Human Rights Day is December 10! 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. Here are some ideas for simple yet meaningful ways for your family to celebrate the rights and responsibilities that we all share as human beings.
1. Learn about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Check out the UDHR plain language version or the Amnesty International UK book We Are All Born Free (15 of the illustrated pages of the book can be found on The Guardian’s website if you want to look at them online or print them out). You can also watch a short video together and talk about it with your kids. My kids loved this animated video version of the UDHR even back when they couldn’t understand what the words meant. For a more historical view, check out The Story of Human Rights.
2. Exercise your right to freedom of expression! Draw pictures together of the rights and freedoms that are important to you. You can make your own family “Human Rights Tapestry” by drawing on index cards and using a hole punch to make holes in each corner. Use yarn to tie together the cards to make a tapestry. (See the picture above of the Human Rights Tapestry conceived of by Chanida Phaengdara Potter and created by visitors to The Advocates for Human Rights‘ booth at the Minnesota State Fair.) You can alsomake posters or collages together. Help your kids write a poem or story about human rights. Older kids can even make a video!
3. Listen to some human rights music with your kids. Here are a few suggestions, but you might also want to check out the folk music songbook Rise Up Singing. The book contains the chords and lyrics for more than the 1200 songs on a wide variety of social justice issues.
- The Rainbow Connection - Kermit the Frog Someday we’ll find it!
- If I Had a Hammer - Pete Seeger Really, anything by Pete Seeger. Pete is my own personal antidote to Barney.
- Free to Be You and Me - Marlo Thomas & Friends In my opinion, one of the best things about being a kid in the 70s.
- The Preamble - Schoolhouse Rock Did you know that the U.S. Constitution is one of the first documents to establish universal principles of human rights?
- Star Wars Main Title/Rebel Blockade Runner - John Williams People say Star Wars was a Western set in space, but I see it as a movie about the fight for human rights against the Empire.
4. Same and Different. I started doing this activity in my childrens’ classrooms and really learned a lot from the kids about tolerance and respect. Show your kids a photo and have them point out what they see in the picture that is the same in their lives and what is different. Here’s an example but more can be found on my blog post Same and Different:
|photo by Dulce Foster|
The kids’ responses: ”I like that bracelet.” ”I sometimes wear my hair in braids, too.” “They have dark skin and I have white skin.” ”We have different trees here, like conifers.” ”We have snow here right now.” ”Is that corn growing behind them? Because I LOVE to eat corn, too.” ”Is that a house? It’s not like my house.” ”You couldn’t live in that house in Minnesota. You would get too cold.”
5. Let your kids use their screen time to learn about human rights! Play games and quizzes on the UN cyberschoolbus. Check out these free, downloadable video games:
- Against All Odds Experience life as a refugee, for ages 7+.
- Stop Disasters! Learn how to respond to different humanitarian disasters.
- Food Force Gamers ages 8-16 undertake 6 virtual missions to stop world hunger. Download the game in English, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Korean, etc. (I’ll be testing newly launched Food Force 2 with my 12 year old gamer son. Something tells me he’s going to kick my butt at saving the world!)
Photo from Food Force 2
6. Talk to someone you know who is from another country. Where are they from? What was their life like there? What language did they speak? Did they go to school? What do they miss? What do they like about their new country?
7. Make a Helping Hands Wreath to symbolize the responsibility we all have to help each other. Trace your hands on different color construction paper. Cut out the hand shapes and glue or staple them on a paper plate to make a wreath.
8. Act out a skit with puppets. You can use any puppets or even make your own paper bag or sock puppets. This skit is from RAISING CHILDREN WITH ROOTS, RIGHTS, & RESPONSIBILITIES , but you can also write your own skit, using a problem that your children have had to deal with themselves.
- Example skit: Puppet 1: Hi everybody, my name is Jan.Puppet 2: Hi, everybody! I’m Sam, and I’m building a bridge. (Puppet is working with blocks.) Jan: Hey, Sam, I need those blocks for the airport I’m building. (Jan takes some blocks.) Sam: Hey! Don’t do that! You’re taking away my right to play! (Puppets tussle over a block.)
- Discussion: What do you think Jan could have done differently? Has anyone ever interfered with your play? How did that make you feel?
- “Can you do a different ending to the story?” Choose children to act out the play again with the puppets, but coach them in some respectful ways to play together to share, take turns, or use other solutions they think of themselves.
- “I know you can act very respectfully and responsibly toward each other. In fact, I’ve seen ________________________ (give examples of a time when acted responsibly).
9. Read a book about human rights. There are so many, but for young children, I like Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, Giving Hand, For Every Child, A Better World by Kermit the Frog. (Yes, I have a thing for Kermit.)
Older kids may enjoy books more like The Hunger Games and Diary of Anne Frank. For more ideas for books for teens and tweens, see the Discover Human Rights Institute resources, especially the Peace and Justice booklist and the Equality and Tolerance booklist.
10. Take action! Teach your kids that they really can make a difference in the world. Collect food and bring it to a local foodshelf. Write a letter or sign a petition on behalf of a prisoner of conscience. Volunteer to help serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Raise money from friends or neighbors for UNICEF or another organization working on human rights. (Remember to Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF next Halloween.) Check out additional service learning ideas for kids in grades K-12 at 160 Ways To Help 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:
ABC – Teaching Human Rights - practical activities in English, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish
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