Happy Birthday, America! A Storytime for the Fourth of July

Today was a beautiful day in the park, and we had a lot of fun celebrating the Fourth of July a little early.

To be honest, I have a hard time finding Fourth of July books that work well for storytime, so instead I focused primarily on the theme of birthdays. After we sang our opening song (Put Your Finger in the Air), I asked if anyone had a birthday coming up. Two girls raised their hands (their moms said they were both in September, but we sang Happy Birthday to them anyway). And then I said that there was a big birthday coming up…America’s! And we sang Happy Birthday to America before reading our first book.

Here’s what we did:


This Bear’s Birthday by Alyssa Satin Capucilli; illustrated by Lorna Hussey

Sweet story about a little bear who wants to do things for himself on his birthday. He has trouble putting on his jacket, and picking apples high in the tree, but still finds ways to get things done with a little help from his family. Although it was a little on the long side for my audience (which is largely two and three year-olds), there were lots of opportunities for the kids to participate by stretching up high, or pretending to blow out candles, so it still held their interest.

A Birthday for Cow by Jan Thomas

Jan Thomas’ books are always fun for storytime, and this one was no exception. When Mouse and Pig decide to make a birthday cake for cow, they dismiss Duck’s suggestions of adding a turnip. But when it’s finally time to celebrate, it’s the turnip that excites Cow the most. The kids enjoyed pretending to stir the cake batter, and singing Happy Birthday to Cow.

Red, White, and Boom! by Lee Wardlaw; illustrated by Huy Voun Lee

Simple, colorful rhyming book about a Fourth of July celebration, with a parade, a picnic on the beach, and fireworks at the end. Before we started reading, we handed out small squares of bubble wrap (the kind with large bubbles), and told the kids we would pop them when we got to the page with the fireworks. They had a great time.

Songs & Rhymes:

Ten Candles on a Birthday Cake

Ten candles on a birthday cake (hold up ten fingers)
All lit up for me (point to yourself)
I make a wish and blow them out.
Watch and you will see! (blow on fingers and quickly close hands into fists)

After we did the rhyme with ten candles, I asked if there were any one year-olds in the group, and we did it again with one candle, then two, then three, then four.

This is the Way I Blow My Balloon

This is the way I blow my balloon: (mime holding a balloon in both hands)

Blow! (blow air out while spreading your hands apart)

Blow! (blow air out while spreading hands even wider)

Blow! (blow air out while spreading your hands as wide apart as you can)

This is the way I POP my balloon. Oh! Oh! No! (clap hands together)

Old MacDonald

We sang this one as a follow-up to A Birthday for Cow. I asked the kids to suggest animals and their sounds:

C] Old MacDonald [F] had a [C] farm,

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

And on that farm he [F] had a [C] pig,

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

With an oink-oink here, and an oink-oink there,

Here an oink, there an oink,

Everywhere an oink-oink.

[C] Old MacDonald [F] had a [C] farm,

E-I- [G7] E-I- [C] O!

Wave, Wave, Wave Your Flag

For this one, I held up an American flag, and asked the kids what colors they saw. Then we handed out play scarves and told the kids we were going to pretend the scarves were flags for the next song.

These were actually two separate songs that I found on PreschoolEducation.com, but they were both to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat, so I combined them. In between the second and third verses, I told the kids we were going to do some magic and turn our flags into fireworks, which we threw up into the air and caught over and over again in the third and fourth verses.

Wave, wave, wave the flag,
Hold it very high.
Watch the colors gently wave,
Way up in the sky.

March, march, march around,
Hold the flag up high.
Wave, wave, wave the flag,
Way up in the sky.

Boom, crack, whistle, pop!
Fireworks in the sky.
See them lighting up the night,
On the Fourth of July.

Red, blue, gold, and green,
With fireworks we say,
“Happy Birthday, America,
It’s Independence Day!”

You’re a Grand Old Flag by George M. Cohan

We sang this for our instrument play-along (after we handed out egg shakers).

[C] You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high-flying flag,
[G7] And forever in peace may you wave.
[C] You’re the emblem of the land I love,
The home of the [D7] free and the [C] brave.

[C] Every heart beats true ’neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s [A7] never a boast or [Dm] brag.
But should [C] auld acquaintance [G7] be forgot,
Keep your [F] eye on the [G7] grand old [C] flag!

Stay & Play: Cardboard Tube Fireworks

I found this idea on TheBestIdeasforKids.com and it was a big hit. We had cut small slits in the bottom half of some toilet paper and paper towel rolls ahead of time, and flattened them out to make a flower shape.

For the Stay & Play, I put out the cut cardboard tubes, along with sheets of black paper, plates of red, white, and blue tempera paint, and glitter. The kids had fun dipping their cardboard tubes in the paint and stamping them on the paper, then sprinkling on the glitter. They turned out really well!

Happy Fourth of July!