With the Fourth of July just around the corner, many families are choosing which of the many fireworks shows to watch around the county (find a list of local fireworks shows here). But not everyone looks forward to this annual tradition. For young kids, a fireworks show can be frightening. Kids with sensory issues may also be strongly affected by the loud sounds and flashes of lights.

If you’re looking for ways to take the fear out of fireworks, or even looking for alternatives to this tradition, here are a few ideas:

1. Skip fireworks and stay home.
If you sense the loud bangs will be too much for your child, don’t force the issue. They may be ready another year, but for this one, staying home is probably your best bet. If you live in an area where the fireworks noise is still pretty loud, play a movie or soft music to neutralize the sound. You can even watch the fireworks on TV to help prepare them for future years, or so they don’t feel left out. Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular in New York airs at 8 p.m. on NBC. PBS is also airing fireworks at 8 p.m. And if you tune in to the Disney Parks Blog at 6:13 p.m., you can watch fireworks live from Disney World.

You can also have an alternative fireworks show at home. Read to the end to find out more.

2. Discuss fireworks with your child before the show.
If you’re planning your child’s first time seeing the fireworks, talk with them about what they can expect. It can help to show them videos of fireworks shows. While nothing compares to the actual event, taking away some of the surprise can help your child feel at ease.

3. Use earplugs or noise cancelling headphones.
For little kids especially, those loud booms are the scariest part of the fireworks show. Minimize their fear by taking away the loud noises by using earplugs, which are cheap at any sporting goods store, Target, CVS, and other stores. Noise canceling headphones are also a great way to minimize the noise, though they’re more expensive.

4. Consider watching from a distance.
When my kids were little, money was too tight to attend the fireworks shows and all their festivities. So we used to drive a distance away and park the car, then watch the fireworks there. If we planned it right, we could even see several fireworks shows going on at the same time. The other benefit was that the booms were much quieter and not scary at all. If you think your child will be sensitive to the noise, find a cool spot away from the fireworks and watch the show at a distance.

5. Watch with friends.
Kids are chameleons. If they’re on their own with concerned parents, they’re much more likely to fear fireworks. But if they’re with friends, there’s a good chance they’ll all feed off each other’s excitement over the show. Consider going with a group of friends to watch the fireworks. It may help get your child’s mind off their fear.

6. Have a backup plan.
It may have seemed like your child was ready when you left for the fireworks show, but once the show started, they’re suddenly terrified and screaming to go. Have a Plan B prepared just in case things don’t go according to Plan A. You could just go home if they’re too distraught. Or maybe you can all go out for milkshakes instead so you can talk about the show.

Alternative Fireworks Show Ideas

If the traditional fireworks shows aren’t in the cards this year, you can still have a “fireworks” show at home—and it doesn’t even involve fire. Here are several ideas for an alternative fireworks show:

1. Glowstick fireworks.
Who needs fireworks when you can light up the night with glowsticks? You can decorate each other and your surroundings with glowsticks, or you can take it to a whole new level—glowstick fireworks using a potato launcher. You can buy them on Amazon here, or even at Walmart. But a simple internet search will turn up tons of tutorials out there on how to make these things. Load the launcher with lit up glowsticks, and then shoot them into the sky. It’s amazing to see the glowing lights fly through the air, and kids will love running out to retrieve the sticks so you can shoot it again. But because potato launchers shoot objects at high velocity, make sure only older kids and adults are using it.

2. Glow-in-the-dark bubbles.
With dish soap, water, and glow-in-the-dark paint, you can have a lights show that’s so cool, your kids will never miss the fireworks. Here are some instructions on making your own glowing bubbles.

3. Firework jars.
Have you ever caught fireflies in a jar so you can watch their glow? This time, you’ll be “catching” fireworks in a jar. Have the kids decorate the outside of Mason jars with glow-in-the-dark puffy paint in different colors, and they’ll have a cool jar for keepsakes that will stay lit up even after the lights go out. Find instructions and examples here.

Have fun this Fourth of July, and above all, be safe!

Do you have ideas for taking the fear out of fireworks? How about ideas for alternative fireworks fun? Let me know in the comments!

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Crissi Langwell is a Petaluma local, blended family mom to three young adults, and author of a bunch of books. Her 11th  book, Numbered, a dystopian romance that takes place in 2050, is available at bit.ly/NumberedKindle, Visit Crissi’s author website at crissilangwell.com.

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