In America, we have an annual patriotic holiday. The 4th of July or Independence Day, is the day Americans celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. We also love to build bonfires and watch fireworks. No one loves a party better than children. And nothing is more fun than a party outside watching fireworks. It is magical when small children get to stay up way past bedtime, playing in the dark and outside. The fireworks displays paired with music still move me.

I live in a small town called Seaside in Oregon. My family has celebrated the 4th of July in our little town since 1921. We are rapidly approaching our 100th anniversary. We have become infamous for our celebrations. I say "infamous" because the city has enacted laws to slow down the size of our annual bonfire. So, in an effort to be good citizens my family has become very creative at making a small safe bonfire fun for all.

We celebrate the 4th on the beach watching fireworks. You may celebrate it in the mountains, or in town at a park. Fireworks or not, here are some fun ideas that we use annually to bring fun and family together:

Bonfires are for gathering

We love to sit around a bonfire on the beach, or even in the mountains. We have learned a few tricks for safety and fun. We have a wagon with large off-road tires added to haul firewood from our home or vehicle to a spot that is grass and debris-free. Mark your pit clearly, whether it is an official fire pit in a campground, or a spot on the sand. Give small children a buddy and spend some time before the night of your fire teaching the word "hot."

We bring easy to carry canvas chairs or blankets, dry kindling, newspaper, matches and a cheater log. We learned long ago that there is nothing worse than having difficulty lighting a fire. A store-bought Presto log, or small fire starter log does the trick to ensure that the fire is a success. Avoid kerosene or lighter fluid. It is dangerous and a tempting toy for teenagers. Learn campfire safety through a video you can share with kids here. Learn how to build a fire here.

Good food and campfire eats

The old standby and personal favorite is S'mores. Learn about s'mores and how to make them here. We have learned a few tricks to make it easier. My sister buys cookies that already have fudge on one side or dipped in chocolate. Marshmallow roasting is an art and best done as a small competition and over glowing coals rather than a large fire. We also like tin foil dinners. A video link with directions for a simple and delicious tin foil dinner is here. Banana Boats are a new favorite for me. Here is a recipe from Small Home Big Start.


Every year we try to do something just a little different while we wait for the fireworks to appear. One year, my brother lovingly built marshmallow shooters. Video instructions here. As we settled in, he tossed them to the kids, tossed out bags of miniature marshmallows, took cover and watched the fun begin.

Once I packed coolers of pre-filled water balloons and left them strategically placed. When the heat was on, and no one was expecting it, surprise! Just make sure to pick up all the little pieces so that no animals or small children choke.


There are several outdoor games that can be built at home or created for family fun. My girls created a game of angry birds. They purchased large rubber balls and painted them with bird faces. Then, they painted stacks of various-sized tin cans or coffee cans bright neon green with pig faces. You set the cans up, throw the balls, and enjoy hours of fun.

Music for the soul

Always invite friends to join your family, especially if they play the guitar or ukulele and sing. Over the years, we have developed a few great singers, although you don't have to be a great singer or know all the words to enjoy sitting around the fire and listening to music.

Time for fireworks!

You may be tempted to buy a lot of your own fireworks. Occasionally I have seen adults go to great lengths to skirt the law, or run right to the edge of it. Remember, the kids are watching. Don't do anything in front of them that you wouldn't want them to do without you there. Whatever you do now, they will do alone in a few years. With that said, fireworks are memory makers. It is the perfect time to wrap small children in blankets and snuggle down safe.

A fireworks safety video is here. Fireworks safety for children is here. Written fireworks safety information from kids health is here.

Create family traditions and memories that will bring your children back with their friends year after year. Whether it is a celebration, or just a night around the fire with family enjoy being together and plan to have fun.

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