Rules for the 4th of July

By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


The 4th of July is traditionally a holiday which we celebrate outside of the house. It is a summer holiday and includes fireworks, barbecues, the beach, camping, etc. Although all of these activities can be fun, they each entail a certain amount of danger or risk for small children. When events are held indoors, small children are "contained." When an event is held in familiar surroundings small children are aware of the routines and expectations. Outdoors is a different world. By taking a few extra precautions on this day injuries or accidents of small children can be prevented.
If you are going to use sparklers or similar fireworks the following suggestion may prove helpful. Have one adult be the official "fire source." By having this person available the children do not have to light their own sparkles. This adult may want to come equipped with a lighter or candle. Fill two coffee cans or quart jars with water and have the children put used sparkles in these containers.
Make a few rules about sparklers and enforce them strictly. One infraction should be enough to eliminate sparkler activities. Rules can include the following. Sparkles are not to be thrown or tossed in the air. People handling sparklers are to wear shoes. People who are using sparkles should keep away from each other. No sword fighting with sparklers. Spent sparklers are to be placed in the water containers only.
If you decide to observe a fireworks display be sure that you have established some crowd rules. If holding on to the hand is one of the rules you establish to assure that you do not lose your child in the crowd, make sure you stick to the rule. If your child does not want to "hand hold" and decides to cry, make it clear that they are free to cry but not free to let go of your hand. It is better for them to cry when they are holding on to your hand then to cry because they are lost in the crowd.
If you are using a charcoal grill you may also want to establish a few rules. They should include some instructions on the distance the children must be from the grill. Never allow the children to play with the charcoal lighter fluid or matches. Even after the burgers or hot dogs are done, keep a vigilant eye to assure that the children are kept away from the grill.
Going camping or hiking? Take along some supplies. These should include mosquito repellent, poison ivy relief medication, sun screen, and hats for the little ones. (Big ones too) Rules at camp should include supervision and assignment of children to responsible adults. Exploring should be controlled and areas that are off limits should be specified. Consequences for rule infarctions may be needed. Because children like to be active when adults want to relax, bring "kid activities" with you to camp. This can include sidewalk chalk, coloring books, reading material, card games, bicycles, skate boards, Frisbees, balls, etc.
Water events require special diligence. Five to ten minutes of unsupervised or unprotected time can be devastating. Use life jackets when appropriate. When a child is with a parent on the water it is not a time to try something that is new to the parent. Keep activities safe and simple and use the time with your child to teach water safety practices.
A word about rules is important at this point. Trying to explain some dangers to a small child is unproductive. The reason for this is that they are at the concrete or literal level of learning. The rules you develop to protect your child from danger should be concrete, easily understood, and easily enforced. Consequences should be immediate and logical.
On the 4th of July establishing rules creates a world of order for the small child. Using rules, with a small child, is a good way to help him/her feel secure on a day that would otherwise be confusing. Stick to the rules no matter how much your children complain. Choose to listen to their complaints about the rules rather than their complaints about spending the day at the Emergency Room.