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Celebrate Children's Day by Honoring Other Cultures and Promoting Advocacy

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At-Home Learning is an early childhood education resource (for ages 2-8) providing families, educators and community partners with at-home learning activities, guides, and expert advice.

On a rainy day at school about a year ago, three boys in Ottawa, Canada were stuck inside during recess when they had a new idea: what if they made a podcast by kids, for kids?

They started by interviewing the neighbor of Jack, one of the boys, and expanded from there, officially launching The Interview Dudes Podcast. Now, more than 70 guests later — including elected officials, scientists and actors like Ryan Reynolds and Steve Martin — they’ll air their interview with British High Commissioner to Canada, Susan Jane le Jeune d'Allegeershecque, to mark World Children’s Day on Nov. 20.

Seven small children of different skin tones huddle together and smile at the camera. iStock
There's so much we can all do to learn from each other and help one another.

“We talked about how the job is important, is it fun, how does it affect Canada,” said Ben, one of the three Interview Dudes.

An interview done by kids for kids holding adults responsible for their decisions is fitting for World Children’s Day, an international holiday meant to recognize the rights and importance of children.

The day was first established by the United Nations in 1954 and has grown in significance. In 1959, on World Children’s Day, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. On that same date in 1989, the Assembly also adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children don’t just belong to their parents, but are human beings and individuals with their own rights. It aims to protect childhood as a special time “in which children must be allowed to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity,” according to UNICEF, the UN agency responsible for protecting children worldwide.

“World Children's Day offers each of us an inspirational entry point to advocate, promote and celebrate children's rights, translating into dialogues and actions that will build a better world for children,” according to the UN website about the day.

But did you know there are also separate children’s day celebrations in different countries around the world? Yes! And each carries its own meaning. For example, in Mexico, Children’s Day is celebrated every April 30 and children typically get to leave school early that day. In Japan, it’s celebrated May 5 with families flying koinobori, windsocks designed to look like carps. In Australia, there’s actually a whole Children’s Week from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1 that highlights a different child’s right each year.

Here are some ways to celebrate the children in your life, both in honor of World Children's Day and children’s days in other countries.

Celebrate Children from Around the World

With kids at home (even young kids) parents and caregivers can look for ways to talk and learn about other kids’ cultures and countries. A good idea to start is to try to replicate another country’s children’s day traditions at home.

  • To get a taste of Japanese children’s day celebrations, where families fly windsocks painted to resemble carp fish — a black carp for the father, a red or pink one for the mother and a blue, green, or orange carp for each child — you could try flying your own koinobori made using colorful socks. You could also try making paper cutouts of carps to represent your family; then, fly them above or inside your home. Want an extra challenge? Try making origami koinobori! 

  • In Australia, organizations such as the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect(NAPCAN) provide downloadable activities and coloring books that you can use to have discussions with kids about their rights. One encourages kids to write or draw a picture of what they would change about the world if they could.
  • China celebrates Children’s Day on June 1 with either a field trip or a day off school, as well as activities and concerts that only children can attend. To celebrate with the kids in your life, help them plan a concert to perform at home or take them on a hike or outing to a park.
  • In Nigeria, Children's Day is celebrated May 27 with a parade of kids and a chance for some kids to go to parties. News outlets in the country also use the day to spotlight children’s issues. At home, try organizing a parade with your kids and/or local neighborhood kids (just make sure you stay safe!), and maybe put on your own news broadcast to talk about the issues that are important to your children.
  • Watching movies or TV shows with your kids that show children from other parts of the world is also a fantastic way to honor the holiday. Some options to try are “The Cave of the Yellow Dog” from Mongolia, “Please Vote for Me” from China (which might be better for older kids), “The Red Balloon” from France, “My Neighbor Totoro” from Japan, “Coco” about Día de los Muertos in Mexico, or PBS KIDS’ “Let’s Go Luna,” where Luna takes kids to see different countries.

Practice Advocacy from Home

Organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children celebrate World Children’s Day with advocacy aimed at increasing awareness around children’s rights.

“On this day, UNICEF advocates and raises awareness and funds for pressing issues facing children,” said Amber Hill, the managing director of UNICEF’s Southern California Regional Office.

  • Hill suggested that older kids organize a takeover of online spaces that are normally run by adults. “In the past, we had a takeover of a local TV show …. UNICEF also had kids meet with decision makers in the community and take over social media accounts of influencers, ” she said.

At Save the Children, a nonprofit that advocates for children’s rights, the day is also marked by fundraising and raising awareness on social media. President and CEO, Janti Soeripto, said the day is a special opportunity to call on people to support the world’s most vulnerable kids and amplify children’s voices around the world.

“Children have powerful voices, and it’s our responsibility to listen to what they have to say,” Soeripto said.

  • Kids at home can celebrate the day by speaking up and demanding that their leaders deliver on their rights, Soeripto said. Older kids can write letters or social media posts, while younger kids can draw pictures to help encourage others to donate to causes and organizations that help children around the world.

“Children have a right to participate in society, be heard and taken seriously,” Soeripto said. “They can do this in their schools, in their communities and beyond; everything from sending letters to their representatives and fundraising online for kids organizations like Save the Children to talking with friends and family about what is most important to them.

Do a Kids’ Takeover

For families aiming to mark the day at home, at school, or in remote learning, plans don't have to be as grandiose as running a podcast or taking over a TV news station, Hill said. She added that parents and caregivers can also let older kids take over their social media spaces.

  • Parents can  help set up a virtual conversation between a young person and local changemaker, or create social media posts with the hashtag #worldchildrensday and a few sentences that begin with, “I’m creating change by...” to raise awareness, Hill said. For younger kids, it’s a good idea to talk about how they would like to create change. Even seemingly simple ideas such as “welcoming everyone,” “saying hi to people on the street” or “cleaning up trash at the park” can have a big impact.
  • You can also involve children in things they usually don’t take part in on that day, maybe by inviting them to join a few online meetings if they’re working from home, Hill suggested. Since seeing kids appear in meetings is commonplace in the time of  COVID-19, planning a surprise appearance can be a fun change of pace.

Learn About Issues to Get Involved In

Besides the pandemic, UNICEF’s Hill said there are many urgent issues kids can help with, such as climate change.

“Children are living impacts of this pandemic and how the world chooses to respond for many years to come,” she said. “Children need to be included in decisions, so we should use this day to show children’s voices.”

  • Even little ones can help out! For example, when playgrounds in California were closed because of the pandemic and there were no plans for reopening, preschoolers wrote letters to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to reopen them. Parents posted pictures of the letter on social media.

For Ishan Goyal, a junior at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, California who is a member of UNICEF’s National Council, advocacy can start from anywhere. He uses his position to advocate for disability rights.

“I’m a stutterer, so I work with kids that stutter,” he said. “UNICEF values inclusion and shows the world its commitment to inclusion, and I feel I’m part of that and I have a voice.”

Goyal suggested that older kids celebrate the day by looking up online clubs — such as those run by UNICEF — or even finding a cause to advocate for and starting their own. They can also write on social media about “how they’re trying to change their community, work with adults, a legislative branch, at their schools,” Goyal said. “... we just want to show children are empowered.”

No matter how it’s celebrated, UNICEF’s Hill said the important part is putting the emphasis on fighting for the rights of children, which is all the more important right now.

Goyal said he plans to mark World Children’s Day by taking over a social media page and posting about the day’s history and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“We just want to get the word out that children are powerful and we are the future,” he said.

Claire is a journalist who contributes to a variety of outlets, including Parents Magazine, Marie Claire, Runner's World and NPR. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley and now lives in San Diego, where she works for the NPR affiliate KPBS. After her son was born three years ago, Claire began thinking and writing more about education and parenting issues. In her very limited free time, Claire goes running and walks her dog.

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