Independence Day is almost here! Bring 18th century America to life for your kids with these fun activities. From colonial cooking lessons to archaeological digs, we've got something for every kid.
1. Authentic Arts and Crafts
Kids are fascinated by the idea of living in earlier times. These hands-on crafts are a terrific way to hook them into learning more about the Revolutionary War.
- Make a quill pen and write a note to Grandma
- Make a colonial water cooler from a gourd.
- Color pictures from that era. Ask kids to create a story about Molly Pitcher or tell them about the Liberty Bell.
Check out Education.com's special Independence Day page for even more cool activities and crafts!
2. Produce a Skit (and Dress up)
Stage a play based on the Revolutionary War and bring out the thespian in your child. Allow creativity to take center stage by having them create the props and costumes. To pull together period clothing, help them make a simple bonnet or a Pilgrim's hat that can stand in for the era's headdresses.
You can also have them read the Declaration of Independence or act out the events of the Boston Tea Party.
3. Cook Like a Colonist
Go back to a time before food processors with these authentic colonial recipes. Kids can help measure ingredients and even try creaming butter and sugar by hand. Ask them to imagine life without electricity. How would they like living in those times?
If you want to make the experience a truly low-tech one, try baking the corn bread in a Dutch oven. You'll need to burn charcoal briquettes in a fire-safe container until the embers are coated with ash. Pour the batter into your seasoned Dutch oven. Remove enough embers to place on the top of the lid. Position the bottom embers in a layer, an inch apart, away from the center of where your oven will go. Place the Dutch oven on the layer of embers. Place embers on the edges of the lid with four on the center of the lid. Bake for 25 minutes. Carefully check the doneness of the bread in the last five minutes.
Note: Use tongs and oven mitts when using a Dutch oven.
4. Go to the Movies
Rent a movie and watch it with your child to ignite the spirit of the Revolutionary War. Some classic productions that are a fun, easy introduction to the period are:
- Johnny Tremain
- Walt Disney Treasures - Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow
- Liberty's Kids: Complete Series
- John Adams, an HBO Miniseries
- David Crockett
5. Stage an Archaeological Dig
Delve into the past with your child with a mock dig. Collect a few items from a thrift store or from your old belongings such as:
- Old cutlery
- Pieces of fabric
- Wooden ladles or spoons
- A piece of jewelry
- Wooden toys
Find a spot in your yard and lay down potting soil. Mix in the 'artifacts' and sprinkle more soil to cover well. Then arm your archaeologists (invite a friend to dig) with beach shovels, paint brushes and collecting containers. When they find an item, have them brush off the soil and display in a table. Create a story about the owner of the belongings in that period. It may help to have a working story as you gather your items and then improvise. Ask the children what they think about what they discovered.
6. Play Games
Playing an interactive strategy game is an engaging way to learn more about what went on in those days. Try the American Revolution Battle of Yorktown Diorama Playset. Finally, toy soldiers have always been a fascinating item for the collector in your child. The Revolutionary War American Artillery Figure Set by Imex has a full collection of small action figures. All these items can be purchased on amazon.com.
7. Simplify for a Day (or Week)
Simple games like marbles and hopscotch have occupied many generations of children, including those who lived during the Revolutionary War. Take an afternoon off and pick up Daily Life During the American Revolution for research. Spend the rest of the day with your child reading sections appropriate for them and making a craft or toy. Some examples of easy-to-make toys are a corn husk doll and Cat's Cradle.
Try your hand at making a simple pomander ball. For the pomander ball, take an apple or orange. Poke holes with a fork and insert cloves into each hole, keeping them a clove's width apart. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon powder. Place fruit and leftover powder in a paper bag and allow to dry for a week. To enjoy the warm, homey aroma, place the pomander in a bowl or tie in netting with decorative twine to hang.
Do you need to brush up on knowledge and facts about the war? Check out The American Revolution and the New Nation (1775-1787) for AP US History for a good background of what happened. And how do you make it easy for your child to understand some of the scope of such a big event? Read our article Helping Your Child Learn History for some expert tips.
You can take kids to a museum, make a virtual trip to walk Boston's Freedom Trail or try some of our activities. Either way, have a fun and educational 4th of July!