Kids have a tendency to think that “fair” means “equal.” An older sibling having a later bedtime isn’t fair; one child having a rough day and receiving special one-on-one time with a parent isn’t fair. But there’s a trick elementary teachers use to teach kids the difference between fairness and equity, and it’s one parents can try at home with the whole family: The Band-Aid Lesson.
It goes like this:
1. Take out a stack of Band-Aids (or a sheet of stickers if you don’t want to waste actual Band-Aids). Tell everyone in the family to think of a pretend injury they have. It can be anything from a paper cut to a broken bone to something more catastrophic.
2. One by one, ask each family member to describe their injury. When they’re done, place a single Band-Aid over the spot of the injury.
3. When everyone has had a turn, reflect on the fairness versus the equity of everyone receiving the exact same treatment for different injuries. Empowering Education offers these talking points:
What was your injury? And what treatment did you get? Wow — we had lots of different injuries! Some people actually just had little cuts, so the Band-Aid would have worked for them. But some people had broken bones or worse; would the Band-Aid have worked for them? NO!
Let’s think about how this relates to our original definition of fairness — that fair means equal. Everyone got the same treatment here, so everyone was equal. Was that fair?
From there, you can talk with kids about how what is fair is different from person to person and child to child because everyone has different needs. The younger child has to go to bed earlier because their body needs more rest to grow. The child who is sad needs more connection and attention in that moment to help them feel better. A child at school who struggles with a maths concept may need more one-on-one instruction from the teacher than a child who understands it the first time it’s explained.
Brainstorm a few other examples together of instances when they’ve seen someone receive more attention or been given different rules to follow because of differing needs that may have seemed unfair at the time.
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