The grill is on and the salads are chilling, and you’ve spent the day decking out your backyard in red, white, and blue. Your Fourth of July barbecue is about to begin. And that’s when you realize your tot (and the rest of the kids who are coming over) have nothing more to do than run themselves ragged outside. While that’s fine for a little bit, you might want to plan a few activities to keep the junior set busy. Don’t panic; there’s no need to orchestrate an elaborate, camp-like schedule of events. Scroll on for easy ideas for kids that’ll fit perfectly into your backyard extravaganza.

Mother and daughter celebrating the Fourth of July

1. Water Paint: Putting out paddling pools might seem like a simple solution, but think about the splashes that a herd of toddlers can create. Your guests (especially the non-parents) may not appreciate getting soaked by a pint-sized pool party. Instead, give the kiddos cups of water and paint brushes, and let them go to town painting the sidewalk, concrete patio, or even the grass.

2. Junior Decorator: There’s tons of planning that goes into a Fourth of July party. Between the food prep and decorating duties, you barely have enough time to take a break and sip the red, white, and blue fruity frozen drinks you’ve made for the occasion. Cut down on your work and keep the tots busy by letting them play the role of decorator. They can color their own flags, hang party streamers from tables, or create their own tablecloth by coloring a white sheet with red and blue markers.

3. Relay Race: If your little ones can walk, they can race. Even toddlers can get into the obstacle action of a festive field-day-style event. Set up a simple course for the kids to run through, jump over, or crawl around. Have prizes ready for the winners and consolation options for the runners-up.

Children celebrating the Fourth of July

4. Parade Presentation: Didn’t book a DJ? Don’t worry! The children can provide plenty of Independence Day entertainment. Spend some time crafting in the days leading up to the party (or do an arts-and-crafts project during the barbecue) and make your own instruments. Fill the inside of empty paper towel rolls with dried beans and cover the ends with wax paper (secure it with rubber bands) to make shakers. Or decorate empty coffee canisters for DIY drums. Line up the kids with their instruments and stage a parade across the yard or around the neighborhood.

5. Flag Day: Celebrate America with a flag craft for your Picassos-in-training to try. Spread a plain white sheet across the grass, draw a flag design (the stripes and a box for the stars) with a permanent marker, and let the kids paint or color it in.

Kids at a Fourth of July picnic

6. Picnic Prep: Your tiny Top Chef is all about food — and not just eating. Plan a kids’ menu item or two that the small set can help to prep during the party itself. Have the kiddos toss together a red, white, and blue fruit salad or freeze patriotic popsicles, or let them help with another easy (no-cook) recipe.

7. Balloon Bounce: Red, white, and blue balloons can save the day when it comes to your children and their party fatigue. As the tots start winding down, break out the balloons and blow them up. The kids can bounce ’em, roll ’em, or try to carry them on long wooden spoons.

8. Icy Idea: Chill out with an icy (and artsy) activity. Pre-make red, white, and blue chalk ice cubes for the little ones to use. Simply crumble colorful sidewalk chalk, fill an ice cube tray partway with the chalk and partway with water, and freeze. The kids can draw on the sidewalk or a concrete patio, and watch their chalk melt away in the hot summer sun.

9. Fireworks in Action: Tots may shy away from the big booms of real fireworks, but that doesn’t mean they can’t act out their own sparkling scene. Have the children pretend to be fireworks, moving like shooting stars in the sky. This creative movement activity may also be a welcome alternative for some of your more nervous guests who have a fear of fireworks.

What’s your favorite Fourth of July kids’ party idea? Share your pick and tweet us @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)