Patriotic Balloons

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Even if your family can’t wave balloons at a real parade this year, I loved this idea (spotted in Country Living magazine) to make easy patriotic balloons for fun at home.

I blew up big blue balloons (and red or white ones would obviously also work), then added the letters U, S, and A out of star stickers.

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You can use small office star stickers, but we found big sparkly ones that added to the fun.

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While I decorated a few balloons in this way, the kids loved adding stickers to a few extras. Stars all over!

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We can’t wait to wave these at home while we watch the virtual fireworks.

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Stars and Stripes Sponge Painting

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We’re gearing up for the 4th of July, and today Veronika got to make her first patriotic craft! She was too young for crafts last year at Independence Day, but there are so many fun red-white-and-blue projects that she can do now as a toddler.

For this one, we needed sponges in the shape of stars and stripes. You can cut these yourself, but I knew my scissor skills aren’t quite that deft when it comes to cutting sponges. Luckily we have a set of shape sponges attached to handles; I used the rectangle for “stripes”, along with the star.

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I showed Veronika how to dip each sponge in a plate of paint (use red and blue of course) and then press onto white poster board.

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She very quickly got the hang of it and loved it!

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“Stripes” were far easier for her to accomplish than the star, which needed even pressure along all 5 points, so I helped with those.

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It turned out that big brother Travis wanted to try, too! So after officially making our stars and stripes artwork, we dipped and painted with other shapes for a while. I love seeing the work of an almost-2 and almost-6 year old side-by-side.

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This was a great craft to fill a rainy morning.

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Fourth of July Paper Pinwheels

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Just in time for a Fourth of July parade, we threw together these quick pinwheels! This is actually a project we’ve tried in the past but only had brads on hand to attach the paper to pencils. This time, I had proper straight pins on hand!

Draw patterns on paper with markers to start. For today, we knew we needed blue and red markers on white paper of course, but really you could tailor this craft for any holiday – or any day of the year!

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Older kids can concentrate on making their drawings and patterns symmetrical. Or even use patterned paper in a pinch! Make sure to also color in small circles on a separate sheet of scrap paper, which will be the center of the pinwheel.

Cut your paper into a 6-inch square; cut a 3-inch slit diagonally in toward the center from each corner, and cut out the scrap circle.

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Poke a straight pin through the paper circle, then begin folding in the corners of your square, alternating corners and poking the pin through each layer as you go. This was a mommy step!

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Poke the pin through the center of your square and down into the eraser of an unsharpened pencil.

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Your pinwheel is ready to twirl in the wind as the parade marchers go by! Baby sister loved it, too!

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In addition to this fun craft, we set the stage for the holiday with a few other activities. First we needed a playlist of Fourth of July tunes.

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Think of bandstand favorites like “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, then add anything with America or U.S.A. in the title! We made our own list, but relied on this one from Raddish Kids for inspiration.

Then we struck up some table talk, also suggested by Raddish Kids; we tackled intriguing questions like who is your favorite president (Travis chose Washington!), how many states can you name, and what is a favorite family 4th of July tradition?

Finally, I showed Travis a red, white, and blue flag quiz. For big kids, make it a true quiz or competition – winner gets a prize! For Travis, it was more of a teaching moment. He liked Great Britain’s flag best, and was intrigued to learn so many other countries use the same color trio as we do.

Happy 4th!

DIY Burlap American Flags

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We have little American flags for Travis and Veronika to wave at tomorrow’s Fourth of July parade, but with a roll of burlap in our craft bin, we thought it would be fun to bring homemade ones along as well.

Cut burlap into little flags; these can be square, rectangular, or triangles, whatever your little crafters would like!

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I set out red, white, and blue paints, and Travis jumped right in.

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First he smeared lots of blue over his flag, but then remembered to include the other two colors from Old Glory as well. By the end, his flag was a pretty mix. Meanwhile, I made a sort of reverse-color American flag for him.

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Once the paint dries, hot glue onto dowels. You can leave the dowels plain, but we decided to paint those blue as well!

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Flowers for the Fourth

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Travis checked out the crafts in his July issue of Highlights just in time for the Fourth of July, with these suggested fun flowers; they make the perfect centerpiece at any picnic table or backyard barbecue or pool party for the holiday! Make as many or as few as your little crafters have patience for.

For each flower, cut out a small circle, a medium flower or star shape, and a large star shape from cardstock in red, white and blue. We traced cookie cutters, but feel free to free-hand these!

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The trick for assembly is to alternate the colors of the flag.

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I challenged Travis to layer our flowers so each contained all three colors, no repeats. He liked this step best!

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Poke a hole through the cardstock. This step was a touch tricky; a pin worked best to pierce the thick paper but it made a very tiny hole. We carefully threaded a green pipe cleaner through and added a clear pony bead at the end. Wrap the pipe cleaner around the bead to seal.

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Arrange your “flowers” in a mason jar for a patriotic presentation!

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History of the Flag

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In anticipation of the 4th of July, Travis and I had a lesson about the American flag today, thanks to our Backyard BBQ unit from Raddish Kids. Recipes will follow soon, but for today, we had fun learning about the flag’s history and getting creative. Read on!

First I gave Travis a riddle: “I’m red, white, and blue, and starry too. What am I?” He had peeked (little cheater!) so knew I meant the flag. It’s fun at this point if you have a little flag that your child can examine and hold.

We made a chart known as a K/W/L graph with three columns: Things I Know; Things I Want to Know; What I Learned.

I asked him what he knew for starters, and he rattled off facts: the colors, the inclusion of stars and stripes, and that it’s our American flag, not another country’s.

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Then we discussed what he wanted to know. I encouraged him to go deeper: why are there thirteen stripes or fifty stars, for example; why do we fly the flag. Now it was time for videos suggested by Raddish!

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We looked through a few flag books, as well, for further facts. It was useful to have a world map handy so I could point out where other flags were from.

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Now he could fill in the final L column. I was so proud that Travis had learned about the thirteen colonies, for example, or nicknames for the flag like Old Glory.

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So now for the crafty part: designing his own country flag. Being only 5 years old, Travis’s grasp of the project was limited; his was a very fantastical flag for a “snake country.”

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We used cardstock as the background, and of course a coiled yarn snake needed to be in the center. Using stencils was an artistic way to add “symbols”. Big kids can go more in depth into which symbols exist on real flags, and why.

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A tin foil canton (vocab word)!) in the top corner added shine, though soon this was embellished with an old train ticket and construction paper.

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I loved watching his creativity even though his final result was quite busy for a flag. Please share about your own kids’ creations in the comments!

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Red, White, and Blue Berry Shortcakes

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It’s not Independence Day until we make a flag-colored recipe from High 5 magazine! To wit, see our recipes in the past for Flags for Breakfast or Red, White, and Blue Nachos.

This year’s candidate: easy shortcakes in the colors of the American flag. We made a few vegan substitutions from High 5’s original recipe, but stayed true to the spirit of the dish.

Instead of refrigerated biscuit dough, purchase frozen pie shells (such as Wholly Wholesome) or make your favorite pie dough recipe. Use a star-shaped cookie cutter to make 12 stars from the crust (you’ll have to re-roll your scraps a few times to have enough dough).

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Travis loved playing with extra dough!

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Place the stars on a baking sheet, brush with about 1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes; cool completely.

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Meanwhile, combine 2 cups blueberries, 2 cups raspberries, and 2 tablespoons agave nectar in a bowl. Set aside.

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Rather than make our own yogurt cream from scratch, we purchased a can of SoyaToo whipped cream. (Note: there are vegan substitutes that whip up like dairy cream, but I didn’t have enough time to plan in advance and order online).

To assemble each dessert, place one star on a plate, along with a heaping spoonful of berries.

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Add a dollop of whipped cream to taste, and enjoy!

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Patriotic Popsicles

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Need a red-white-and-blue snack for this Fourth of July – or any day this summer? These adorable popsicles fit the bill!

First up was using a small cookie cutter on slices of melon. Ideally, we would have used a small star for truly star-spangled popsicles, but a heart was just as cute.

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Travis was so proud of the shapes he made! Cut out enough so you have 2 watermelon slices per popsicle mold, and add to your molds.

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Fill the molds nearly all the way with lemonade, then top off with a few fresh blueberries.

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Freeze completely before serving. Ha, he seems to be asking, “Hey Mom, how do I get to the fruit?”

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DIY Fireworks

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We’re making our own fireworks this Fourth of July… on our t-shirts that is!

Ages ago Travis and I made toddler tie-dye, and the method for this shirt is a variation on the idea. Except now Travis can design with much more intention.

First, place a piece of cardboard inside a plain white t-shirt.

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Use permanent markers (such as sharpies) in blue and red to draw asterisk shapes on the shirt. This design was a bit over Travis’s head, but he enjoyed scribbling with the sharpies.

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Use an eye dropper (great for building those little finger muscles!) to drop a few drops of alcohol onto each colored portion of the shirt. The colors will bleed out into “fireworks” and sparkles. Travis had incredible concentration and determination as he dripped the alcohol over each line of marker.

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Let dry completely before wearing.

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Happy Fourth!

Red, White, and Blueberry Sundae Cups

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Get in the 4th of July spirit with this star-spangled dessert! If you want to go for something a little more gourmet, try pureeing the blueberries with a bit of water, cornstarch and extra sugar for a syrup on top instead, but we just liked our sundaes with fresh red and blue fruit!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • Non-Dairy vanilla ice cream
  • Fresh blueberries
  • Fresh strawberries, sliced

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  1. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon; set aside.
  2. Use a 4-inch round cookie cutter or glass to cut 3 circles from each tortilla. Brush the tortilla rounds evenly with the oil and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  3. Press the tortilla circles into six cups of a muffin tin, and bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  4. To assemble each sundae, scoop non-dairy vanilla ice cream of your choice into each tortilla cup. Top liberally with strawberries and blueberries!

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