Resources for Teaching Human Rights to Children

Today, we'll suggest some activities as useful resources for teachers and parents when teaching human rights to children.
Resources for Teaching Human Rights to Children
María Matilde

Written and verified by the pedagogue and trainer María Matilde.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Teaching human rights to children is fundamental because they should know their own rights and those of others from an early age. This will enable them, when they grow up, to be upright and critical people who act in defense and respect of human rights at all times and in all areas of their lives.

What are human rights?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948, recognizes and establishes human rights. This declaration consists of 30 articles that refer to a series of basic principles ensuring that all people can have a dignified and free life.

So, human rights are inalienable and universal, and they include the right to life, liberty, and freedom from slavery or torture. These rights don’t depend on a person’s nationality, religion, race, ethnicity, residence, or sex.

Additionally, human rights consist of two main categories. On the one hand, there are civil and political rights, and on the other, economic, social, and cultural rights. The former protect people’s individual freedoms while guaranteeing that every citizen can participate in social and political life on an equal footing and without discrimination.

The second category, the economic, social, and cultural rights, guarantee that all people can feed themselves, have a home, and have a decent job.

“Human rights is the only ideology that deserves to survive.”

-Simon Wiesenthal-

Teaching human rights to children

Teaching human rights at home as well as at school is a priority. In the school context, the curriculum should incorporate this aspect and cater to the corresponding developmental stages of children.

Therefore, teaching human rights should be based on concrete activities so that students assimilate specific knowledge. In other words, students should learn about the history and declaration of human rights, what they are, and what they consist of.

But, fundamentally, children and young people should learn about human rights in the daily life of the classroom, on a day-to-day basis. Learning human rights must be transversal to all subjects and to all pedagogical activities at school.

In this respect, below, we’ll suggest some resources for teaching human rights to children. Even if these are valid activities or strategies to implement in the classroom with primary school children, they can also be used by parents at home.

Resources for teaching human rights to children

Chalk drawing to show diversity and human rights.

What’s most important?

In a large cardboard box, place different objects, such as a coat, a picture, a bill, a piece of bread, a bottle of water, and a video console. Then ask each student to take out of the box three objects that they consider indispensable for living or subsistence.

The aim of this activity is to open a discussion about which things are necessary and important for living. And, as a consequence, what are the basic human rights of people.

Short stories to teach children about human rights

Selecting short stories that describe a situation related to human rights is a good way to teach children.

For example, the teacher can read stories in which human rights, such as access to education or housing, are violated. Or stories about people who are denied certain freedoms because of their sex or nationality.

The purpose of this activity is for children to identify which human rights are violated in each story. Also, they should reflect on how this can affect a person’s life, socially and economically, as well as psychologically and emotionally.

Rights to live

The teacher will divide the class into two groups and hand out cards to each group. The first group will receive cards with rights granted, for example, a well-paid job. And the second group will receive cards on which they’re denied rights, for example: “you cannot say what you think” or “you cannot buy your house because you have a skin color that doesn’t allow you to do so”.

The goal is for children in both groups to share with each other how they feel and what they think about the content of their cards. The objective is for children to understand and empathize with other people whose rights are taken away or denied.

A mural of an ideal world

For this activity, you’ll need several smaller boards joined together to create a large mural. On the mural, children will draw pictures or write phrases related to human rights and a world without war.

The aim is for the children to use their creativity and imagination to represent their thoughts about what an ideal world without war would be like for them, They should also become aware of the importance of human rights in achieving world peace.

Arms of different races intertwined to represent human rights.

Rights are also obligations

The activity consists of children making a list of human rights and then reformulating the rights as obligations. For example: “I have the right to feel safe and not to be assaulted, shouted at, or hit by anyone” versus “I have the obligation not to assault, shout at, or hit anyone”.

The objective of this activity is for children to understand the intrinsic relationship between a person’s rights and their obligations. In other words, students should understand that one’s rights are obligations when it comes to respecting the rights of others.

Children and human rights

For children to exercise and defend their rights and respect others’ rights, they must learn about them, theoretically and practically. So, from an early age, they must understand that rights are essential in being able to fully develop as persons.

Therefore, pedagogical strategies and activities that help teach human rights to children are important and very useful. These help them understand that these rights allow individuals to feel well with themselves and with those around them.

It’s essential for children to understand that human rights allow us to satisfy our needs, such as feeling equal, respected, and listened to. Human rights prevent violence and poor treatment between people. And, at the same time, they allow us to express what we feel and what we need in order to live with dignity.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.