Teach your Little Patriots Well: Start Your Own Traditions this July 4th

Friday, June 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

By Steve Warren, kotv.com

Just for a moment, imagine your children growing up without the freedom we as Americans cherish. Now that I'm a parent, I want my daughter and her sister to understand and appreciate the American experience. This Independence Day, here are some suggestions for doing something enjoyable with the kids besides shooting off fireworks.

Visit a national, state or local historical park.

When I was a kid, my parents stopped the car at every historical site. They would let my brother and I out of the car, so we could explore for ourselves every inch of the forts, the ruins, the cannon, visit the museum, touch the relics -- you name it. Years later, I asked my parents why they stopped at these sites. Expecting an answer of "to get you out of our hair" or "to give us a break," their answer surprised me. They said that both of them had always appreciated history and wanted to instill in us the love of history as well. As you can tell, they did a good job. Take your kids on an adventure to an historical park. Show them their history and let them experience it for themselves. You might even learn something, too. Come to think of it, my parents didn't just wait in the car, they were out climbing on the ruins with us. Can't go anywhere? No problem. Take a virtual tour of a Revolutionary battlefield or historical park on the web at Revolutionary Wars Battlefield Tours.

Buy a Flag and Display it

My 23-month-old daughter loves her little flag. She constantly watches a Barney video in which Barney is leading his audience in the song "It's a Grand Old Flag." Although I'm sure she loves waving it, I can't wait to teach her what it represents. Take some time to tell your kids the story of the American flag. You don’t need a degree in American history to do it. Tell them about the original 13 colonies that are represented by the 13 stripes. Tell them of the sacrifice made by patriots down through our short 224 years that is represented by the red and the purity of the white. Explain the field of blue and the stars that represent each individual states. Tell them of that first Continental Congress and the problems that they faced as a new nation. Tell them the story about a man named Washington who won a revolution and became the father of a new country. Need to find out some information yourself? The National Flag Foundation has all the information you need at their web site.

Read the Declaration of Independence Together

At many homes across America each Christmas, it is a tradition to read "The Night Before Christmas." Why not read the Declaration of Independence with your children on the anniversary of the day that those sacred words were written? You can find a copy of the Declaration as well as other historical American documents at the National Archives web site.

Organize a Parade for the Kids

Everybody loves a parade and July 4th is no exception. Every year on the weekend before the Fourth of July, our neighborhood association organizes a parade for the kids. Mothers and fathers can also march along with their children. Small prizes are handed out to the best decorated bicycle or wagon. Everyone who participates receives a little American flag. The parade doesn't have to be very long, so gather up the neighborhood kids and get started. Remember to have some refreshments for the kids and the parents following the parade. After all, the Fourth is a time for getting together with friends as well.

Rent a Documentary or Movie on the American Revolution

Let the kids do a little time traveling via the VCR. Rent a documentary or a movie on the American Revolution. Check TV listings to check for programs on American History. If your kids older, (I would recommend they be teenagers) take them to see the new movie "The Patriot" which stars Mel Gibson. Encourage your children to ask questions after the movie. If you don't know the answer to the question, make it a point to look for the answer on the Internet together.

An avid Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefield preservationist and a noted amateur historian, Steve Warren is a writer-producer for kotv.com. You can contact him at swarren@kotv.com.