Participating in Marches & Protests

Asa form of play, children may march on the playground to shout out their advocacies and passions. Signs, flags, songs, and chants are part of the game. Some families participate in cultural and political marches and protests, demonstrating their right to free speech, by standing up for what they believe in. e.g., peace, climate justice, LGBTQ+ pride, etc. Groups of families might unify to participate or create their own events.

When involving children, precautions and understandings become helpful. Be aware of and discuss safety issues. If you are going into a crowd together, wear something that unifies you visibly. Plan how to stay in contact or relocate each other if you get separated.

What is age appropriate? Scaffolding children’s understanding of public protest and process with hope is important. Children may wonder about the frustration and anger they hear in a protesting crowd. Many of the aggressive wording used in political protests is actually discouraged in children’s lives, so reconciling this discrepancy may beckon dialogue. Many protests are full of ironic slogans, and negative messaging, saying what must stop in order for social justice to thrive. Explain negative slogans by asking, “What is the hope behind the criticism? What is the ‘yes’ behind the ‘no’? What does ‘fighting’ for something really mean?”

There are many degrees of involvement. Making signs for causes is half of protest. All children can participate in this aspect. Carrying them courageously is the other important half. And a photo of your family carrying a sign, posted to all you know, is a media protest of its own.

Children practice through play, so creating marches at home is a wonderful option for them, in which they can process the issues and values that are coming into their consciousness through their family and culture. During the height of the Covid-19 Pandemic with the rise of Black Lives Matter protests, Ethical NYC children each created HOME BLM MARCHES, collecting all their dolls, stuffed animals, and action figures into one crowd scene, and making signs for each of them to hold. The community of families gathered to share their home marches through Zoom meetings, deciding together what to sing and what slogans to chant. See more here:

Some wonderful books have been written to support children in appreciating and potentially participating in marches and protests. The Institute for Humane Education offers a supportive and diverse list:

Raising Luminaries has another wonderful list:

To these lists, you can add author Joanna McClintick who has created an illustrated poem ‘Twas the Night Before Pride, that tells, beyond the glitter and rainbows of PRIDE, “the beautiful resistance that made PRIDE come to be.”

Here is a wonderful video clip of one of the world’s great eco-heros, Wangari Maathai. This short story ends with a phrase worth making into a household mantra: “I will be the hummingbird. I will do the best I can.”