Simple citizenship for 4-H Cloverbuds

Citizenship can and should be taught to youth ages 5 to 8. It doesn’t need to be complex or confusing; just stick to the basics.

Citizenship is a big word with a lot of meaning. Could 5 to 8-year-olds even understand the concept of citizenship?  Is it possible that parents, leaders and Michigan State University Extension staff could teach citizenship in a way that is worthwhile?  Yes!  Citizenship can and should be taught to youth who are between the ages of 5 and 8.  It doesn’t need to be complex or confusing, but it should stick to the basics. 

Recently,  MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development staff held a Family Fun Discovery weekend for youth, 5 to 8 years of age, and their families.  During the weekend the youth and their families learned about science, healthy living and citizenship.  During the citizenship portion of the weekend, the youth learned about what it means to be a good citizen and how they can give back to their community, even though they are young. 

You can do that too!  Start by explaining what citizenship means.  In an article by TVO Parents explains that a good citizen is someone who:

  • Cares about the feeling and rights of others
  • Shows concern for the safety and well-being of others
  • Stays informed about issues and voices their opinion
  • Votes
  • Conserves resources and follows the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle
  • Uses their skills to make a better community

There are several ways to incorporate a project or activity into explaining citizenship.  One way is by doing a community service or service learning project.  It can be as simple as painting, drawing or coloring pictures for someone else or as complicated as discovering solutions to community-wide problem.  For curriculum that is appropriate for 5 to 8-year-olds try the following resources:

Lastly, allow the youth to experience a democratic process, or a vote.  Explain that it’s one of our most basic rights as American citizens and the fairest way for a large group to make a decision. Go through that process with the kids.  Ask them to brainstorm about what project or projects they would like to do and then have them vote to make a final decision.  Or have the kids make a project and then vote on where it could be taken.

Citizenship might be a big word with a lot of meaning behind it, but it can be easy to break the concepts into terms and experiences that are appropriate for you who are ages 5 to 8.  Don’t wait, start now!

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