Introducing Democracy and Citizenship to Young Kids

Introducing Democracy and Citizenship to Young Kids

Introducing Democracy and Citizenship to Young Kids

 

The greatest democratic event in the world has kicked-off in India today. The adult population of about 1.5 billion people will begin casting their vote today to determine who will be the leader of the largest and youngest democracy in the world.

 

While all of this is exciting for adults who get to cast their votes and have their say in the running of the country, how do we explain such lofty, abstract concepts to our little people?

 

The right to vote is the most visible trait of being a part of democracy and citizenship, but there are many other components that go into a democracy. Here, we shall try to delve into those abstract concepts and help break it down for your little people.

 

Democracy:

 

All of us who have attended middle school know “By the people, For the people, of the people”. But for small children, the best way to make them understand democracy is by modelling it for them. Simplistically speaking, democracy is nothing but having a say in the decision making process of the country, and taking ownership of that decision.

 

We can model this behavior at home by having a democratic household where everyone has a choice and an opinion. Decisions could be as small as what should we do this weekend? Who gets to do a specific chore around the house? The home environment should model airing of opinions without being punished for it. While modelling these behaviours, we also talk to the children about these concepts. They will be more receptive because they see it in action at home.

 

Contrast this against autocratic households where decisions are thrust upon people without their opinions or choices being heard.

 

Elections:

 

Elections, broken down, are the people choosing a person who will represent their interests to the larger world. Take children to voting booths during elections; allow them to see the process of voting. Talk to them about candidates. About how we as ordinary citizens hold an extraordinary responsibility to evaluate candidates objectively while selecting them to represent us.

 

Talk about issues, break it down for children. Ask them what are the troubles that they see around them. Encourage them to identify issues like cleanliness, pollution and infrastructure (broken roads). Explain what the candidates’ stands on different issues are.

 

Not in the strictest sense, but elections can be explained using a simple school-teacher-student analogy.

 

For the younger kids under 5, say that every class has a class teacher, who takes care of the kids, who help them make decisions everyday, and who represent the kids to the "big-teachers".

For the older kids over 5, you can introduce the concept of fees and school providing infrastructure in exchange of a fee/tax.

 

Citizenship:

 

Right to vote is the first step of being a citizen. There are several other responsibilities that we hold as citizens of India.

 

Respecting Public property:

 

We can teach children the difference between public property and private property and how we need to respect and protect public property because it belongs to everyone. This can be modelled in public spaces either by simply explaining or pointing out where others are going wrong. For instance, if you see someone defacing a bus or a wall. Take a moment to explain why this is wrong.

 

Free speech/Dissent/Protest:

 

We can teach children that having an opinion and standing up for it is NOT a bad thing. We can model this behaviour at home when everyone is entitled to an opinion and reiterating on the fact that, just because your opinion is different from others doesn't make it wrong. This is the same about asking questions as well. For example, if you see a red balloon and call it red in front of your child, but your child calls it purple. Don't reject that notion outright. At least hear what they have to say, what you see and what they see may be completely different.

 

This teaches that having an opinion that differs, and questioning the status quo is not a bad thing, but even a patriotic duty

 

For older children, encourage them to write letters to your local representatives about issues in your community. Encourage dialogue.

 

We, at The Nestery, hope that these pointers help initiate important conversations at home with young children about complex concepts. It is never too early to start.

 

Do you know of any children’s books that talk about democracy in an Indian context? Leave a comment below!

 

Jai Hind.

 

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