Kids love crafts! They love to make things with their hands- whether it's finger painting or making paper mache or simply cutting out pictures. We've always had great success incorporating crafts into our family BBQs. Having crafts gives parents a bit of a break to have adult conversation, and a chance to grab some munchies without little ones vying for a spot on Mom's lap.
Some of our favorite crafts are the most easy. You can go to almost any craft store for the supplies but we love Oriental Trading- we can get so much in bulk for really cheap.
Decorating your own hat- We got this idea from a First Night we spent in Monterey, California at the Naval Post Graduate School. You can find white foam visors or the canvas caps anywhere. Or you can simply take white cardstock or poster board to make tall or cone shaped "crowns". We gathered a bunch of foam stickers (patriotic themed of course), some puff paints, glitter glue, furry or glittery pipe cleaners to make antennae. If you use posterboard/cardstock you can use markers and stickers. Here are a few ideas of crafts to get. It always helpful to have a few hat already made (or bought) for those who have difficulty with small crafts or even for the adults in your group.
When we've had unit BBQ's for Armed Forces Day or July 4th we've bought plain white t-shirts and let the kids decorate them with puff paints or other markers/paints. They like having a "team jersey" that the kids all wear- sort of like their own uniform.
Another fun idea is to make thank you cards for troop currently deployed. This is a great opportunity to talk about service and especially if your kids are military kids, they know what it's about. My kids have loved doing this.
For older kids- preteens/teens- or even adults:
There's a lady with a great mission- to make blank homemade cards (birthday, thinking of you, mother's day, father's day, July 4th themes) and send them to the deployed soldiers to choose from to send to their own families back home. There is no Hallmark store where they can go to get a card to mail to their kids, wife, or parents. Click Cards for Soldiers
If you really want to send a nice tribute- I'm a member of a group called Marine Comfort Quilts. This group, founded by a Marine Mom, makes tied quilts that are then given to families of those military members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. www.marinecomfortquilts.us They're always asking for quilts square that are signed by members of the military and the general public. The quilts are put together with squares from all across the country and delivered to a Chaplain who they takes it to the family. Messages can be written on the squares to thank the families for their sacrifice. It's been another great teaching moment for my kids about real sacrifice and ways we can honor those who've given the ultimate sacrifice. And adults can sign the squares, too.
**Whatever you do, keep it simple. If there's too much to do or too many pieces then things can get real messy, real fast. Oh! And make sure to have fun!!