by Jan Udlock
July is our country's birthday month. With a little bit of planning and fun, you can help your kids see the relevance of America's history. Celebrate our country's birthday month with your kids by teaching them some simple facts about our American history and have fun while doing it.
Do not stress about the variety of activities but pick one idea to share with your kid. As your child gets older, he will remember the activity and associate fun and adventure with the holiday rather than just a date.
Boston Tea Party
Brief fact: The early American colonists were unhappy with the Tea Act passed by the British Parliament. They felt it was unfair to have laws set by representatives who colonists did not elect. A group of colonists dressed up as Mohawk Indians and entered the ships that were docked in the Boston harbor that were holding tea from England. The intruders broke open the crates and dumped the tea into the water. No one was hurt.
The dumping of the tea was a symbolic act of defiance to unjust taxation. Discuss with your kids about fair and unfair laws. As a U.S. citizen, talk about the fact you have a voice in your city, community, and state laws.
Younger kids love to dress up and they can crumble up leaves as "tea" and dump them in a plastic swimming pool as an act of defiance to an unfair rule. Remind your kids the "tea party" was done in an orderly fashion. With older children, have them hold a court to discuss the criminal act. "Let one child defend the angry acts of the colonists and another give reasons why it was wrong to break the law. It can be noted that Benjamin Franklin felt it proper to repay the East India Tea Company for lost tea," says Laurie Jordan-Rice, children's author of Miss Trimble's Trapdoor and The Perseverance of Christopher Columbus.
Brief fact: The first American flag which was originally attributed to Betsy Ross was more than likely designed by Francis Hopkinson. There were 13 white stars on a blue square with 13 red and white stripes representing the first thirteen colonies.
There are no official meaning to the colors of the flag, however, through time people have come to conclude that red represents hardiness and valor, blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice and white represents purity and innocence. "Some historians believe the red color was a nod to British heritage, but with intersections of white indicating independence and freedom from British rule," says Jordan-Rice.
There are hundreds of ideas on the internet for American flag crafts. You can cover an oatmeal container in blue construction paper or paint it with washable blue paint. If your child is able to, have them cut strips of red and white streamers and tape them on to the oatmeal box. Secure a string on the other end and now she has a wind sock that she can put it up in her room.
Gelatin is a fun medium to work with. Your child can cut stars out with a cookie cutter of a shallow pan of blue or red gelatin. Make a cake or cupcakes and have your children help decorate them with red, white, and blue sprinkles.
Brief fact: "As he watched the battle, Francis Scott Key wrote a poem about what he saw, which later became the Star-Spangled Banner that Americans have sung on special occasions for nearly 200 years," says George Nethercutt, former congressman and author of In Tune with America.
Music is an integral part of our nation's history. During the month of July, play patriotic songs for you and your family. You can download any of our nation's songs for a few dollars off of iTunes. You can also check out recordings from your local library.
"Yankee Doodle is a favorite of children because the lyrics are simple to learn, and the song is lighthearted with a lilting tempo," says Nethercutt. March around the house with music turned up or when your kids are cleaning their rooms.
Brief fact: Picnics in America did not become popular until the 19th century.
Picnics at the park or at the beach are about as "apple pie" as they come. If packing a lunch is too overwhelming to even think about, then grab some fruit and water bottles. The celebration is meant to be special for you and your family. Bring a ball or let your kids play on the swings. If you decide to picnic by the Rappahannock River, don't let your kids play in the water without a life jacket. The river is deceptively dangerous. It may look shallow, but there are unexpected deep holes with strong currents and entangling debris.
Brief fact: The Library Company of Philadelphia is America's first successful lending library and oldest cultural institution. It was founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin.
One of the easiest ways for you to teach your child about our American history is to read a book to them. Visit the library with your kids and check out Fourth of July books. Normally, holiday books are shelved together in a special area in the children's section. All kids love to be read to and children's book illustrators are masters at entertaining children with their illustrations.
Remember to make this fun and easy for both you and your children. Talk with your kids about our freedom we have as a nation. Enjoy the entire month of July with your family. Happy Birthday, America.
Jan Udlock is a freelance writer and a mom of five. She's down to homeschooling her last three.