Celebrate the Fourth without fireworks: Alternative activities families can enjoy today

2013-07-04T00:00:00Z Celebrate the Fourth without fireworks: Alternative activities families can enjoy todayChristine Bryant Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
July 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It's that time of the year again when emergency rooms prepare for the influx of injuries that will come through their doors.

Last year, more than 8,700 children and adults were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

That sobering statistic is enough to make many parents think twice about including fireworks in their family celebrations during the Fourth of July. However, coming up with fireworks alternatives that engage the interests of the whole family over the holiday can be challenging.

Here are eight suggestions of fun alternatives to setting off fireworks that will put parents' minds at ease, yet still capture the patriotic spirit of the holiday.

1. Decorate your bike.

Decorating a bike is the perfect way to let your children's imagination take over while celebrating America's birthday.

Stick pom-poms out of the handle bars, and use red, white and blue crepe paper or streamers to wrap around the spokes and bike frame.

Tie helium balloons to the handle bars, and use leftover tinsel garland from Christmas for an added sparkle.

Want to make noise? Tie decorated aluminum cans to the back of the bike seat.

Have your kids ride their bikes to the local parade or fireworks display tonight and show off their creations, or have a neighborhood bike parade.

2. Get the noise and flash without fireworks.

About 1,000 fireworks-related injuries that occurred last year involved sparklers and bottle rockets - two popular types of fireworks among children.

Indiana Fire Marshal Jim Greeson suggests arming kids with glow sticks rather than sparklers.

"I always try to promote, especially for young children, for parents to go out and buy glow sticks," he said. "They make a nice little glow in the dark, and they're similar to a sparkler."

Not only are they safer, they last longer than sparklers as well, he said.

"A child won't get burnt on them, and they last much longer," Greeson said. "Children can play with those quite awhile."

If kids like the loud booms associated with fireworks, try noise makers, which can be purchased at party supply stores or made at home by using beans in a bottle or pebbles in an empty juice can.

3. Throw a birthday party.

It is, after all, America's birthday. Engage the whole family in throwing a birthday party by baking a red, white and blue cake.

Decorate the house with patriotic streamers and balloons, and sing "Happy Birthday" to the USA.

4. Make homemade fireworks.

These types of fireworks come without the explosion, but are just as colorful.

Use confetti and toss it up into the air, though be ready for a long cleanup.

Or, try blowing gigantic glowing bubbles. Pour washable glow paint into bubble solution to make a 50/50 mix and blow bubbles. The result will be a mixture of neon colors floating up into the sky.

Chinese lanterns also make a good alternative to fireworks because they create a beautiful display in the night sky without the loud noises that may scare younger children.

5. Use sidewalk chalk to entertain.

Fireworks often follow dinner after a Fourth of July cookout.

This year, instead, have a sidewalk chalk party.

Purchase a bucket of sidewalk chalk, and allow the kids to transform your neighborhood's sidewalks into an explosion of color.

6. Head indoors.

If rain drowns out the holiday festivities - or if you want to avoid the crowds and loud bangs that come with the Fourth - hold an indoor party.

Depending on the age of your kids or visitors, you can hold a Wii competition or have a movie night watching flicks such as "Born on the Fourth of July," "The Patriot," "Rocky" or "Independence Day." For kids, try the Disney movie, "American Legends," which tells the story of Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bunyan.

7. Show patriotism.

Nothing says patriotism like supporting the troops, and the 4th of July is a great time to get the family together to assemble care packages to send overseas or to wounded soldiers in military hospitals.

Make homemade cards to include in the packages using red, white and blue cardstock and decorations.

More information on how to donate care packages can be found online at operationgratitude.com.

8. Organize a contest.

Play a game of softball with family and friends at a local park, or go bigger and organize a neighborhood or church tournament.

The kids will be worn out by the end of the day, and it's a great way to celebrate America's favorite pastime.

Or, if you're throwing a family get-together, instead of setting off fireworks, hold a blueberry pie eating contest. Stories of Uncle Bob or Grandma Minnie's win will be much more memorable for years to come than fireworks.

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