Teach the Children About Fairness and Equality With a Plaster Lesson

Children tend to think that “fair” means “equal.” An older brother having a later one before bed is not fair; one child having a rough day and being able to be alone with one of the parents is unfair. But there is a trick that elementary school teachers use to teach children the difference between fairness and equality, and her parents can try at home with the whole family: The Band-Aid Lesson.

It looks like this:

1. Get a pack of patches (or a sheet of stickers if you don’t want to waste real patches). Tell everyone in the family to think about the imaginary trauma. It can be anything from a paper cut to a broken bone or something more disastrous.

2. Ask each family member in turn to describe their trauma . When ready, apply one patch over the injury site.

3. When everyone has a queue, think about fairness versus equality for everyone who has received the same treatment for different injuries. Empowering Education offers the following topics for discussion:

What kind of injury did you have? What treatment did you receive? Wow, we had a lot of different injuries! Some people actually had small cuts, so the patch would work on them. But some people had broken bones or worse; Would the plaster work on them? NO!

Let’s think about how this relates to our original definition of fairness – fairness means equality. Here, everyone was treated equally, so everyone was equal. Was that fair?

From there, you can talk to children about how fair is different from person to person and from child to child, because everyone has different needs . The youngest child should go to bed earlier because his body needs more rest to grow. A child who is sad at this moment needs more communication and attention to help him feel better. A child in school who is at a loss with a mathematical concept may need more individual instruction from a teacher than a child who will understand it the first time it is explained.

Brainstorm a few other examples when they saw someone getting more attention or needing to follow different rules due to different needs that might seem unfair at the time.

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