Editorial Note #1: There are four things in life this writer truly loves: America, fireworks, science and pizza. This blog post covers all except pizza.
Editorial Note #2: This is an activity for both kids AND parents. Please, please, please have your parents supervise.
There has been a long-standing rule in my family ever since I was a young lad: Never ever, ever set-off your own fireworks. Don’t buy them. Don’t play with them. Don’t associate with people who buy them and play with them. Don’t. Just don’t.
This all stems from an early-1970’s event where my dad nearly blew off his hand lighting a firework a tad too close to the wick’s base. My entire life, I’ve had a debilitating fear of fireworks, yet a curiosity and desire to let them fly through the sky.
Much the same way a 4 door sedan has evolved since the 1970’s, fireworks and fireworks safety have evolved as well. Kids and parents can make fireworks safely, without worry of bodily harm. Always remember, safety first.
But that’s not what this blog post is about - this blog post is about making fireworks!!!
But first, a brief history of fireworks:
Most people associate fireworks with Independence Day, but did you know fireworks were actually invented over 2000 years ago during the Song dynasty? A Chinese monk named Li Tian filled bamboo shoots with gunpowder, and then exploded these at the commencement of the New Year to scare away evil spirits. Since then, fireworks have been used for a wide array of events: weddings, ribbon cuttings, Super Bowl wins and even celebrating the destruction of thousands of pounds of English tea (also known as the Boston Tea Party). Fireworks are as much ingrained in our culture of celebrating in the United States as are hot dogs, apple pie and Kanye West making a fool of himself.
Why, then, do we celebrate America’s independence with a grand celebration of fireworks? The short answer: because John Adams wanted to. In a letter to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776 (independence’s eve), Adams wrote that the occasion should be commemorated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” What Adams wants, Adams gets. The first commemorative Independence Day fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777. Much like everything in life, fireworks even have haters…if Adams were still alive he’d challenge these firework heretics to a duel.
How to make a homemade firework:
Now is the time to get your parent and assemble things to shoot in the air. Go get your parents. If you do this without your parents, then Santa Claus will not come this Christmas, the Easter bunny will stay home and any tooth left under your pillow for the tooth fairy will be replaced with a large lump of coal. For other tips on fireworks safety, please visit the National Council on Fireworks Safety.
Note: Ratings reflect a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the easiest (for the Ease rating) or the safest (for the Safety Rating).
1. Match Rockets
This is quite possibly the easiest firework you can make at home, since you probably already have paper matches, a paper clip, needle, and aluminum foil laying around somewhere. It's not the craziest thing you can fire up, but if you live in a state with tons of bans, this could be the next best thing to a box of sparklers.
Ease rating – 8. Safety rating - 8
All you need for the carbon "snake" is some sulfuric acid and sugar. Don't have any sulfuric acid on hand? Make some using either the electrochemical or oxidizer method! Don't want to make it? Try some drain cleaner at your local hardware store. Have access to an actual lab? Try this super snake!
Ease rating – 5. Safety rating - 8
3. Steel Wool Fireworks
Is a snake not even sparking for you? Try out some steel wool. It can create some really impressive fireworks thanks to just a 9-volt battery.
Ease rating – 4. Safety rating - 3
Have fun. These activities are meant to be a fun activity between child and parent. And be safe. Nothing will turn your Fourth of July festivities instantly into a bummer faster than a trip to the ER. Go ask these two NFL players.