50 Things Families Can Do Over the Fourth of July Holiday
You survived homeschooling. Summer camp is iffy. And now you're staring down a long Fourth of July weekend with the kids at home. Parental burnout is a real thing -- and for many of us, it started sometime in April (remember April?). We got you! Behold, below: fifty at-home activities you can do with your kids that are easy (walk the streets of Paris using Google Earth), silly (digital MadLibs, anyone?), cheap (see Hamilton on Disney Plus), patriotic (discover the first hero of the Revolution), educational (visit a museum), bonding (attend virtual family camp), and lots more. Start now.
- Tour the Smithsonian. From the actual desk where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, to a 1956 Uncle Sam costume, the Smithsonian Institute's Independence Day: July 4th virtual gallery offers a full collection of artifacts symbolizing our most American holiday.
- Learn about Black soldiers in the American Revolution. Watch the one-hour documentary Black Patriots: Heroes of the Revolution, hosted by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which highlights the contribution to American independence made by some 5,000 Black soldiers. Supporting content, including stories of little-known Black figures in the Revolutionary War, are available on the History Channel site.
- Finally see Hamilton. Premiering on July 3 on Disney Plus ($6.99 per month), the blockbuster musical about Alexander Hamilton, a precocious orphan who became one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, is the perfect mix of education and entertainment. Read our review.
- Enjoy the best fireworks ever. Live fireworks may be canceled, but you can still oooh and aaah over the next best thing: Disney World's incredible display over Cinderella's Castle in Orlando, Florida, which includes a lush soundtrack, animation, and an undeniable bit of magic.
- Learn all four verses of The Star Spangled Banner. Take on a real family challenge by memorizing Francis Scott Key's magnum opus on Old Glory, and discuss the national anthem as a symbol of patriotism -- and protest. While you're at it, learn the history of the Star Spangled Banner on the Smithsonian's American History site.
- Teach young kids and tweens about colonial America. Liberty's Kids is an animated series about colonial America that covers U.S. history's greatest hits like the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Bunker Hill.
- Discover the story of Crispus Attucks. The Crispus Attucks Museum explores the life and times of the biracial sea merchant considered to be the first hero of the American Revolution for leading a revolt against British soldiers.
- Watch The Patriot. Older kids may enjoy the gripping -- and graphic -- tale of a South Carolina farmer (played by Mel Gibson) who joins the Revolutionary War.
- Revel in quintessential American music. Tune in to the CW on July 3 for the iHeartCountry 4th of July BBQ country music concert featuring stars like the up-and-coming artist Kane Brown and others performing from their backyards. The show will replay throughout the weekend.
- Consider the meaning of the American flag. In the book Blue Sky White Stars, Indian American writer Sarvinder Naberhaus and award-winning African American artist Kadir Nelson create a stirring, poetic take on America and the flag.
- Read about the American Revolution. You have lots of options for exploring one of the defining moments of American history.
The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution: A Handbook for Time Travelers
The Founding Fathers!: Those Horse-Ridin', Fiddle-Playin', Book-Readin', Gun-Totin' Gentlemen Who Started America
Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies
Chains: The Seeds of America Trilogy, Book 1
- Read about the people enslaved by the Founding Fathers. Discover the fascinating personal stories of people enslaved by the first presidents of the United States.
In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives
Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington's Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away
- Explore the romantic side of the Revolution. Hamilton and Peggy: A Revolutionary Friendship tells the story of the friendship between Alexander Hamilton and the sister of his future wife.
- Reflect on what it means to be American. Celebrate the diverse experiences of Americans through these movies and TV shows.
Black Lives Matter movies on Netflix
We the People: Immigrant Stories and Experiences
- Introduce kids to American politics. Whether they rely on suspense, humor, or romance, movies like the historical musical 1776, Young Mr. Lincoln, and Dave make politics and government seem awfully entertaining. See all political movies.
- Write to lawmakers about the America you want to live in. Exercise your most basic democratic right by telling your congressperson your perspective on critical issues. Identify the topics that are important to you (climate change? School lunches? Police reform?). Go here to find the name of your congressperson, and follow the link to their page and contact info.
- Send a care package to a soldier. Show your appreciation for U.S. service people by sending thank-you cards or gifts. Many nonprofit organizations do the heavy lifting by making sure boxes are packaged correctly and distributing the items to the troops. Try supportourtroops.org or the United Service Organizations (the USO).
- Support veterans. The Wounded Warrior Project offers a number of ways to help injured U.S. service people, including Stream-to-Serve, which allows you to collect and donate revenue from your livestreaming channel (YouTube or Twitch).
- Play fun history games. History isn't just for textbooks, you know. Plenty of popular games teach kids about famous people (Who Was? Adventure), fun facts (Fact Monster), U.S. history (The Oregon Trail), or other historical information.
- Get to know the father of our country. Did he ever tell a lie? Were his teeth really wooden? Learn more about the first U.S. president through the books I Am George Washington: Ordinary People Change the World or The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington.
- Read about Juneteenth. Many African Americans consider this day to be their Independence Day, and the book All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom imagines the day the last group of enslaved workers were told of the Emancipation Proclamation -- two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the decree.
- Don't settle for the same-old same-old. Investigate little-known stories about U.S. history, especially ones that highlight the lives of people of color and women, who are often missing from the history books. Try these podcasts: The Humanity Archive and Black History Buff.
- Explore strange-but-true history. Whether it's poison in the Salem witch trials or what's really buried in King Tut's tomb, the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class reveals unusual secrets of the past in a binge-listen style that'll keep kids pressing play.
- Get into deep, philosophical conversations. Never run out of things to talk about with the free Gather app, which includes prompts for families to discuss things like what success means and how it feels when you're worried.
- Take a class. With a free 14-day trial (after that, $180 per year), the entire family can learn from some of the world's greatest scholars about everything from the Federalist Papers to defining cases of the U.S. Supreme Court on The Great Courses Plus.
- Tune in to your surroundings. In addition to supplying your community's news from a variety of sources (including the local paper and TV stations), the Smart News app allows you to explore how different outlets cover the same story.
- Go to camp. NatGeo is offering an eight-part virtual summer camp designed for families to connect with each other and dive in to traditional summer-camp activities like designing a camp logo and playing "getting-to-know-you" games -- all from the comfort of your own home. Or try one of these online summer camps.
- Solve a mystery. Described as "The Goonies meets Spy Kids meets Stranger Things," the audio series The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel, voice-acted by real middle school kids, plants clues and cliffhangers to hook kids in an incredible adventure.
- Read something sweet. That enduring symbol of American culture, apple pie, comes alive in books including Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie and The Apple Pie That Papa Baked.
- Make a red-white-and-blue dessert. Download the Food Network Kitchen app (60-day free trial) for recipes, meal-planning ideas, and chef's secrets on all your Fourth of July faves.
- Explore the night sky. You'll forget all about fireworks with the Sky Guide app, which pairs a GPS-oriented augmented reality view of the stars and constellations with linked Wikipedia information to create a powerful guide to the sky and beyond.
- Create something. Download the DIY-Creative Challenges app (try the 14-day free trial) for detailed project how-tos on a wide range of topics, including animation, art, and the ever-popular Minecraft. Or, try one of these 30 cool online projects for free.
- Record your family's story. Capture your unique history using the StoryCorps app, which includes everything needed for a deep, thoughtful interview -- from themed questions to recording tips to an audience.
- Make a summer playlist. If you don't have one yet, download a music app like Pandora or Spotify and string together everyone's favorite songs.
- Go anywhere in the world. Vacations may be a distant memory, but through the magic of Google Earth's precise zoom-in capability, you can travel the globe any old day.
- Identify all the birds in your neighborhood. If you're stuck at home, you may be paying more attention to the natural inhabitants of your streets. With Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab, you can figure out whether it's a sparrow or a jay waking you up too early.
- Learn the names of the plants growing around you. With Picture This Plant Identifier, you just snap a pic of the greenery in question, and within seconds you'll get a match (and a few alternatives), plus interesting facts that bring you a little closer to nature.
- Make a time capsule. If ever there were a time to encapsulate, it would be now. Get a comprehensive how-to, including appropriate vessels, family-friendly resources, and ideas that will stand the test of time.
- Learn about the science of fireworks. According to the website Explain That Stuff, created by British science writer Chris Woodford, "A firework is essentially a missile designed to explode in a very controlled way with bangs and bursts of brightly colored light." That's comforting.
- Play a game that requires no skill. For just 99 cents, the charades-like game Heads Up is an easy-to-pick-up game that offers plenty of silliness to keep kids and parents entertained for long periods.
- Do MadLibs. The star of every slumber party ever, MadLibs (the app version), encourages kids to have fun with language as they fill in blanks with parts of speech and other ideas to make rib-splitting stories.
- Give gratitude. With the world feeling a little uncertain, now's an ideal time to take notice of and appreciate the things that lift you up. Try the app Three Good Things - a Happiness Journal, which prompts kids to note the highlights of their day.
- Get some exercise. It can be tough to motivate yourself -- let alone your entire family -- to be physically active. Head to the Get Moving section at Wide Open School for no-excuses movement activities that range from simple (make up a silly walk) to challenging (plank high-fives).
- Hike the Grand Canyon. You can march in place, or just sit back and enjoy a two-hour first-person trek through America's contribution to the seven natural wonders of the world.
- Do a TikTok challenge. Learn a dance or take a stab at the latest viral challenge using TikTok. Go to the #ForYou page for inspiration on the latest trends.
- Bite into a science snack. Simple experiments with stuff you have lying around the house are just the right speed for lazy days, and that's the specialty of the quirky science museum the Exploratorium.
- Be inspired by artful collaboration. Hosted by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Create Together with Me is a YouTube series about the ways people are being creative and building community via the internet during times of uncertainty.
- Do a summer reading challenge. Sometimes a contest is just the motivator kids need to hit the books. Pick one (or more!) of the six challenges on our list, such as reading all the Harry Potter books before you see the movies or reading only award winners.
- Read picture books with a purpose. You've got plenty of time, so find a slower pace and read with intention. Try Her Right Foot about the Statue of Liberty, You Matter about self-worth, and The World Needs More Purple People about diversity, by celeb author Kristen Bell.
- Turn "red light, green light" into "red, white, and blue light." Red light means stop, green light means go. Change the rules to suit the colors of the Fourth of July, and you have a game that'll keep everyone on their toes.
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