When our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution over 200 years ago, they used jargon that we don't say in the present day. This makes it difficult to understand, especially for young kids. Since the children of the world are our future, it's important for them to understand the basic components of this influential document. Thus, we break down the Bill of Rights for kids so that they can know their fundamental freedoms!
What Is the Bill of Rights?
The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. This document breaks down the basic rights of every American citizen. These amendments were ratified in 1791, four years after the Constitution was signed.
Why Is the Bill of Rights Important?
The reason for the creation of this document was simple - the constitution laid out what the United States government could do, but it never specified protections for the people. This led James Madison, otherwise known as the Father of the Constitution, to write a list of liberties that gave some power back to our nation's citizens.
Basics of the Bill of Rights for Kids
Many of the amendments in the Bill of Rights seek to protect the basic liberties of citizens by focusing on personal freedoms and the power of the government. If you want to know what privileges it gives the American people, here's a synopsis of these 10 amendments for kids.
The First Amendment guarantees Americans several basic freedoms. These include:
- The freedom of speech
- The freedom of the press to publish information and opinions
- The freedom to choose and practice your religion
- The right to assemble peacefully
- The right to petition the government in order to fix problems
The Second Amendment gives citizens the right to own guns.
The Third Amendment states that during times of war and peace, soldiers cannot take up residence in someone else's house without that owner's permission.
The Fourth Amendment states that a person, his house, and his belongings cannot be searched or taken, and he cannot be given a warrant, without proper cause.
The Fifth Amendment provides protections that relate to criminal law. These include:
- You cannot be tried for a serious crime without a Grand Jury deciding there is enough evidence for a trial. This is called Due Process.
- You cannot be tried for the same crime twice. This is called Double Jeopardy.
- You do not have to provide information that could cause you to incriminate yourself. This is the Miranda Warning that police recite when someone is arrested.
- You do not have to testify against yourself in a court of law. When people say they are "pleading the fifth" during a trial, they are referring to this part of the Fifth Amendment.
- The government cannot take your property for public use without proper compensation. This is called Eminent Domain.
The Sixth Amendment gives a person the right to a speedy and public trial by a jury of his peers in the state and district where he committed the crime.
The Seventh Amendment ensures that a person has the right to a jury in a civil case where more than $20 is being disputed.
The Eighth Amendment guarantees that excessive bail and/or fines shall not be ordered, and cruel and unusual punishments can't be imposed.
The Ninth Amendment states that people have rights beyond those listed in the Constitution.
The Tenth Amendment states that the Constitution gives certain powers to the Federal Government. However, if this document does not specifically note that this government body holds these rights, then these liberties fall to the individual states and the people, respectively.
Lessons and Activities About the Bill of Rights
A kid-friendly Bill of Rights activity can make this important part of history more clear. Parents and teachers can print out a copy of these amendments to use as a reference when completing activities about this key document. If you need help to download the printable, check out these helpful tips.
Match the Amendment Printable Worksheet
Ten different scenarios are presented in this 10 amendments for kids worksheet. The goal is for children to match each amendment with the scenario that it protects them from. This will help children understand how the amendments connect to modern-day situations. Along with the printable worksheet, we also have an answer key to help you check your child's work.
In the News
Watch the news and scour the newspapers for examples of cases that involve the Bill of Rights that kids can understand. Stories involving the first amendment will be the most common.
Have older children role play scenarios that violate the Bill of Rights. For example, you may have them put on a skit about someone's freedom of speech being violated or pretend to arrest someone without a reason.
Illustrate the Amendments
Children can create illustrations to accompany each amendment. These illustrations will help provide a visual reference that can allow them to better remember the Bill of Rights. You can also use Bill of Rights coloring pages, such as the ones offered by Constituting America.
Write Your Own Bill of Rights
Extend the lesson by having children write their own Bill of Rights - a kid version. Suggestions include a Bill of Rights for sisters, a Bill of Rights for pets, a Bill of Rights for families, or a Bill of Rights for students. Having a Bill of Rights summary for students or kids to reference as they complete this task can help.
Interactive Websites About the Bill of Rights
Interactive websites help kids learn about the Bill of Rights in entertaining ways. Incorporate some of these platforms in your Bill of Rights lessons to help your children understand their freedoms.
Ben's Guide offers a kid-friendly explanation of the Bill of Rights.
Try Annenberg Classrooms's interactive quiz to test their memory of the amendments.
Books for Kids About the Bill of Rights
Books about the Bill of Rights provide students with an overview of the amendments and different scenarios involving those rights. These can simplify the Bill of Rights, making them easier for your kids to understand.
Sly Sobel's "The Bill of Rights: Protecting Our Freedom Then and Now" combines a discussion of each amendment with some unique facts about the Constitution and creative illustrations.
"The Bill of Rights in Translation: What It Really Means" from the Fact Finders series translates the Bill of Rights into kid-friendly terms.
Kathleen Krull's "A Kid's Guide to the Bill of Rights: Curfews, Censorship, and the 100-Pound Giant" answers questions about the Bill of Rights to help kids understand the amendments.
Songs for Kids About the Bill of Rights
Songs help musical and auditory learners process information, which can be easier to remember than a written Bill of Rights definition for kids. These songs will help students memorize the 10 amendments by setting them to familiar and catchy new tunes.
Totally 3rd Grade features a rock song that outlines each of the 10 amendments. You may listen to the song online or download it for a small fee. Flash cards, a close reading passage, and worksheets accompany the song.
Smart Songs' Bill of Rights Rap is free on YouTube and is a fun way for kids to listen and learn about the topic.
Help Kids Understand Their Freedoms
Incorporate elements from each type of resource into your lessons to help children learn about the Bill of Rights. Parents and teachers can also remind children about their freedoms and contrast the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights with the lack of freedom in other countries to help children understand the value of this important document.
Our freedoms are so valuable. Taking the time to help kids understand key concepts about our history, and national and local government, is important. Learning about the Bill of Rights has value for kids that goes far beyond a simple social studies lesson.