For the first time since having kids, we braved the Fourth of July fireworks with our girls last summer (they were 3.5 and 1.5). And when I say we braved them, we went into DC and enjoyed THE fireworks on the mall! I was a little nervous for how it would go, because bedtime was going to be LATE, but I’m so thankful we went – a year later our girls are still talking about them, even though night time wasn’t perfect. So we’re doing it again this year!
In this blog post, I’m going to share:
- The 3 best ways to enjoy the Fourth of July with friends and family, and your kids
- Tips to observing the fireworks with a newborn
- Tips to enjoying the fireworks with babies
- Tips to go see the fireworks with toddlers and older kids
- How to manage naps and bedtime on the Fourth of July
- Our personal experience watching the fireworks last summer
3 Ways to Enjoy the Fourth of July with Friends, Family, and Kids
1. Have friends over!
If you’re really worried about taking your baby or toddler anywhere for the Fourth of July but still want to enjoy the company of friends or family, have them over at your house! That way you get the perk of people and also putting your little one to sleep in the comfort of your own home.
2. Go to a friends’ house!
If you know people hosting a Fourth of July party, head on over to their house! To try to keep sleep somewhat intact, you can either come home around or shortly after bedtime, or you could even bring a pack ‘n play or travel mattress and the SlumberPod over to their house so your kids can go to bed and you can keep hanging out! Then when it’s time to go, snag your kiddos and do a car-to-bed transfer when you get home. It might not be perfect, but it’s worth it for the fun night out!
You could also simply make it an off night and have a much later bedtime than usual for the sake of friends and memories.
[If you choose to go with option 1 or 2, or simply stay in with your family for the night and you’re worried about the fireworks waking your kids up overnight, read this blog post!]
3. Go out and see the fireworks!
While this option might seem overwhelming because it requires more planning and likely less sleep, it’s super fun! And leaves everyone with fun memories for years to come. Depending on the age of your baby or toddler, they may or may not get some sleep while you’re out and about enjoying the firework festivities, so in the rest of this post I have specific suggestions for how you can enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks with your newborn, baby, toddler, and older kids, including what to bring and what to consider in regards to sleep.
Preparing for the Fourth of July with Newborns
Newborns are probably the easiest babies to take out for fireworks on the Fourth of July, because they can still sleep pretty much anywhere and they’re still so little, so it’s easy to hold them for an extended period of time while they snooze! Plus who doesn’t love cuddling a newborn, so you’ll have lots of help with snuggles, too.
While newborns are pretty easy on the sleep front, the Fourth of July is pretty hot in most places in the country, so you want to plan accordingly and come prepared to have the best night you can.
What to bring for newborns on the Fourth of July
- A carrier and stroller– a stroller nap would be awesome to have your hands free, but carrier naps may be easier for your baby to fall asleep, and they’ll likely last longer. But strollers are also a great packing mule, so I suggest you bring both!
- Portable/stroller fan– it is generally hot on the Fourth of July and we want to make sure your newborn stays cool! Here is a great option that clips right to your stroller or can be handheld.
- Light clothing– again, because it’ll be hot, dress your newborn accordingly! Especially if you plan to wear them most of the night, that’s a lot of extra heat for both of you.
- Noise-cancelling headphones– fireworks are loud and we want to protect our newborns’ ears from the sound as much as possible. These headphones or these headphones look like great options!
- Portable sound machine– if you’re in a big crowd and enjoying friends before the fireworks start, it’ll likely be helpful to clip a portable sound machine onto the stroller or carrier to help your newborn get more consistent sleep. The Rohm Travel Sound Machine is my favorite portable sound machine, as it’s rechargeable and the battery lasts 12 hours!
- Extra milk– if you bottle feed your baby, make sure to bring more milk than you’d usually feed them to help keep your newborn hydrated. If you are nursing, expect to nurse more frequently!
Newborn Sleep Schedules for the Fourth of July
When it comes to what kind of “schedule” to follow while you’re out and about, continue to follow awake windows as you do on a normal day! This is the best way to avoid overtiredness – even if your babe only naps in 30-45 minute stretches, it’s much better than not sleeping at all.
For example, if your 6 week old has been awake for 60 minutes, get them in the carrier or stroller so they have a chance to snooze! Or if your 12 week old has been awake for around 90 minutes, get them in a position where they will more easily fall asleep.
Your newborn may continue to take naps all evening until you’re home, or they might sleep a longer “nighttime” stretch while out and about – either way, we want sleep to happen to avoid big overtiredness!
[If you’re unsure of appropriate awake windows for your newborn, download my free schedule guide here!]
Preparing for the Fourth of July with Babies
What to bring for babies (4-17 months old) on the Fourth of July
- Carrier and stroller– similar to newborns, a stroller nap would be awesome to have your hands free to enjoy some Fourth activities, but carrier naps may be easier for your baby to fall asleep, and they’ll likely last longer. I suggest bringing both so you have the option, plus strollers help lug all of your other belongings!
- Noise-cancelling headphones– fireworks are loud and we want to both protect our babies’ ears from the loud noise as much as possible, and we also don’t want to scare them! These headphones or these headphones look like great options!
- Portable/stroller fan– it is generally hot on the Fourth of July and we want to make sure our babies stay cool. Here is a great option that clips right to your stroller or can be handheld.
- Portable sound machine– if you’re in a big crowd and enjoying friends before the fireworks start, it’ll likely be helpful to clip a portable sound machine onto the stroller or carrier to help your baby sleep without being distracted or woken up from noise. The Rohm Travel Sound Machine is my favorite portable sound machine, as it’s rechargeable and lasts 12 hours!
- A blanket– Your baby will likely have some time awake on the Fourth of July, so rather than always needing to be held or in the stroller, bring a blanket for them to stretch out on and play on the ground!
- Snacks– if your baby is 6 months or older, you’ll want to bring some extra snacks in case they get hungry. Fresh fruit is a great option, as it’s naturally more watery and will help hydrate your little one, too.
- Milk and water– hydration is super important, so if your baby has started to drink some water, make sure to offer it to them frequently! Similarly, if you bottle feed, expect to feed your baby more than usual. And if you are nursing, you’ll want to nurse a bit more often to make sure your baby stays hydrated.
Baby Sleep Schedules on the Fourth of July
Similar to newborns, continuing to follow your baby’s awake window schedule as closely as possible on the Fourth of July will help avoid as much overtiredness as possible. If they would normally be taking a nap or getting ready for bed, try your best to help that happen in the carrier or stroller. It will very likely take them longer than usual to fall asleep, and “bedtime” will likely just look like another nap, but that’s better than nothing!
Additionally, if you generally have to wake your baby from one or multiple naps during the day to make sure they don’t max out on daytime sleep, let them sleep as long as they are able to during the morning and afternoon on the Fourth of July when you’re at home, knowing they will lose some sleep that night.
And if at all possible, plan for the next day to be very low key, at home, with naps and bedtime happening on time and in your baby’s crib, to help get back on track from the off night.
[If you’re unsure of appropriate awake windows/schedules for your newborn, download my free schedule guide here!]
Preparing for the Fourth of July with Toddlers and Older Kids
What to bring for toddlers and older kids (18+ months) on the Fourth of July
- Stroller– your kiddo is probably going to get tired, especially from all the walking and action, so having your stroller will save your arms. It’s certainly not guaranteed, but there’s a chance your toddler could even snooze in the stroller at some point!
- Snacks– snacks are a lifesaver when it comes to fussiness and sleepiness to keep our kids going.
- A blanket and/or lawn chairs– set up a comfortable place for your little one to spread out watch the fireworks!
- Noise-cancelling headphones– these are not a must at this age, but if your child is afraid of loud noises or you’re not sure how they’ll handle the sound, something like these will be very helpful!
- Glow sticks– it helps you see your kids in the dark and they are FUN!
Toddler and Older Child Sleep Schedules on the Fourth of July
If your toddler or older child still takes an afternoon nap, make that nap a priority on the Fourth of July – they will be awake much later than usual that night and that nap will be key to helping the night go as smoothly as possible.
Similarly, if you generally have to wake your toddler up from their nap during the day, let them sleep as long as they can on the Fourth of July! The longer nap they take the better in preparation for the night.
If your toddler or older child no longer naps, that’s okay, too! Try to have a set aside quiet time and/or screen time that afternoon so they can still have a period of down time that day to reset before an evening of high energy and excitement.
Finally, prepare your child for the night! You know the Fourth of July will be a late night and your toddler or older child is going to feel it, so help them out by preparing them in advance. Let them know who they’ll be seeing that night and what exciting things to look forward to.
Also let them know they are going to be awake way past their bedtime, so as soon as you get home it will be bedtime. Give them a heads up that they might fall asleep in the car, or that you will only read one book once you get home (keep reading for more specific bedtime suggestions). That way they won’t be as confused when bedtime feels different than usual.
Finally, if at all possible, plan for the next day to be very low key, at home, with their nap and bedtime happening on time and in their crib/bed, to help get back on track from the night before.
How to handle bedtime once you get home from the fireworks
If you’ve just spent the evening hanging out with friends and/or watching the fireworks with your kids, aim for a QUICK bedtime when you get home, as it’s going to be late and we want to get our little ones down as fast as possible.
Here are three tips to make that quick bedtime happen:
1. Wipe your child down and get jammies on before you leave
There’s a good chance your little one will fall asleep on the car ride home (that’s always my hope!) and you can then transfer them right to bed when you get there. Having your baby or toddler wiped down and in a fresh diaper and jammies before you get in the car is the best way to make this possible.
2. Consider reading bedtime books in the car
If you don’t think your child will fall asleep on the car ride home, consider reading your bedtime stories on the drive so you don’t have to once you’re home! Or if you’re like me and get car sick reading, tell your child ahead of time that they’re only getting one book that night, and read a quick one once you get home so you can then put them right to bed.
3. Plan for an off night/morning
Your baby or toddler will likely be quite overtired by the time you get home, so don’t be surprised if they not only struggle to fall asleep but stir or wake more in the night – overtiredness will do that! They may also wake up earlier than usual, wake up at their same time (even with less sleep), or potentially sleep in. Anything could happen, really!
Try to approach sleep like you normally would (i.e. still lay them down and leave the room so they can fall asleep independently), but recognize that your little one may need some extra help on this off night, and that’s okay, too.
Then get yourself right to bed in case you’ll be up in the night with a little one!
Our fireworks experience with our 1.5 year old and 3.5 year old last year
Like I mentioned, we braved the Fourth of July fireworks with our girls for the first time last year and it was super fun, and the night was a bit rough! We drove downtown to a friend’s house for dinner and hung out there until we went out for fireworks.
We figured our 3.5 year old would be okay staying up later, and we were curious about how our 1.5 year old would do. By 7:30 pm she was asking for sleep and we just kept distracting her. We considered bringing a pack ‘n play so she could sleep at our friend’s from 7-9 or so, but figured that would be a lot of work for a short sleep, plus much too confusing and hard on her little body to then have to wake up, so we chose to keep her awake the whole time. Our 3.5 year old did just fine!
I thought that one or both might sleep in the stroller on the way to The Mall or once we were there, but they were just excited and enjoying the fun, which was okay, too! When the fireworks were done and we finally got back to our car, it was probably closer to 11/11:30 pm, so we got the girls in their jammies and they both fell asleep on our drive home.
They thankfully both transferred into their beds very seamlessly, however 1.5 hours or so later, our 1.5 year old woke up and was screaming in a way we hadn’t heard before. I jumped right in there and she was so out of it and inconsolable, so I brought her to our room so she wouldn’t wake her sister (they room share). Nothing I did could calm her down, and she was more upset with my husband than with me, so I just kept trying to hold and shush her.
The only way I can describe it is that overtiredness was just consuming her little body and she didn’t know what to do with herself. I wanted to “snap her out of it,” so I actually pulled out my phone and put on a little calming YouTube video/song she enjoys (not a suggestion I’ve ever given someone!), and she quickly calmed. I re-played the video two more times, and by the end of the third one, she pushed my phone away and conked out on my chest. I held her there for a few minutes, then walked back to her room, laid her down, and she was out for the rest of the night.
It certainly wasn’t an enjoyable wake up and we had never experienced something like that before, so we certainly weren’t going to make crazy late evenings a habit, but for the sweet memories we made and fun that we had, we were still thankful we did it.
My 3.5 year old of course slept through it all, and ended up sleeping in about 45 minutes later than usual that morning, so all in all we survived the night! And laid quite low the next day.
In all of this, I want you to know that I think having a “plan” for how you’re going to approach the Fourth of July with your kiddos, especially if that means a much later night than usual, is really helpful. AND as a parent and real person, I also know that you can have everything “perfectly planned” and none of it will actually happen according to that plan…and THAT’S OKAY!
So I suggest you go into the Fourth of July with a plan and with flexibility, knowing that this is just one night and you can always get back on track the next day.