For many, picnics, swimming, fireworks, patriotic music and red, white and blue are the order of the day as our nation celebrates July Fourth. The holiday is marked by people across our country, but do our children understand what it means?

Children have to be educated about our country to be thankful and appreciate what they have and to understand what patriotism is all about. We have not always had the freedoms we enjoy today. To grasp just how privileged we are, it might be helpful to have your children compare living in the United States to what it would be like to live in other places. At an early age, children can learn that being patriotic means loving, supporting and defending one's country.

In her book, "A Patriot's Handbook," Caroline Kennedy points out that friends will talk about the latest news, sports or popular movies, but how often do they have a conversation about America? While writing her book, Kennedy was reminded of all we have to be thankful for as Americans.

This country was founded on ideals. Freedom, equality, the pursuit of happiness and the fact that we have the oldest written Constitution in the world is proof of the enduring power of those principles. For our democracy to thrive, each of us must give something back. We must make a commitment not just to vote, but to be engaged, to understand the sources of our rights and freedoms and the struggles of those who fought and died to preserve them.

Here are a few ways to instill patriotism in your children:

• Teach your children to stand when the national anthem is played out of respect for our country.

• Teach them about the Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

• Encourage them to talk to people who have served our country.

• Discuss what makes America different from other countries.

• Encourage your children to learn the significance of the colors, stars and stripes on the American flag.

• Model an attitude of thankfulness for the luxuries we enjoy as a result of our freedom.

• Read the last paragraph of the American's Creed to your children, and ask what they think of it.

Americans have many privileges and opportunities that people from other countries may never experience. This Fourth of July, make sure your family talks about the significance of the holiday and why it is more than just watermelon and fireworks.

Email Julie Baumgardner, president and executive director of First Things First, at