Location, location, location…
When you plan your 4th of July extravaganza, it is important to find a nice park pavillion, lake, or beach house where your guests can spread out. Kids will want to run around and play, so unless you want to go crazy telling them not to run in the house, find a nice outdoor area. If you do your research, you’ll find that renting a small lake or beach house for the weekend can be very affordable if all the adults chip in. It’s nice to have a house so that babies who need a nap or older people who need to rest will have someplace cool and comfortable to go if they need to take a break from the party.
Just because you are planning this party doesn’t mean you have to pay for everything. Whether you are having a family reunion or just a bunch of friends, you can save a lot of money by having a few close siblings or cousins help you provide a few simple meats, like hot dogs, bratwurst, and hamburgers. Just tell everyone you invite to bring a side item and whatever they want to drink. You can provide some some koolaid for the kids and a couple cases of beer if you want, but sharing the responsibility for the food will give you much more time to relax. Just put a few uncles on grill duty, and the rest is done!
Many cities don’t allow fireworks within city limits, but this is one of the benefits to finding a good park or lakehouse outside of town. For a kid, life doesn’t get much better than having a big bag of fireworks and a punk to light them! This was always my favorite part of the 4th of July. My cousins and friends and I would throw bottle rockets at each other, and blow up soda cans, and do all other sorts of dangerous fire-related things, but somehow we all survived. Parents, if you try to supervise too much you will take all the fun out of it for them. Find one uncle or responsible teenage cousin who will supervise the fireworks. That way the kids can relax and have fun without all the parents hovering over their shoulders. This is the only time, all year long, that kids get to play with fire, so let them get it out of their systems!
When you have a large crowd of people who are probably drinking, trying to get everyone together for a structured game is futile. Plan some fun activities, but don’t push it. If people are having fun, let them be! Some good games to have are horseshoes, croquet, badmitton, and volleyball. For the less athletic bunch, board games may be a bit too time consuming, so you want to pick some games that don’t require a board, or that can be adapted to not need one. Apples to Apples is a fun game for people of different ages to play together, and Loaded Questions is a fun game to find out how well you know your family and friends! You can also bring trivia or trivia junior cards (leave the board at home) that you can play with teams so you can involve more people (boys against girls is always a fun way to play!)
Nothing can occupy a herd of 7-13 year old kids like a pile of cheap, plastic squirt guns. Fill ’em up and get out of the way! Make sure there is enough for every kid or you are asking for trouble. It’s also a very good idea for someone to have a talk with the kids first about not shooting adults. Let them know that anyone who shoots an adult will be in time out, and will no longer be able to play with the squirt guns.
Kids love bubbles. It’s that simple. They are not expensive. Get some!
Have each kid draw a self portrait on the sidewalk or driveway and have a contest with popsicles for prizes! (Everyone gets one, but the winner gets first pick, that way no feelings are hurt.) You could elaborate on this idea, or just let them play. The great thing about sidewalk chalk is all it takes to clean up is a little bit of rain.
If you have a guitar, it’s always fun to see who in your family will surprise you with a tune or two! Encourage any musically inclined family members to bring their instruments. Have someone bring a stereo with an ipod hookup so that anyone who wants to play some tunes can put their own mix on. If you are bringing your own music, a nice mix of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s dance music is sure to please a crowd of many ages.
Take time to relax . . .
Just because you are planning the celebration doesn’t mean you have to do everything! Assign jobs to other people and they will be happy to help out so that you can enjoy the day as much as the rest of your family will! If you are getting stressed out, grab a cold drink, take a seat, and relax for a while. No matter what happens, there will be many great memories from all your hard work.