Celebrating the Fourth with Young Children: Fireworks Can Be Scary But There Are Plenty of Ways to Have Fun!
At 23 years old, I can of course sit at the beach and enjoy the fireworks with my family. But still strong is a memory of the first time I experienced fireworks when I was four years old, and it was a pretty scary time.
My twin sister Jackie and I were both pumped to be headed to Jones Beach for my parents’ anniversary which was also the Fourth of July. I was so happy with my new bathing suit since I loved swimming even at a young age. I spent the day running around, playing in the water and the sand, hand-in-hand with my sister.
As the sun went down, we enjoyed a picnic while my parents prepared the two of us for a wonderful fireworks show above the water. My dad had his camera out ready to capture our smiles.
Covered with a blanket with heads tilted to the sky, the first firework shot into the clouds, full of different colors and shapes. The colors in the sky filled my parents and sister’s eyes as they smiled, but my eyes flooded with tears as the noise from the fireworks ripped through me. I was so scared! I covered my ears with my hands and cried at the top of my lungs. I remember my dad taking me to sit in the hot muggy car, where the sound could no longer reach me, as my mom and sister enjoyed the rest of the show.
So what does it mean that as a four year old I was terrified by fireworks and my twin sister loved them? I thought this information about what's too scary might be useful. It was written about Halloween but seems like it applies to fireworks as well: “Each child is different, so it’s difficult to give hard and fast rules about what may be overwhelming for all children at different ages. The most important thing a grownup can do is to know an individual child and watch for her reactions to potentially scary images and situations. Pay attention to what she seems very worried about, avoids, or talks about, which can be clues that something is scary. Parents are often surprised by what frightens their child.”
Someday when I have a family of my own, I’ll remember that sometimes fireworks can be scary for young children, as they were scary for me, and that there are other ways to celebrate the excitement of the holiday with my kids.
Here are some ways families can celebrate the 4th without the fireworks - if they’re too scary for your kids.
- Enjoy a day at the beach or pool together
- Listen to, sing, or learn about the Star Spangled Banner
- Read Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet S. Wong or another book about summer fun
- Cook together and make some patriotic looking treats. Just add food coloring to your cake or cookie frosting or decorate with blueberries and strawberries
At the end of the day your children will be wiped out but excited about all that they have done and learned on America’s day of Independence, even without the fireworks.
Lena Salzbank was an intern with the Digital Content team at NAEYC in the summer of 2015.