Teaching kids government, current events, and social justice
The past few years have shown that many people are lacking basic knowledge of civics. It’s so important for people to understand how the government works and why it’s set up that way. Keeping up with current events and social justice issues are a big part of understanding civics.
How much should you focus on teaching US government & current events?
Most kids can start to learn about these topics in some way in Kindergarten. Younger kids should be taught current events once a week and on the day of major events. You can keep it age appropriate while still being honest about difficult issues.
Once kids are around 8 years old, you can start doing a bit more if they are ready for it. You could start doing current events everyday and going more in depth on government and politics.
Once kids are around 10, you can really ramp up education in this area. It’s always great when you can tie in history and past social justice movements with current issues as well.
Below you will find all the resources you’ll need to teach US government and civics.
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Resources to Teach Government
The book Understanding Politics & Government is my top recommended resource. It’s a great overview of the US Government and the way our political system works.
iCivics is a website with games, lesson plans, and curriculum to teach government.
Crash Course Government has great videos to help teach kids about the US Government. These are just a few video topics available:
Kids Books on US Government & Leaders – This is a book list I created on Bookshop, which shares it’s profit with local bookstores. It’s a great place to purchase new books online because it also supports local small businesses. Of course you can also use the list as a reference to get books from the library.
The Constitution for Kids podcast episode.
Schoolhouse Rock is always great for learning some basics!
Curiosity Stream has tons of great modern history documentaries. Documentaries can be a great way to learn more about the history of the US. Netflix has a lot of good documentaries too, but you do need to be more careful about biased messaging in documentaries there.
Teaching Civics with Games
Current Events for Kids
Teaching kids current events can be tricky. You don’t want to overshare when they’re young, but it’s also important for them to be informed. Around 5 or 6, most kids are ready to start hearing about current events. You can start small, just hitting the big headlines once a week. As kids get older, current events should become a daily topic to go over with your kids.
The Week Junior is a magazine that focusses on current events for ages 8 to 14. It comes once a week and is a great resource. Click here to see more of the inside of the magazine and what types of content each one contains.
NewsELA is a website for kids of a collection of news articles that can be sorted by reading level and age.
Kidnuz is a daily podcast that shares news in an appropriate way for kids. It’s only 5-10 minutes long, and there’s a short quiz at the end of the episode too.
CNN10 is a daily video briefing of the top headlines. It’s only about 10 minutes long. It’s appropriate for most kids 8 and up, though some say it’s better for 10 and up. Use your discretion and knowledge of your kids dispositions to make the best decision.
NBC Nightly News Kids Edition is another good option for current events for kids. The episodes are usually 20 to 25 minutes long and feature kids in them too. They usually come out a couple times a week.
TedEd is a great resource for learning about all kinds of topics including current events.
John Oliver’s show LastWeek Tonight does great investigative journalism covering relevant current event topics and specific episodes about the US government. They include comedy, and John Oliver does also curse regularly. Most kids 10 and up could watch and learn from these episodes.
Teaching Civics & US Government
Once kids are school age, you can begin teaching them civics, how the government works, and how we use the government to make necessary changes for social justice. You can start lighter when kids are younger then get deeper with more complex discussions as kids get older. Teaching kids to be responsible citizens and to utilize the power that comes with that is so important!