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Toddlers may not truly understand that July 4th is America's birthday, the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but birthdays should be familiar to them from their own parties. Do little things in your classroom that emphasize our country, from the colors of red, white, and blue, waving a flag, to singing Happy Birthday to the USA.
Family traditions for this holiday usually include parades, picnics, and fireworks at night. You can begin to tie in these traditions with activities in the classroom with a patriotic flair. Ask the children to tell you about their experiences going to a parade or fireworks display. Think about conducting a Fourth of July parade, making red, white, and blue artwork, and reinforcing this holiday with a birthday party in class.
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Here are the materials needed to conduct this lesson plan:
- Corduroy's Fourth of July by Don Freeman [Viking Juvenile, 2007]
- Rhythm instruments
- Red, white and blue tempera paints
- White and black construction paper
- Household sponges
- Koosh balls (found in local toy stores)
- Vanilla cupcakes
- Red and blue candy crystals
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Begin your day by reading Corduroy's Fourth of July by Don Freeman. Corduroy and his friends spend the holiday with a picnic, games, marching in a parade, viewing fireworks and celebrating a very famous birthday. After reading, ask the toddlers if they can relate to the things Corduroy did. Use this book to increase interest in this holiday and proceed with the activities below.
Stars and Stripes Art
Prior to class, cut out stars and wavy stripes from a household sponge. Set up containers of red and blue tempera paints. Hand-on-hand, help the toddlers dip the sponges into the paint and print onto white construction paper. Continue to help them print randomly on the page. There is no right or wrong way to do this craft - the process is the important part. Talk with the children that red, white, and blue are the colors of this country and the stars and stripes are on the American flag.
Fireworks Splatter Prints
Give each child a Koosh ball dipped in paint. Place the black paper on the floor and allow them to drop the ball onto the paper. The Koosh ball will leave an imprint that looks like a ball of fireworks. Let them drop several balls on their paper in shades of red, white, and blue. Since this can be a messy art activity, either do it outdoors or place newspapers to protect the floors. Of course with all painting activities with toddlers, make sure they are wearing paint smocks.
Strike Up the Band
Pass out rhythm instruments to the children. Talk about parades and show them how to do a marching step. Play music that is related to patriotic holidays such as the 1812 Overture or Stars and Stripes Forever. Invite them to march around the room, shaking and tapping their instruments to the beat of the music. As a variation to instruments, make shaker wands. Staple several lengths of crepe paper streamers to the end of a toilet or paper towel cardboard tube. The toddlers can decorate their individual shaker with patriotic stickers. When the music plays, they can march and shake their wands.
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Time for America's Birthday Party
Invite the toddlers to help decorate vanilla cupcakes using red and blue candy sprinkles. Before enjoying this tasty treat, sing a few rounds of Happy Birthday to the USA. Or use a variation such as this piggyback song below, sung to the same tune.
We love the USA,
We love the USA
We all love our country,
Let's celebrate today!
by Tania Cowling
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Toddlers may still be young, but it's never too early to teach them about patriotism. Use these Fourth of July lesson plans throughout the week to teach symbols of our country that will not be forgotten as they grow.