Beyond Barbecues: Teaching Your Kids About the Fourth of July

Before the fireworks sparkle, let Independence ring
July 4, 2015 Updated: October 8, 2018

This weekend Americans everywhere will come together in celebration of independence and freedom as we mark the anniversary of the endorsement of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

There are many festive ways to celebrate the Fourth of July, as it has come to be known, from decking the halls in red, white, and blue, to gathering with friends and family for barbecues, parades, and fireworks. 

Before the celebrations come and go, however, don’t forget to regale your little Americans with the reasons we celebrate Independence Day in the first place.

For patriotic parents looking to capitalize on the educational opportunity this national holiday provides, here are four ideas with resources to share with your kids.

1. Start With the Basics

This two-and-a-half minute video from gives a simple account of the history of the day and how our traditional methods of celebration were established.

2. Picture It

 John Trumbull's painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress.
John Trumbull’s painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence, presenting their work to Congress. (John Trumbull Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

One of the most famous works of American art, John Trumbull’s “Declaration of Independence,” hangs in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda and truly paints the picture (eh hem) not, as is commonly mistaken, of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but of the five-member committee presenting their draft of what will become the most famous American legal document to Congress on June 29, 1776. The image is highly representative of the historic event, as it depicts a large majority of the signers in the chamber where the Second Continental Congress met.

3. Go Straight to the Source

Declaration of Independence/Library of Congress
Declaration of Independence (Library of Congress)

When was the last time you actually read the Declaration of Independence? Delve into this piece of history with your young ones and celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s eloquent manuscript. 

A transcription of the document can be found here.

If you’d rather sit back and listen, this video, narrated by Max McLean, presents a high-quality reading.


4.  Have Your Children Declare Independence

Luke Miller/iStock

If you’d really like to get those creative juices flowing, ask your children to declare their independence by drafting a document of their own, outlining the “truths” they hold to be “self-evident.” This could take any form, actually—an actual written document, a video, a puppet show … allow your kids to take what they’ve learned and apply it.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @barbaradanza