Remembering Nelson Mandela for Children

With the recent news of the iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela's death at age 95, every corner of the globe has been paying tribute to this great moral leader. With all the news outlets and world leaders spreading messages of remembrance and telling the story of Mandela's life, we can't forget to translate all of this for our children, who might not understand the many ways in which Mandela changed the world for the better. After all, it's today's children that will carry on Mandela's legacy. 

I've gathered this list of ways to teach your kids how to reflect on and carry forward the messages that Mandela left for the world.

Who was Nelson Mandela? For kids.

Mandela grew up in South Africa under the system of segregation called Apartheid. Non-white people couldn't access public spaces like libraries, beaches, parks and toilets. These places were reserved solely for white people. Black people and people of mixed race were not allowed to go to school with white people, and they could not play on athletic teams with them either. White Africans wrote all the rules in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela spent his entire life fighting for racial equality in South Africa. He spent 27 years in a prison cell for opposing the South African system of Apartheid.

Since 1990 – 1993, due to the sacrifices and negotiations of Nelson Mandela, Apartheid ended in South Africa. Every person in South Africa has an equal opportunity to live comfortably and lead productive lives. Nelson Mandela will forever be one of the world's most cherished freedom seekers. Mandela believed that the power of sports and how athletic competition could bring unity to divided peoples

Powerful quotes spoken by Nelson Mandela.

Share his powerful messages through quotes, spoken by Nelson Mandela. Ask kids what they think each quote means and explain. Encourage them to share in dialogue regarding each quote. Each quote focuses on a theme that will be important to children.

Children. "The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children."

Courage. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Perseverance. “It always seems impossible until it's done.”

Freedom. “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Forgiveness. “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Leadership. “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”

Racism. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Failure. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Education. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Sports. "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does."

Remembrance of Nelson Mandela in music.

Nothing reaches children more powerfully than music. Interestingly enough, it was a star-studded concert in 1988 and a UK pop song that actually helped push the name of Nelson Mandela onto the world stage and pushed the release of Mandela from prison.

Play some of the following songs, written in honor of Nelson Mandela. Ask children how the song made them feel and what each song made them think about.

"Mandela (Bring Him Back Home)," Hugh Masekela

"Free Nelson Mandela," The Special AKA

"Ordinary Love," U2

"Freedom Now," Tracy Chapman

"Asimbonanga," Johnny Clegg

Share the story of Nelson Mandela in a format that children can understand.

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson is a children's book and biography with fantastic illustrations.

Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales is a collection of thirty-two African folktales selected by Nelson Mandela himself.

Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book is a fully authorized graphic biography, based on Mandela's memoir.

EJ Curran is a Delaware mom. This post is adapted from her blog, Four Little Monsters, at 

Categories: MomSpeak