Like lots of holidays, Independence Day in the United States is better with friends. From corn on the cob on the grill to a game of cornhole in the backyard, the Fourth of July is meant to be celebrated together, welcoming guests (hachnasat orchim) for outdoor food and fun.
With annual events that include fireworks, parades, and large crowds, the Fourth of July also tends to be a high-decibel holiday, and loud celebrations can be challenging for families, especially if your kids experience sensory issues. And let’s face it, the last thing parents need is competition to be heard.
If you’re looking to avoid the noise and make everyone feel welcome, there are lots of quieter and more accessible ways to enjoy America’s birthday. For example, learn about the Jewish American experience with books for every age group. Or try some of these activities, which keep all the spirit of the holiday, but none of the headaches.
Homemade “Fire” Works
You can make virtual fireworks from just about anything, including cupcake liners or a dinner fork. For younger kids, you can also show them how food coloring “explodes” when you drop it in water until the color completely disperses. Or if you’re looking for something that still makes a little noise, use some bubble wrap as muted fireworks. Projects like these are also great ways to repurpose materials and practice bal tashchit, not wasting.
Camping isn’t necessarily a noisy activity, but the idea of sleeping outside or away from home can be scary the first time. Also, not all campsites may be equipped to handle accessibility issues. If the idea of camping outdoors seems a little overwhelming, drag the sleeping bags into the living room and have an indoor campout. You can keep it authentic with camp foods like chili and s’mores. Then break out the instruments (homemade is fine too) for a mellow singalong. Imaginative play ideas like indoor “campouts” also teach the value of appreciating the simple, wonderful things around us (hakarat hatov). Even the simplest activities can create lasting memories for kids.
Make Healthy Patriotic Popsicles
Those recognizable red, white, and blue frozen treats you know and love are actually super simple to make and even relatively healthy with the right ingredients. Mix each color in the blender using fruit, yogurt, and a liquid (milk or a milk substitute) to help the mixture blend. For the red, try strawberries or raspberries. For the white, bananas work great. For the blue, blueberries or blackberries. Then spoon a little of each color, one at a time, into a mold or paper cups and let it harden in the freezer.
For a completely non-dairy version, you can make coconut milk popsicles with a variety of berries for a treat that’s both colorful and incredibly refreshing.
Fourth of July Costume Parade
Why should Purim get all the costume credit? Independence Day is a great day for some independent, creative fashion choices. Grab all the red, white, and blue you can find and have a Purim-style costume parade with everyone in the family coming up with their own unique ensemble.
For the preschoolers, it’s a fun way to teach color matching, and for the older kids, it’s an outlet for exercising individual expression. They can even pick a favorite PJ Library character costume, like Jewish Americans Leonard Nimoy or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
It’s called Independence Day after all. Put the decision-making power in the kids’ hands and let them choose the activity. Even if they’re not ready for big crowds or big noises, giving them the responsibility to select the day’s adventure helps promote a sense of independence at any age.
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June 28, 2019