Fourth of July Education for Kids
Most American families are familiar with the festivities of Independence Day. In fact, 63% of people attend a fireworks display and 76% get together with family. With the busyness of the day, it’s easy to forget to discuss the symbolism behind the day, especially with young children who don’t yet understand.
This time of year is perfect for a history lesson teaching kids the meaning behind July 4th and why we celebrate the day. The information in this blog post should help get you started. As an added bonus, view the instructographic below for a fun activity you can use during your Independence Day celebrations.
The Declaration of Independence
Before the first Fourth of July, five men (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, and Thomas Jefferson) were tasked with writing a document explaining why America was declaring its independence from the British. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft, and the first version was officially signed and adopted on July 4, 1776.
In the document, which still exists today, the 13 original colonies explained why they wanted to be free from the British. The document listed all of the bad acts the British king had committed against the colonies and made clear what the colonies felt their rights were, including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
It was with this document that the United States officially became free.
The Liberty Bell
After the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, it needed to be read to the people. To alert the citizens and encourage them to gather in the center of the town, the Liberty Bell was rung. The bell still exists to this day, although it now has a large crack. It can be seen in the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia.
The American Flag
Did you know that 66% of American people display an American flag on the Fourth of July? The American flag is one of the most recognized symbols of the United States. It’s made up of 13 red and white stripes that symbolize the original 13 states. Laying on a blue rectangle in the upper left corner, the 50 white stars represent the current 50 states. The flag has evolved over the years (the original flag had only 13 white stars). Today’s version was adopted on July 4, 1960.
Both Uncle Sam and the United States share the same initials: U.S. This fictional character originated as a cartoon in the 19th century and was designed to represent the government of the United States in “human” form. He usually dresses in the colors of the USA: red, white, and blue.
You may be wondering, why do most portrayals of Uncle Sam show him pointing? He was often used on recruiting posters to serve as a symbol of American pride and patriotism and to encourage men to join the military.
Statue of Liberty
As a whole, the Statue of Liberty represents freedom. However, there are many pieces of the statue that symbolize something different for America. Lady Liberty holds a torch in her hand, which is a symbol of enlightenment; the statue lights the way to freedom. The seven spikes on the Lady Liberty’s crown represent a halo, much like a guardian angel’s.
The bald eagle is our national bird. It symbolizes strength, independence, and freedom. You can see the bald eagle on many other symbols, including the Great Seal of the United States, which we explain next.
Great Seal of the United States (front)
This is the national emblem, or badge, of the United States. The front of the seal has many symbols. The 13 stars, stripes, arrows, olives, and leaves all represent the original 13 states. The color red represents courage, blue represents justice, and white represents purity. The motto held in the beak of the bald eagle is Latin and is translated to “from many, one” which means the 13 original states came together to form one nation.
Great Seal of the United States (back)
The back of the Great Seal is quite different from the front. The unfinished pyramid has 13 levels, again representing the 13 original states. It is unfinished because America is an ever-evolving, growing nation. The eye above the pyramid is called the Eye of Providence, which can also mean the “Eye of God.” You may also notice the Roman numerals MDCCLXXVI, which translate to 1776, the year the Declaration of Independence was signed and America became free from British rule.
Fireworks displays are a popular tradition on the Fourth of July. The reason goes all the way back to 1776, when John Adams wrote a letter to his wife declaring that signing the Declaration of Independence should be celebrated with “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, … bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.” To this day, we celebrate the patriotic holiday in this manner.
Have you talked to your children about why we celebrate Independence Day? Have your children asked about the meaning of the Fourth of July? We’d love to hear your tips for explaining this historic day. Share them with other parents in the comments below.