I hope you'll consider ways to celebrate America with your family. It doesn't have to be related to the Fourth of July, but if you're looking for a place to start, it's a great time!
Some of the ways we celebrate this great country is by teaching our children a few simple things. First off, I was appalled to learn that (depending on which article you read) 60-70% of American citizens do not know the first verse to the Star Spangled Banner. Even less know there are more verses that we don't traditionally sing. We've taken it upon ourselves to teach our children the words to the National Anthem. We're proud of the anthem and what it means. We've learned the meaning behind the verses and share that with our children.
Second, we teach our children the Pledge of Allegiance. They still teach it in school, but my kids went to Kindergarten already knowing the words. They are important to me and I want my children to understand their importance. (And I'm so happy to report that in our school, after they say the pledge, they sing a patriotic song every day. I know that's not in every school, but I'm happy to know my children learned simple and complex songs at school. Everything from Yankee Doodle to God Bless America.)
Third, we work hard to teach our children how to respect our country. My boys (and girl) know that your hat will come OFF YOUR HEAD during the Pledge or National Anthem. (Same is true in churches, but that's a whole other story...) We are working to teach our children to stand out of respect when the colors are presented, during the Pledge and Anthem. We teach them to respect the flag and simple rules about not allowing the flag to touch the ground. We fly our flag proudly and explain why.
We also take time to explain to our children the sacrifice made by the servicemen and women who have been in the armed forces. Sean grew up as an Air Force brat and my father was in the Air Force during Vietnam. I want my children to know that families make sacrifices to serve our country.
There are some simple (and fun) things you can do that can be used as teaching moments. I find my children are a lot more receptive to teaching when it's done in fun. We have taken our children to parades and told them a little about the floats regarding the Armed Forces and even the service people (firemen, police, etc.) that are in the parade. Don't get me wrong, we focus on the fun of the parade and getting candy--but there are some great teachable moments.
We have made flag cakes before. It is very difficult to get 13 stripes and exactly 50 'stars' on a cake. We usually don't have the right amount, but we discuss the 13 stripes for the original 13 colonies. There is no official reasoning set for the colors, but George Washington had suggested red for England, blue for the sky and white for liberty. Other interpretations are red for the blood shed in battle to free our country and white for liberty/purity and blue for justice and freedom. If you've never made a flag cake, you bake a 9x13 cake (usually white, but we're a chocolate family). Frost with cool whip and use blueberries for the 'stars' and sliced strawberries to make the seven red stripes.
You can go a step farther and sing Happy Birthday to America before cutting and eating your cake.
There are lots of fun crafts, color sheets and projects available to download and print for free. Just Google "Fourth of July Crafts for Kids" or "Celebrating Independence Day". Both gave me terrific results.
And if you'd ever like to read all four verses to the Star Spangled Banner, click here.