July 4, fireworks and fun with kids
We can’t deny it: It’s pretty fun to blow things up in the back yard on the Fourth of July. But we also can’t deny this: According to the U.S. Eye Injury Registry, an estimated 12,000 fireworks-related injuries are treated in U. S. hospital emergency departments every year. And up to 400 Americans suffer permanent vision loss annually because of fireworks.
So what's a parent to do when the kids are begging for bottle rockets and sparklers and the neighborhood sounds like a giant popcorn maker because every redneck in the county loaded up on illegal fireworks? (My favorite joke this time of year: What's the last thing a redneck says before he dies? "Hey ya'll, watch this!")
Here's some options:
Try some non-exploding fun for the little ones.
- TNT Pop Its, right, can be found in the front of every grocery store, Target and Walmart this week. The sperm-shaped paper packets make a loud snap when thrown against a hard surface or stepped on. They are cheap (a box with 150 of them is only $1 or so) and they emit a slight spark when slammed to the ground, but they are safe enough to snap between your fingers (not recommended by the makers, of course, but I do it all the time).
- Glow sticks, glow necklaces and body lights found in party stores emit such an entrancing neon glow that little ones won't notice you haven't handed them a sparkler.
- Flash lights also are very appealing to little kids and you could plan on bringing out a special one like a spiral LED light or a simple flashlight that blinks in different colors. A good flash light toy can buy at least 20 minutes of distraction.
If you must do some explosions yourself, at least make sure you’re dealing with legal fireworks, follow the directions closely (i.e., keep them away from children and flammable objects), and make sure you have a fire extinguisher and a bucket of water available. The water bucket is something I bring out first before any package gets opened. I also tell the kids to put the sparklers in the water bucket to dispose of so we don't have hot metal on the ground waiting to be stepped on or run over by the lawn mower the next day.
And keep the phone handy to call 911 if worst comes to worst.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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