This post was originally written for World Moms Blog.
Every December 10, people around the world celebrate Human Rights Day. The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly‘s adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global statement of international human rights principles. As we have done on World Moms Blog before (see 10 Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day), we’re sharing some ideas for simple yet meaningful ways for your family to celebrate the rights and responsibilities that we all share as human beings.
1. Make a World Wishes Dove with your family. Cut feathers from white paper or colored construction paper. Have everyone in the family decorate and write their wish for the world on a feather. Cut out the body of a dove or other bird and glue all the feathers on it. Once decorated, your bird will be a beautiful and hopeful expression of your family’s hopes for our world.
- Template for a dove
Once the activity is over, allow the children to talk about what happened. Discuss how they felt – not just as “blind” partners but their feelings of responsibility as “leaders” too. This can lead not only to a greater awareness of what life is like for people with sight (or hearing) disabilities, but to a discussion of the importance of trust in the whole community. This can lead in turn to a discussion of world society, how it works and how it can fail to work too. (teaches about Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 28; Convention on the Rights of the Child articles 3, 23)
3. Learn about how children live in other countries. For example, you can learn what kinds of food children in East Africa grow and eat from the Lessons from Africa resource created by the British non-governmental organization Send A Cow (also check out their website http://www.cowforce.com). You can download the powerpoint about typical East African food. You can also print out some of the recipes for things like chapatis and pepper soup to make and try for yourself.
4. Find out what kids and teens can do to help stop child labor. The ILO’s Youth in Action against Child Labour campaign has ideas, information, videos and other resources to help young people take action to end child labor.
5. Play Human Rights Twister to teach about cooperation, respect and inclusion. Make a “Twister” game in which kids spell out key human rights words using their feet and hands. Draw a grid with 6 columns and 5 rows with marker on a large piece of cloth (like an old sheet) or plastic (like a plastic tablecloth). You can also use chalk to draw it on the ground. Write the following letters in the grid:
(blank) W X Y Z(blank)
Q R S T U V
K L M N O P
E F G H I J
(blank space)A B C D(blank)
Ask the children to name some rights and list them on a large piece of paper or whiteboard. Underline a key word in each right from this list of rights in one word:
Dignity Education Equality Food Freedom Home Love (from parents) Name
Nationality Opinion Participation (in decisions that affect us) Play Protection Religion
When you have listed at least 3 or 4 rights, have the children spell out the key word in the human right from the list by placing their hands and feet on the appropriate letters of the “Twister” game. When 1 child’s hands and feet are in place and the word is not yet completed, ask another child to join in to complete the word. If the hand or foot of another child already covers a letter, the player just has to touch the child that is on that letter. When a letter is too far to reach, invite another child to join in. (This activity and dozens of others to teach about human rights values and peaceful conflict resolution are available for free download in the Canadian organization Equitas‘ Play It Fair Toolkit. )
6. Make toys and play games that children play in other countries. Many kids throughout the world live in poverty and don’t have money to buy toys and games. They make their own toys out of recycled materials that they find. Your kids can try making a football (soccer ball) out of recycled plastic bags or a toy car made from a plastic bottle.
You can also make and play the Sudanese game “Dala” (the Cow Herder Game). In many parts of the world, games mimic everyday life; this game mimics the Sudanese practice of bull herding. Sudanese people play it on the ground, using sticks to make the lines and pebbles or seeds as “bulls”.
7. Ask the question “What Does a Child Need?” Have your child lie down on a large piece of paper and trace their outline on the paper. Ask your child(ren) to name this paper child. Discuss and decide on the mental, physical, spiritual and character qualities they want this ideal child to have as an adult (e.g. good health, sense of humour, kindness) and write these qualities inside the outline. They might also make symbols on or around the child to represent these ideal qualities (e.g. books to represent education). Talk about what human and material resources the child will need to achieve these qualities (e.g. if the child is to be healthy, it will need food and health care); write them down on the paper outside of the outline. You can also read a simplified version of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (available in English, French, Spanish, Russian, German, etc.) When children hear an article that guarantees a child each of the needs they have listed, they can write the number of the articles next to that item. Circle any needs identified but not covered by the Convention.
8. Read some books with strong female characters. Non-discrimination and equality are key concepts in international human rights law. Yet girls and women are generally not been portrayed as equals to boys and men in literature. A Mighty Girl has compiled several great lists of girl-empowering books, including Top Read Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls, Top 100 Mighty Girl Picture Books, Top Graphic Novels Starring Mighty Girls, and Top Mighty Girl Books & Films on Women’s History.
9. Get creative and enter your work in a contest with a human rights theme. Local, regional or international contests are powerful activities for getting youth involved and learning about human rights. Take action by entering some of the contests listed here on the Youth For Human Rights website. (You can also learn more on the website about their educational programs, projects, awareness campaigns and human rights outreach campaigns.)
10. Make a Human Rights Day card. You can give the card to a friend or member of your family. Or you can make multiple cards to decorate your house. My eight year old daughter (that’s her self-portrait in the background) made this card for all the children of the world.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: You’re on your way to a great Human Rights Day! If you are a classroom teacher or homeschooling your kids (or if you just want to dig deeper), you can find tons more ideas through the following resources:
United Nations Cyber Schoolbus - human rights activities and information about the United Nations’ work
ABC – Teaching Human Rights - practical activities in English, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Human Rights Here and Now - human rights lesson plans and resources
Raising Children With Roots, Rights and Responsibilities - activities for preschool and young elementary children