Why I Send My Kids To Camp

Originally posted on World Moms Blog

I just returned from two weeks in the woods of northern Minnesota. This was my sixth summer reprising my college job as a camp counselor.  The opportunity to be at camp at the same time as my three children has allowed me a unique perspective:  I get to witness firsthand the benefits of sending my kids to camp.

I am proud to work at Skogfjorden, the Norwegian language and cultural immersion program that is one of the fourteen Concordia Language Villages.  Respekt is the guiding principle and all deltagere (campers) promise to have and take responsibility for their actions as part of the Skogfjorden promise. I hope that the language camp immersion experience will inspire my kids’ interest in global affairs in the way that it inspired me to pursue international affairs. But I am willing to bet that most of the following benefits of sending your kids to sleepaway camp apply to pretty much any high quality program.

Kids do things at camp that they may never attempt at home.  Being outside of their normal social circle allows kids to try new things. Sometimes this is as simple as a picky eater who samples food at camp that he would flat out refuse at home.  My daughter, for example, barely nibbles the kid-friendly items in her lunchbox but she chows down on almost everything she is served at camp. But sometimes I have seen kids do incredible things at camp, things that they would never even dream of doing at home.   I remember a girl in my cabin one year whose parents pulled me aside when they dropped her off to brief me on  how incredibly shy she was. And she WAS painfully shy. But exactly one week later, I saw her stand up in front of the entire camp and sing a solo a cappella in the talent show.  It was so beautiful that I teared up.  Her parents saw a video of it on the camp blog and were. Totally. Blown. Away.

The corollary of this is that kids get to explore different aspects of their personalities at camp. At school, a kid may be labeled as this, that or the other, but they get a chance to start fresh at camp.  At camp, most kids just get to be valued for who they are, without having to worry about how they are viewed by their long-term peers.  In fact, two of my three kids kind of don’t want their friends to go to camp with them. It is THEIR place and don’t want to cross the streams of their lives.

Camp helps kids learn how to problem solve and make decisions for themselves. One of the things that I have learned from parenting is that kids actually have very little control over their lives.  Understandably, that is frustrating. In a lot of ways, camp helps children feel in control of what happens to them.  At our camp, kids get to choose between activities twice a day, choose what they want to do during free time, choose how much money they will take out of the bank and what they will buy with it.  I think that these experiences make kids feel competent and independent, which in the end will help them to be better problem-solvers in any new situation.

And sometimes it can lead to brilliance.  One summer, I was assigned to work the camp candy store (or kiosk, as we call it at Skogfjorden). In terms of kid priorities, candy is at the very top of the list.  Since the store was only open once a day, the lines were looooong.  My oldest son showed up one afternoon and placed a massive and complicated order of  soda, chocolate, gummies, etc.  He had done the math in his head and paid with exact change for each category of item.  I flipped out.  “What do you think you are doing? You can NOT have all of that candy!”  “Mom,” he responded calmly, “it’s not for me.”  Turns out he was running a business.  For a small but reasonable fee,  he would stand in line for you and buy your candy.  Understandably, he had quite a customer base.  Not only that, but what he bought for himself he would save until the next morning – when everyone else had eaten up all of their own candy and were desperate for more.  Then he would sell at with a steep markup.  I gave him $20 at the start of camp on Monday.  By Friday, he had doubled his money and started a matching fund for a kid in his cabin who didn’t have much money.  (This was the day I realized that I could probably stop worrying about my small nonprofit salary.  This kid is going to take care of me in my old age.)

Camp forces kids to take a break from their ever-present technology. Everyone talks about how one of the benefits of sleepaway camp is that today’s plugged-in kids are forced to unplug and commune with nature.  That’s true, of course, but it doesn’t capture the sheer beauty of some of the things I have seen at camp.  I helped a 7-year-old with her camp evaluation last week and the most important thing for her was that she “had seen more animals than she had in a really long time”.  This happened on a day that I saw two deer sprint through camp, as well as a woodchuck, a red-headed woodpecker, and a hummingbird, not to mention all the various insects, birds and bees.  (We have bears, too, but that just means you have to sing on your way back to the cabin.) I especially love how the girls in my cabin were constantly showing me the caterpillars, inchworms, moths, shells and frogs that they discovered.

Speaking of frogs, I have to share the beauty of the Night of the Frogs.  It had rained hard – torrentially hard – that day and then cleared off.  On my way back to my cabin, I encountered my son Simon and 3 of his buddies in the middle of the flooded path, catching frogs in the moonlight.  There were frogs EVERYWHERE – big and small.  It was like something out of the Ten Commandments.   The boys had already caught more than a dozen frogs of all sizes.  Somewhere they had found a cardboard box.  They showed me the inhabitants of their cardboard box with pride.  They had worked out a system for catching the frogs and their cooperation was yielding enormous success.  Sometimes, I just close my eyes and remember their young voices raised in laughter and exhilaration.

Kids benefit from relationships with trusted adults who are not their parents.  who are closer to their own age.  At camp, kids have to create new relationships – on their own, without parental influence.  New friends among their peers are important and perhaps what they will remember most about camp.  But the relationships that they forge with trusted adults who are NOT their parents is hugely important.   While counselors are not parents, they are more than teachers.  They are positive role models who have time and energy to listen, talk, and laugh with our kids. They reinforce the messages and values that we parents are trying to instill, but – unlike us parents – they are inherently cool.  Sometimes kids listen better to these non-parental authority figures who are closer to their age. Parenting is a lot of responsibility and I, for one, feel better knowing that my husband and I am not alone in raising these kids.

Camp helps kids figure out who they are, helps them to grow up.  The truth is that putting a kid in the somewhat uncomfortable situation of living with a lot of other people in a small space helps them learn not only about cooperation and teamwork, but how to respect others and negotiate.  This helps kids build confidence, courage, independence, resilience and flexibility.

I sent my two sons off to camp today. They have reached the point in their teenage lives when they don’t especially need – or want – their mom around when they are at camp.  But that’s ok with me. I know that they are in one of the most safe and supportive environments that they will ever be in right now.  And that they will come home to me the better for it.

My Daughter Drew Me This Picture

My 10-year-old daughter drew me this picture and slipped it into my briefcase as a surprise.

Sometimes it is children who have the  strongest sense of justice. How do we lose that as adults?

 I’m going to hang this picture in my office where I can see it every day –

a reminder to never give up!

12 1/2 Clichés I Want My Kids to Live By

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You’ve heard ’em all before. Clichés are a popular form of expression used throughout the world.  There are many sayings that are so overused that we barely even notice them anymore.  I started to think about clichés recently because of The Loud Talking Salesman guy who works in the office next to mine.  He seems to speak entirely in clichés. The wall must be thin, because all day long I hear him on the phone with clients telling them that “at the end of the day” “it’s a win-win situation” etc etc.   (I’ve never met him, but if I ever do, I’ve already planned what I’m going to say:  “Working hard?”  To which he will most certainly reply, “Hardly working!”)

Once I started actually paying attention clichés, I noticed that we are not only constantly verbally but also visually blasted with them.  Clichés are plastered all over the place, on everything from bumper stickers to throw pillows to Pintrest. Some clichés are silly or sappy or just plan wrong.  But if you stop and think about it, some of them make a whole lot of sense.

Many clichés are, in fact, the moral equivalent of Tootsie Pops – they have a sweet, chewy truth at their center.  Some of them are actually pithy, shorthand statements of deep wisdom.   Some clichés embody true lessons about living an ethical, fulfilling, righteous and joyful life in community with other humans.  In some ways, these clichés are shorthand for the life lessons that I am trying to teach my children so that they will grow up to be citizens of the world, fully empowered to exercise both their rights and their responsibilities.

So on the theory that “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice,” I decided to write down some of the clichés that I want my kids to actually remember and use when I’m no longer around to nag them.

“From those to whom much is given, much is expected.” 

One of the most misquoted sayings of all time, I’ve seen this clichés attributed to everyone from Voltaire to Bill Gates’s mom.  While  John F. Kennedy did say,  “For of those to whom much is given, much is required,” the saying actually comes from the Parable of the Faithful Servant (Luke 12:48) in the Bible.  “To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.”

The point for my children is this – you have been blessed with intelligence, a loving family, comfortable home, health and so much more.  You each have different talents and strengths.  It is your responsibility to use  your gifts not just for your own benefit, but also to help others.

“You are what you eat.”

If you eat garbage, you feel like garbage.  I’m serious – eat your fruits and veggies, kids!

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“Think before you speak.”

Or send an email or post something through social media.  Count to 10 in your mind before you open your mouth.   Write it out, but wait until the morning to send that email.  Hurtful words, once said, are hard to take back.  Of course, the corollaries to this cliché are:

“If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

and  

“If you are thinking something nice about someone, go ahead and say it.”

OK, that last one is technically not a cliché since it is not overused.  I count it as half cliché since I made it up myself when I was 18.  I was a camp counselor and I lived in a cabin with another counselor that I didn’t get along with particularly well.  But one day, when I was brushing my teeth, I heard her singing in the shower.  She had a beautiful voice that I had never noticed.  As I brushed my teeth, I remember thinking that I should just tell her.  Why keep those nice thoughts to myself just because I we didn’t like each other?  It was hard for me, but I did tell her.  I was surprised how appreciative she was at the compliment.  And while we never became friends, we did get along fine for the rest of the summer.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”  

Don’t just sit around wishing or waiting for things to change things.  YOU can create change yourself through your own actions.  (This quote is usually attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, although there is no reliable evidence that he actually  said it.  Gandhi did say “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”)

It’s worth pointing out that Dr. Seuss wrote the same thing more directly in The Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

“Don’t Postpone Joy”  

No, I don’t mean the “go ahead and buy those really expensive shoes to make yourself happy” kind of joy (although it is important to treat yourself somtimes.  I mean the “Daddy quit his job and moved to Minneapolis to be with me”  kind of joy.   Because your Daddy did do that.  He didn’t have a dramatic boombox scene like Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything, but it was the same kind of going after love and joy thing. (This reminds me to add Say Anything to my list of Movies I Want My Kids to See.)

And while we are on the subject:

‘Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all.  

I know that this one is often up for debate, but I think it is true.  Even if your heart ends up getting broken in the end, the experience of loving another is worth it.  It is worth taking a risk.

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“The best way out is always through.”

Robert Frost is credited with this one.  Rather than avoiding a problem,  it is always best to confront it directly.  You can spend more energy fretting about it than it would take to just deal with it.  In the long run, it is less painful to just do what you need to do to get through it.

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.”

I don’t have much to say about this one other than I believe it in, deep down in my bones.  The same goes the the next one:

“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

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“Better late than never.”

It’s never to late to fix past wrongs.  Remember Darth Vader and what happens at the end of Star Wars Episode VI?  Redemption.  But it is also never to late to go down a different path.  Every day has the potential to be a fresh start.  As George Eliot wrote,  “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

“Always look on the bright side of life.”

It’s been my experience that a positive attitude really does help you in life.  Everyone gets down and has rough patches; that’s perfectly understandable.  You don’t have to be cheerful all the time.  But in the macro sense, try to be an optimist.  It’s a worldview that will get your farther in the long run.  As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity.  An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

 TO BE CONTINUED …

I’ve got more clichés I want my kids to live by, but I’d love to hear from others about clichés that hold important life lessons for them.   I will end with, not a cliché, but a quote from A. A. Milne.  Christopher Robin is talking to Winnie-the-Pooh and he says (in your mother’s voice):

“Promise me you’ll always remember:

You’re braver than you believe,

and stronger than you seem,

and smarter than you think.

P.S. Also remember:

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Best of My 2013 Facebook Status Updates

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And when I came downstairs this morning (after a second night of being up half the night with a sick child), THIS is what I saw when I turned on the light.

December 31 – the last day of the year. Time to take a few moments to reflect on the highlights of 2013.  Some technologically forced reflections have been available for weeks to help with this task.  This, for example, appeared on my Facebook timeline:

2013

Jennifer Prestholdt

A look at your 20 biggest moments on Facebook.

Learn more.
Share Your Year.

Frankly, it looked suspiciously like 2012, but with more directives and a slightly larger font (and now in United Nations baby blue, I might add).

Year in Review
Jennifer Prestholdt
A look at your 20 biggest moments from the year including life events, highlighted posts and your popular stories.

But this Year in Review app most certainly does not accurately reflect  my “20 biggest moments from the year”.   Some of the pictures were not even from 2013!  So, in what has become an annual tradition, I’m taking charge of my Year in Review and creating my own”Best of My Facebook Status Updates”of some of the funniest moments for me in 2013.  (And if you like this post, you can also check out Best of My 2012 Facebook Status Updates and Best of My 2011 Status Updates.)

Best of My 2013 Facebook Status Updates

#25      The fifth graders are studying puberty, so the dinner conversation was interesting. It was a spectacularly unfortunate coincidence that we grilled tonight – and tubular meat products were on the menu.

#24      Some families set a place for Elijah. Our family apparently sets a place for Trouble.

Photo: Some families set a place for Elijah. Our family apparently sets a place for Trouble.

#23:

Eliza (age 8):  “Are you drinking barf?”
Me: “Yes. I threw up in the smoothie machine and added a banana. Now I’m drinking it.”
(Pause)
Eliza: “Is this called ‘sarcasm’?”

#22  I’m helping my 7th grader study for his Tom Sawyer test. So I showed him the classic Rush video. To which he responded, “Mom, this is not really helping.”

#21       In 5 minutes, I have to give a lecture on international human rights mechanisms to a class at the U of Iowa Law School. Unfortunately, I just figured out that since it is via Skype, they will all see how messy my office is. Gotta go stuff some documents in the closet and sweep some files under the rug…

#20     “When in doubt, add cheese.” This is the kind of advice I give to my daughter.

#19     Positive things about below zero weather: I stuck the tragically unchilled bottle of wine outside for 5 minutes. Now it is cold (and DE-licious!)

#18

Mom, when I grow up – if I’m a teacher – on the first day of school I’ll pull down a map of Europe and say “I see London. I see France.”And I’ll be wearing, like, really bright pink boxers or something and I’ll have my jeans low.

So then I’ll turn my back to the class and pull down another map and say, “Class, what else do you see?” And the kids that raise their hands and say, “Mr. ___, I see your…”

Well, that’s how I’ll know who the troublemakers are.

#17     Note to self:  Be careful doing laundry this week.  Very, VERY careful!

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There were 2 pockets. Each pocket held 17 snakes. How many snakes in all?

#16    My flight out of Delhi was cancelled, so I was re-routed through Paris. Perhaps the only major airport in the world that smells of fresh-baked croissants at 6 am in the morning!

#15

“Simon, turn off the TV.”

“I can’t, Mom! Everything I need to know about life is on Dr. Who!”

#14     Home! And, as always when I return from the developing world, I am feeling so thankful for clean air, hot water, high-speed internet, urban planning and traffic control – and a democratic system of government that is not perfect, but which functions smoothly and provides us with services without corruption. Perspective is a valuable thing.

#13     Lady behind me at the grocery store:  “Girl!  You’ve either got a big family or you’re done shopping for 2013!

#12      First week back at school update:

Eliza (grade 3):  “What’s the difference between fiction and non-fiction again?”

Simon (grade 6): “Non-fiction is real. Like Facebook.”

Eliza: “So what is fiction?”

Simon: “It’s fantasy, it’s not real. Like Facebook.”

#11   The Polly Pockets were willing to sacrifice their heads for the opportunity to skydive off our back balcony.

Photo: The Polly Pockets were willing to sacrifice their heads for the opportunity to skydive off our back balcony.

#10

“Mom, do you have a name for our toilet?”
“No.” (pause) “But something tells me you might.”
“Yeah. Our toilet is named Bob.”

#9     (The next day)   I have been informed that the gender of our upstairs toilet “Bob” has been reassigned. Depending on who you ask, she is now either “Tina” or “Betsy”.

#8     Well, at the request of one of my sons, I bought ramen noodles for the first time in 25 years. Still the same price – 29 cents. The way I figure, it’s never too early to prepare them for college.

#7

 Eliza: “Hannah says that when I grow up, I should be a doctor.”
Me: “I concur.”
Eliza: “An American Girl doctor.”
Me: “I retract my previous statement.”

#6     Still life with retainer.

Photo: Still life with retainer.

#5     I could have done without these 6th grade boys and their dinner discussion. All you need to know about it is that their creation myth involves the planet “Poopiter” and explains why there is so much cosmic gas in the universe.

#4     I made the mistake of taking my 11-year-old son with me when I was shopping for bras. With having to yell so many times, “Don’t touch that!” and “Stop squishing it!”, I ended up accidentally buying a nursing bra.

#3     I sent my 13yo son to camp with two pairs of shoes.   Somehow, he managed to come home with just one.   One shoe, that is.

#2     I very much appreciated that the employees stocking shelves at the downtown Target let me participate in their “Churchill-off”. I only made it two rounds (they were still going when I went to check out) but I got to use the only two Churchill quotes that I can ever manage to remember:

        1. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

        2. Lady Astor: “Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.”

            Churchill: “If I were your husband, I would take it.”

#1      It’s just not a holiday in our family until someone gets a pie in the face.

Photo: It's just not a holiday in our family until someone gets a pie in the face.

Thanks for reading The Human Rights Warrior!  See you in 2014!

Happy New Year from Sullivan's Island, South Carolina!
Happy New Year from Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina!

Universal Children’s Day Photo Essay

Nepal
Children in Nepal

Today, November 20,  is Universal Children’s Day!  In 1954, the United Nations General Assembly established Universal Children’s Day to encourage all countries to take action to actively promote the welfare of the world’s children.   On November 20, 1959 the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Thirty years later, on November 20, 1989, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rightscivil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been acceded to or ratified by 193 countries –  more countries than any other international treaty.

One of the objectives of Universal Children’s Day is to raise awareness about the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Convention sets out the basic human rights that every child should have to develop to their fullest human potential, regardless of  where they live in the world. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; promoting the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.  The Conventionalso protects children’s rights by setting standards that governments should provide in the areas of health care, education, and legal, civil and social services.

In honor of Universal Children’s Day 2013, I’m sharing a few of the rights guaranteed by the Convention along with photos of children I have taken around the world.

Article 1: “A child means every human being below the age of 18 years.”

Yaounde, Cameroun
A child in Cameroon

Article 2:  Children must be treated “ … without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of … race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.” 

A child in Zanzibar

Article 3: “In all actions concerning children … the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

Peru
Children in Peru

Articles 5 & 18: State signatories must “… respect the … rights and duties of parents … [and recognize that] both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing … of the child.”

A family in Morocco
A family in Morocco

Articles 12-14: “… the child who is capable of forming his or her own views [has] the right to express those views [and] the right to freedom of … thought, conscience and religion.”

A child in Iceland

Article 19: Children must be protected from “… injury or abuse … including sexual abuse, while in the care of parents … or any other person….”

A child in Nepal
A child in Nepal

Article 22: “… a child who is seeking refugee status or who is … a refugee … [shall] receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance ….”

Buduburam, Ghana
Children in Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana
 

Article 23: The State recognizes “… the right of the disabled child to special care” and the right to “… enjoy a full and decent life in conditions which ensure dignity ….”

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Article 24: All children have the right to “the highest attainable standard of health … [including access to] primary health care … nutritious foods and clean drinking-water.” 

Children in Norway

Article 27:  Every child has “the right to a standard of living adequate for [her/his] physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.”

A child in the USA
A child in the USA

Articles 28 & 29:  State signatories must “recognize the right of a child to education…[that develops] the child’s personality, talents, mental and physical abilities.” 

Children in  Nepal
Children in Nepal

Articles 32 & 36:   Children must be “protected from economic exploitation … and from [hazardous] work [and] all other forms of exploitation. 

A child in Cameroon
A child in Cameroon

These are just some of the rights set forth in the Convention.  You can read the full text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child here.  

So on Universal Children’s Day 2013 (and every  other day), remember to:

Love your youngers!  (Sign posted on the wall of a school in Nepal.)

10 More Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day!

Last year for Human Rights Day, I wrote a post for World Moms Blog on 10 Things To Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day.  The date of December 10 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.  But ten things are not enough, so here are a few more ideas for simple and meaningful activities to do with your kids on Human Rights Day (December 10) 2012.

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1.  Make a one minute video showing what “It’s About Ability!” means to you, whether in the world at large or to you personally. The deadline for the It’s About Ability youth video contest on children with disabilities is December 15, 2012.  But even if you don’t enter the contest or make a video, you and your kids can learn about and discuss the rights of children with disabilities by reading the “Thoughts for inspiration” in the contest guidelines and this simple explanation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (which also includes more ideas for things you can do to change attitudes and rules so that children who have disabilities can go to school, play and take part in activities that every child wants to do.)  The Learning Guide to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, designed to empower kids ages 12-18 to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, can be found here.

2.  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 doveImage Source
Template for a dove
Image Source

Thankful turkey

(Note: this project was inspired by the Thankful Turkey at my daughter’s school.  You can read more about that here.)

3.  Learn about the challenges that children living in poverty face have overcome to succeed in school.  Play the United Way‘s PASS THE GRADE  game.  In honor of the first  Giving Tuesday on November 27th, The Greater Twin Cities United Way launched a fun, educational online game called PASS THE GRADE.  (My friend ThirdEyeMom wrote about PASS THE GRADE; read her post here.)

4.  Watch some UNICEF Cartoons for Child’s Rights together.  Cartoons for Children’s Rights is a UNICEF broadcast initiative that aims to inform people around the world about children’s rights. The effort has forged partnerships with many well-known animation studios that have developed more than 80 half-minute public service announcements based on the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Each PSA illustrates a right described in the global rights treaty, such as ‘Freedom from Child Labour’ or ‘Protection from Neglect’. All the spots are non-verbal, in order to get the rights message across to everyone, regardless of language. The spots have aired on more than 2,000 television stations globally.  Links to the top 10 can be found here.

5.  Do an anti-bullying activity together like Sticks and Stones from Teach Peace Now.   Ask your child what think about the saying  “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can really hurt me.” Have they heard another version of this saying? Which is truer?  Have they ever had someone say something to them that hurt their feelings. Has someone ever hurt them physically or tried to scare them or one of their friends? Have they ever hurt someone by something they said or did? You can give a personal example of a time you were a victim or a witness to bullying or hurt someone’s feelings. You can also read a book about bullying like This is Our HouseHey, Little Ant, Mr. Lincoln’s WaySay Something, or Simon’s Hook.

Give each child some light gray paper “stones.” Have your kids write a behavior that could hurt someone or make them feel bad such as calling someone a name, or tripping someone. Younger children can draw a picture.  Have them wrinkle up the “stone” and then try to smooth it out. Explain that once someone has been hurt, it is never forgotten. You cannot remove the hurt. The wrinkles will always be there.

Hang stones on wall to create a wall of intolerance or sit in a circle and pile the rocks up in the middle. Ask the kids to think about ways to prevent these bad things from happening. You can make a list together of ideas.

6.  Go on a hunt for the human rights words around you.  Human rights is not about complicated concepts; human rights is about the core values that everyone needs to live fully in this world.  In talking about human rights with my own kids, I realized that I needed to start with the basic building blocks of language: words. Read more about how, once I realized that, I started to see human rights words all around me in HUMAN RIGHTS: Speaking The Language.

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7.  Start a tradition of doing a family service project on Human Rights Day.   There are many opportunities to volunteer, such as preparing and serving meals at a local homeless shelter.  The Lappin family has done this for two years in a row now in their community in Washington state.
Lappins
Dad Nathan describes it as “Such a humbling and at the same time rewarding experience. Feels really good to concretely help others and appreciate what we have as well. Our kids did a great job helping and participating, and interacting with the kids we were hosting.”
Lappins2
Even if your family isn’t able to volunteer in an established project, you can still do something as a family to address the economic and social rights in your community.  For example, put together care packages with warm socks or mittens, a water bottle, individually wrapped snacks (and maybe even decorate a card to stick inside) and offer them to homeless men and women who you may encounter during the day.  Or have your kids decorate a few grocery bags and fill them with non-perishable food items, then bring your kids with you when you drop them off at the food shelf.
Most importantly, spend some time talking with your kids about your family’s service experience.  Talk about what you did and why you did it. Ask your kids, “How did it feel?” and “What did you learn from doing this project.”
8.  Play a game that helps kids understand human rights.  Blind Trust (from ABC – Teaching Human Rights):  In pairs, have one child blindfold the other and have the sighted member of the pair lead the “blind” one about for a few minutes. Make sure the leading child is not abusing the power to lead, since the idea is to nurture trust, not to destroy it. The “leader” of the pair should try to provide as wide a variety of experiences as possible, such as hav- ing the “blind” partner feel things with his or her feet or fingers, leading with vocal directions or even playing a game. After a few minutes have the children reverse the roles and repeat the process so that the “leader” is now the led, and the “blind” partner is now the sighted one.

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)

9.  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.  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.

10.  Check out the Amnesty International You Tube channel.  Amnesty has uploaded more than 500 short videos on a wide variety of global human rights issues. Many videos are in multiple languages, including Spanish and Arabic.  (Given the subject matter, many are more suitable for older kids and teenagers than younger kids. Be sure to preview for anything that might be upsetting to your own children.)

The Price of Silence – A music video that brings together 16 of the worlds top musicians—some of whom have fled oppressive regimes—in a rousing musical plea to guarantee human rights for all.

Wyclef Jean sings One Love in this slideshow about Children’s Rights

 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:

MY 2013 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY POST HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ACTIVITIES TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS

MY 2014 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY POST HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ACTIVITIES FOR YOU & YOUR KIDS

ABC – Teaching Human Rights – practical activities in English, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish

The Advocates for Human Rights’ Discover Human Rights Institute – human rights education lesson plans and curriculum

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

UNRIC’s Human Rights Education website –  great source for multimedia on human rights!