The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays and one that I couldn’t wait to share with my kids. Nothing beats a weekend of beach, barbecue, and parades while basking in the sweet, warm air of summer. Of course, capping off the night with a spectacular fireworks show is just the cherry on top.
My first summer with a baby, though, I quickly realized there would have to be some new ground rules in place to keep the kiddos safe through all of this summer fun. Having little ones around things like fireworks and grills takes a little extra precaution, but of course, it’s no less fun.
These are the house rules for us around fireworks season—and I’m happy to say that with them, the Fourth remains a family favorite holiday. Read on for four tips for keeping kids safe around fireworks this Independence Day and beyond.
1. Leave the light shows to the pros
Growing up, we didn’t live in a state where fireworks were legal, so I never grew up setting them off. But in states where you are able to buy and set off fireworks, this rule is still a big one. When you have kids around, the unpredictability of them in addition to the risk of fireworks may not be a great combination.
Public fireworks displays are plenty around the first week of July—and often times, throughout the summer. Making it a tradition to hit your favorite parks or sights to watch the fireworks displays can be a great thing—all of the fun and wow without much of the headache.
2. Keep your distance
If you are setting off fireworks at home, or are attending a bigger show, keep a reasonable amount of space between you, your kids, and wherever the fireworks are being set off.
Young kids don’t have a great track record for impulse control, and fireworks, even with all of the best plans, can sometimes go awry. The last thing you want is a kid running towards something or a set-off firework heading the wrong way.
Many kids also have unpredictable reactions to fireworks too, and the further you are from the site of set-off, the better you can handle things like aversions to noise and smoke. If you’re planning to go to a fireworks display for the first time and you’re not sure how baby will react, being prepared with noise-protecting headphones is probably a good idea—some babies don’t mind the noise so much and others do not like it at all.
3. Sub out the sparklers
Not only are sparklers so fun, but they’re an Instagram dream, right? What’s cuter than a photo of your little tots dressed head to toe in their stars and stripes, sparklers in hand?
And while seasoned older kids are perfectly capable of holding a sparkler in a safe manner, little ones may not be. Sparklers get super hot—anywhere from 1800-3000 degrees (hot enough to melt gold or glass)—and little hands are not always ready for that. Leave the sparklers to grown-ups and older kids, and let your littles go wild with glow sticks or fiber optic wands.
If your older kids are using sparklers, make sure you direct them to hold the sparklers away from their hair, face, and clothing. And always be in within arm’s reach so you can reach in to redirect a hand if necessary (that means someone else needs to take the ‘gram) and have a metal bucket of water nearby to collect the used ones.
4. Be prepared
If you are setting off fireworks or using sparklers at home, keep a fire extinguisher, bucket of water, or hose (or all three!) nearby and make sure you know how to operate it properly. When you’re finished with the fireworks or sparklers, douse the remains with a bucket of water before disposing of them to avoid a trash fire.
Point fireworks away from homes, and keep them away from brush and leaves and other flammable substances. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that local fire departments respond to more than 19,500 fires caused by fireworks each year. Don’t allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.