 1776? Why did the American colonies seek independence, and how did they go about it? Who signed the declaration? 4th July is a good opportunity to discuss this monumental event in world history with your kids. One creative way to learn about the topic is to read out some of the most important quotations from the period (perhaps in fancy dress with fake beards!), then chat about what the quote means and why it’s important.
6. Hold An Independence Day Parade
In America, many towns and cities hold an Independence Day parade, with marching bands and costumed performers. If you can’t attend one as a family, then you could stream coverage of one of the main parades (D.C. or Boston, for example), or else create your own at home. Dress toys and teddies in patriotic colours. Hang bunting and flags from the walls. Use old toy trailers or scooters as parade floats. Then march around your home to stirring band music. You could try a spot of baton twirling, or make your own musical instruments to kick up a rhythm.
7. Admire the Fireworks
Fireworks are an integral part of Independence Day celebrations. If you’re in America, then chances are you’ll already know about your local displays. Those celebrating overseas, or not wishing to go out might want to put on their own small firework display. You could get hold of some genuine rockets or - cheaper, safer, and arguably more fun - build a balloon rocket. All you need is a balloon, a drinking straw and a length of string. Tape the straw to the balloon so that its ends point toward the top and nozzle of the balloon. Then, thread the string through the straw. Now, attach one end of the string to a door frame or picture hook and hold the other end in your hand. Inflate the balloon, let go, and watch is zoom along the string.
8. Take Our 4th July Quiz
Do you know what the three colours of the American flag represent? What big event happened on 4th July 1960? And which three Presidents died on Independence Day? Try your hand at these and 37 other top trivia questions with an Independence Day theme.
9. Have A Laugh
If the Hulk held the American flag, would he be the star-spangled Banner? Groan your way through these 50 Independence Day jokes, or see how many of the punchlines your kids can guess.
10. And For The Little Ones
Main image: HERO © Frank Mckenna, under a Creative Commons license.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.