Teaching citizenship to preschool children is important for character building

Teaching “citizenship” to young children can be accomplished through simple daily activities, family projects and modeled behavior.

If you take time and help a neighbor with yard work, your children can assist. Photo credit: Pixabay.
If you take time and help a neighbor with yard work, your children can assist. Photo credit: Pixabay.

There are so many things that we want our children to learn as they grow and mature. Citizenship is one of the six pillars of character education that can be explored through everyday interactions with children.

Most adults practice good citizenship behaviors every day as they help a neighbor, obey traffic laws, volunteer in the community, recycle at home and at work, and use appropriate trash receptacles when out in public. Children will use these same principles as they model the behavior of the important adults in their lives.

Citizenship to young children means practicing the behaviors first at home. Some suggestions to teach citizenship to young children include:

  • Set a good example for the children in your life. You are your child’s first teacher and your children watch everything you do. If you take time and to help a neighbor with yard work, your children can assist by bagging leaves or raking with child sized tools. Help those less fortunate than you.
  • Teach children where to place litter in their home and in public. Talk about the pride you feel when your town or city is neat and clean. Take your child on a walk and carry a trash bag to dispose of garbage you might find. Discuss the fact that littering is against the law and that there is a consequence for those who break the law.
  • Teach your child about public service officials. Visit your fire hall or police station. Meet a real officer! Discuss the job that firemen and policemen do. Encourage pretend play by providing pretend mail that needs to be delivered, a police whistle or badge, or the hat for a fire fighter.
  • Expose your children to your community through visits to parks, recreation areas, local stores and neighborhood visits. Your child will learn that the world is bigger than their home and that they have a connection to the outside world.
  • Discuss the reason for rules at home, school, day care and other places. Children need to learn that the entire world has a set of rules and that rules help keep us safe.
  • Fly the American Flag. Have your child count flags as you travel in the car. Talk about the stars and stripes and what they stand for. Explore activities that involve our flag. Plan and make a red, white and blue snack or dessert with your child.
  • Attend a public meeting with your child; take him with you to the voting booth; talk about local issues from the newspaper that affect your family; or volunteer to do community service.

Children can learn citizenship skills through movies, stories and books. There are many books for young children that assist in teaching the character trait of citizenship. Children’s books that you might want to explore at your local library with your child include: “F is for Flag or L is for Liberty” by Wendy Cheyette Lewison, “The Sand Tray” by Dan Rowe, or “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister. For patriotic holidays (Flag Day, Veteran’s Day, or the Fourth of July, etc.) you can look for other books that celebrate America.

When reading a story with young children, take time to stop for questions and let the child be an active participant; retell the story after you’ve finished reading; draw pictures about characters who displayed good citizenship. Talk about stories with your children as you read them together. Explore fun things you can do with your child that complement the story and provide additional learning opportunities.

Michigan State University Extension reminds you that when you model and teach your child the life skill of citizenship you are helping to build character that counts!

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