4th of July Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Abby Federico

Abby has taught elementary special education and has her master's degree in this area.

Have you ever had a 4th of July celebration? This lesson will teach you about the 4th of July, also known as Independence Day. It discusses how Independence Day came to be a national holiday and explores early celebrations of the 4th of July.

The 4th of July

Fireworks, parades, cookouts, music--have you ever been to a 4th of July celebration? It's a time when many people relax, have fun, and wave the American flag. Have you ever thought about what the 4th of July means? Or maybe you have heard it called by its other name, 'Independence Day,' and wondered why it has two names. Let's learn more by starting with the history of the United States that led to the 4th of July.

Revolutionary War

The American Revolutionary War began in 1775. It started because the American colonists wanted to break away from Great Britain and start their own country. They felt that the British were treating them unfairly. At first, only a few colonies wanted to be completely independent. However, by 1776 almost all wanted independence from Great Britain.

On June 7, 1776, the Continental Congress (representatives from all of the colonies) met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and debated a motion to declare independence for the colonies. They did not vote on the motion that day, but instead made a committee to create a statement saying why they wanted to break away from Great Britain.

Independence Day

Finally, on July 2, the Continental Congress voted for the motion to declare independence from Great Britain. The vote was almost unanimous (the representative from New York did not initially vote, but later voted 'yes'). On July 4, the Congress adopted (officially accepted) the Declaration of Independence, which was written in large part by Thomas Jefferson. While the actual vote for independence happened two days earlier, July 4, 1776, was the day that became known as Independence Day.

A little-known fact about the Declaration of Independence is that it wasn't actually signed on July 4--it wasn't signed until almost a month later.


When the colonists were under Great Britain's rule, they used to celebrate the king's birthday. Starting in 1777, colonists began celebrating July 4 as their day of independence. The celebrations included public readings of the Declaration of Independence as well as bonfires, firing cannons, parades, and concerts--in general, early celebrations were very similar to today's Fourth of July parties! The colonists celebrated their day of independence even though the Revolutionary War (which the colonists won in 1783) was still going on.

Fireworks are a main part of many 4th of July celebrations.

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