In the United States, the Bill of Rights is the name by which the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution are known. They were introduced by James Madison to the First United States Congress in 1789 as a series of constitutional amendments, and came into effect on December 15, 1791, when they had been ratified by three-fourths of the States. The Bill of Rights limits the powers of the federal government of the United States, protecting the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors on United States territory.
What to do on Bill of Rights Day…
Hmm…this is one of those days that is a little more challenging. How will I teach the Bill of Rights to my 5 and 8 year old when I’m not really sure they even know about the Constitution? Well, I am always usually surprised at how much they do understand. For these harder topics, the idea is to simply introduce it. So, here it goes…
Bill of Rights for Kids
I found this simplified version of the Bill of Rights (good for refreshing my memory too!)…
The Bill of Rights is also known as the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Many of these amendments seek to protect the rights of citizens by focusing on personal freedoms and the power of government. The amendments included in the Bill of Rights are:
- Congress cannot make a law that affects the establishment of religion, restricts a person’s right or the press’s right to free speech, or restricts the right of people to gather together in a peaceful manner.
- Citizens have the right to own guns.
- During times of peace soldiers cannot take up residence in someone else’s house without that owner’s permission.
- A person, his house and belongings cannot be searched or taken, and he cannot be given a warrant without good reason.
- You cannot be tried for a serious crime without a Grand Jury deciding there is enough evidence for a trial.
- A person should be given a speedy and public trial by a jury of his peers in the state and district where he committed the crime.
- A person has the right to a jury in a civil case where more than $20 is being disputed.
- Excessive bail and/or fines shall not be ordered, and cruel and unusual punishments can’t be imposed
- You have rights beyond those listed in the Constitution.
- Areas and laws that aren’t governed or prohibited directly by the Constitution may be made by individual states
Bill of Rights Rock Song!
So, as I was deliberating on how to dig into talking about the Bill of Rights with my kids, who were happily playing, I came across this song. My son loves music and the computer, so anytime he hears ANY noise coming from the computer (even ads) he rushes over to see what I am watching. It was just the intro I needed. The link is below, but FYI, it cuts out at the end and you need to pay for the whole version. I was happy with the amount I heard, so I never purchased it. It was just enough to get us talking about the Bill of Rights.
There’s also a Schoolhouse Rock version.
Once you’ve talked (and rapped) about the Bill of Rights, now you can start doing a little more with it. Maybe role play some of the Amendments, for example, pretending to arrest each other without a reason.
Write your own Bill of Rights
Have the kids write their own Bill of Rights – a Bill of Rights for sisters, a Bill of Rights for pets, etc. (My son was immediately excited about this so that he could include the right to watch as much screen time as he wanted!)
A Colonial snack
After all the hard work of learning about the Bill of Rights, have a snack like in Colonial times! Although, a ‘Colonial snack’ is probably an oxymoron, as people of the 1700s didn’t really have snacks. In fact, they didn’t eat nearly as much as we do now! Breakfast was light and consisted of bread or porridge and milk, cider, or beer. People usually woke up and started right into their chores. Dinner was the mid-day meal and often the biggest meal of the day. Dinner consisted of pudding, bread, meat, roots, pickles, vinegar, salt and cheese. Supper was a lighter evening meal, and often similar to breakfast: bread, cheese, mush or hasty pudding, or warmed over meat from the noon meal.
If they were to have a snack, or “intermeal eatings”, it would probably be raisins, currants, cranberries, apples, and bread.