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“I think patriotism is like charity -- it begins at home.” I agree with Henry James on this one. When I think of the Fourth of July, many images come to mind - hot weather, waving flags, cold watermelon, outdoor grilling, nighttime fireworks, vacation time, and rock-bottom sales on soda pop and hamburger buns at the grocery store. But beyond those obvious seasonal symbols, there’s a much deeper significance to America’s Independence Day, and it is up to each of us as a family to decide how we want to celebrate what we know about our country’s origins and how we want to pass that along to our children in a way that will guide their personal sense of patriotism. Even if we don’t have plans for a beach vacation or a big neighborhood celebration on the Fourth of July, we can have a memorable stars-and-stripes celebration at home - inside or out, depending on how much heat you can take!
My four children range in age from fifteen down to five years old, and every one of them enjoys when I decorate the table for his or her birthday, so why not decorate for our nation’s birthday? Instead of opening presents, we’ll talk about the gift we’ve already received as Americans: freedom. This will surely spark some thoughtful conversation about the uniqueness of our nation and the special way we continue daily to enjoy freedom while many others in the world do not. Or they might just dive into the watermelon and cupcakes, but you’ll have a captive audience while they’re munching, right?
I’ve put together a few red, white, and blue projects to make that will help to set the tone for an at-home patriotic celebration with the most important people in your life. And if it’s already crazy-hot where you are (like it is here in Central Texas), invite the kids to help with a couple of the projects while keeping cool indoors. (Any time my boys see me punching out stars, they make a beeline for their own piece of paper to punch on!) It’ll keep them occupied for a while as well as give them a sense of achievement when they see all the fun stars-and-stripes decorations on the table.
I used four 12-inch by 12-inch pieces each of red and blue cardstock and two of the white. As I considered the blue cardstock colors for these projects, I looked at navy, turquoise, and light blue, but I finally chose a wonderful, versatile bright blue that I thought would look great at any time of day. I chose the red the same way, choosing one that is just a bit of a warmer red than some of my other options. Combined with the bright, pure white, these three cardstocks are a perfect combination for a patriotic celebration, inside or outside, day or night.
These simple paper firecrackers are inspired by a silver Mardi Gras decoration I saw earlier this year. Upon close inspection, I realized that it would be easy to make and fun in any color scheme, so here is my firecracker version.
Trim the cardstock to three inches wide and four inches long and cut a fine, 2.5-inch fringe with 8” Bent Scissors. As you cut, the fringe will begin to naturally bend a little. Place adhesive on one side at the bottom of the paper so that the fringe will bend outward when you wrap it around the tip of a plastic straw. Wrap 2.5 inches of fringe around the straw, then tightly roll the leftover 1.5 inches of fringe so that the solid part fits into the hole of the straw. That’s it! Your firecrackers will be fun and colorful and quite simple. One planning precaution: the fringe-cutting takes some time, so don’t plan to make these at the last minute. The firecrackers are simple, yes, quick, no.
Cut your firecrackers to a variety of lengths and arrange them in small glass jars or stick them into cupcakes, buckets of sand, a plate of butter...the possibilities are endless.
If you look at the jars holding the firecrackers, you’ll see some striped and polka-dotted stars scattered throughout. For the striped ones, cut one-quarter-inch strips of the blue and red cardstocks and adhere them to white, then use the Star Lever Punch to punch out the striped star. For the polka-dotted stars, punch tiny circles with the _” Circle Hand Punch, adhere them to the cardstock, then punch the star. Place a solid star on the back with a piece of heavy wire sandwiched between them and place in the jar with the firecrackers. Common sense precaution: the possibilities aren’t quite as endless with these wire picks. If you are placing your decorations into any type of food, use straws or toothpicks for these instead of the wire.
Here’s a project that can be almost completely delegated to a child if you have someone wanting to help. Have a crafty child punch red and blue stars with the Star Lever Punch and white stars with the Large Twinkle, Twinkle Squeeze Punch. Use a tape runner to adhere a white star onto each colored star. As a variation, you could also adhere a white star the other side so that when they flip around, you’ll always have a white star showing. To create the actual garland, an adult or experienced older child should sew the stars together, leaving about four inches between each set of stars. This garland is fun hanging from a light fixture, over a fence, or just laying on a table. A word of caution: do not allow the garland to pile up behind the sewing machine while sewing the stars together because they will become quite tangled!
Here’s a kid-friendly project that involves the Paper Crimper, a favorite tool around my house. Trim strips of colored cardstock to 1 inch by 8 inches and run through the Paper Crimper. With the Star Hand Punch, punch six stars in a row. Trim white cardstock to .75 inch by 8 inches, and adhere inside the colored cardstock so the white shows through the punched-out star holes. Surround the cupcake with this combined strip and adhere with a glue dot.
To further embellish the cupcakes, add punched stars to the cupcakes on the lower tier (stick them right into the icing!) and stars adhered to shortened straws on the top-tier cupcakes.
Stars & Stripes Banner
Although a banner isn’t technically a “table craft,” it is such a fun way to add a festive element to any size celebration. This banner is a definite kid-helper project, with lots of punching and taping involved for any little ones who want to participate. Have someone punch shapes while you cut out the banner pieces. You’ll need circles with the Extra Large Round ‘n Round Squeeze Punch, stars from the Star Lever Punch, stars from the Large Twinkle, Twinkle Punch, and one-half-inch by seven-inch strips of all three cardstock colors.
To create the banner pieces, measure and cut out seven triangles that are six inches across the top and seven inches long. Adhere circles, stripes, and stars, and sew the pieces together like the garland, leaving only about an inch between each piece. As a whimsical variation, make the triangles different sizes!
I hope that this article can serve as a inspiration for your own decorating. Look over the projects, try the ones you like, add your own personal style, and adapt to include your kids where they might be able to participate. While you’re working, whether it’s a solo project for you or a group effort with the kids, contemplate what freedom means to you and prepare to truly celebrate Independence Day this year.