This one can be a challenging but fun holiday to celebrate with children! Our first holiday with fireworks was New Year’s Day our daughter was 5 months old. I sat her on my lap and some friends set off colorful but fairly tame fireworks in their front yard. My baby stared and kicked her legs, then afterward went to bed, pretty oblivious to the excitement around her. However, when she was two it was a different story. That Independence Day we went to a city firework show. As soon as the show began she promptly screamed “TOO LOUD TOO LOUD TOO LOUD!” after which we watched from inside the car with the windows rolled up and the patriotic music matching the show on the radio to help drown out the booms. She liked the lights but was terrified of the sound. Finally at 3, she has proclaimed fireworks “awesome” and wants the show to go on forever.
So what is the best way to celebrate? Some families go to very large shows and walk a long distance in crowded areas to put up chairs, bring food and drinks, and stay for hours. Others do fireworks in yards or neighborhoods (where allowed). Still others grill massive amounts of food and celebrate in family groups or with friends. If you aren’t sure how your young child will respond to fireworks, I would suggest having a backup plan. If we had parked and walked a ways to a fireworks show when our child was 2, sufficed to say we would have had to walk right back out as soon as it began. So, I would plan for whatever you feel your child can tolerate, but have something on the back burner so everyone doesn’t end up driving home disappointed. For smaller children, think smaller. Some kids have no problem with loud sounds and explosions. Others might feel very frightened. If you are a big fan of fireworks and love the larger shows and want to try it, go for it! And perhaps buy a few small fountain fireworks (no sound, just colorful) and sparklers to have if your child is too frightened. You can also try showing your child fireworks on TV or YouTube, with the volume high, to prepare them for the sound and get an idea of their response.
Teaching your child about the reason for the holiday can be a fun activity too! For preschool and early school age, I thought Why the 4th of July? was cute, and Independence Day info for kids 6 and up. Both are cartoons. Little plastic flags, making your own flags or decorations with construction paper, using blueberries and strawberries for the red stripes and blue stars on a cake or table (or twizzlers for those stripes, who am I kidding), or any other fun hands-on decoration is fun for young ones. Once we were older, we simply wanted fireworks. The bigger the better.
What is your favorite July 4 activity for family fun?