“That’s not fair!” is something you’ll often hear in home and classroom settings. As children grow older, fairness activities become a staple part of developing empathy, kindness, and compassion.
Teaching a child to be fair isn’t always easy, but there are many ways to make the process enjoyable. Explore the 15 best activities to teach kids about fairness.
Definition of Fairness for Kids
Fairness among kids means treating each other with kindness and respect, ensuring everyone can play and share, and not leaving anyone out. It's about taking turns, sharing toys, and playing by the rules so everyone has fun and feels included. Fairness also means being a good friend and standing up for what's right when someone is unreasonable.
The Importance of Teaching Fairness to Kids
Teaching fairness in a classroom doesn’t just make it easier for the teacher—students also develop a sense of safety and trust when learning. In addition, understanding fairness fosters empathy—a vital social skill that enables children to consider what others need [*].
Understanding fairness helps children learn how to navigate social situations, resolve conflicts, and build positive relationships. It lays the foundation for a more equitable and just society as they grow up, instilling values that promote equality and respect for others. Learning fairness helps kids become responsible and considerate individuals who can contribute positively to their communities.
15 Best Activities to Teach Kids About Fairness
Did you know that playing strategic games with adults can significantly influence a child’s concept of fairness? [*] Incorporate these fairness activities at home and in the classroom to teach your child what it means to be fair.
1. Practice turn-taking
Turn-taking is a fundamental fairness exercise that works with young children. You can use building blocks, visual aids like tokens or timers, or play simple board games to reinforce turn-taking.
2. Model fairness
Adults can model fairness by explaining their reasons behind doing something. For instance, if a classmate usually in charge of erasing the board is temporarily excused from their duty because of an injury, a teacher might explain that taking a break is fair to avoid getting hurt.
3. Have group discussions on fairness
Talking about fairness can be engaging and thought-provoking—you may even discover something new. Ask questions like:
- What does fairness mean to you?
- Do you think everyone has the same idea of fairness?
- How can we be fair in different situations?
- Are there times when it’s difficult to be fair?
Use our All About Fairness handout to demonstrate what it means to be fair.
4. Listen for unfair comments and behaviors
If you notice unjustifiable behavior among children, address them immediately and honestly. Use firm but gentle language, such as, “It hurts your friend’s feelings when you don’t want to share.”
Then, offer a solution. If your child refuses to share when playing a game, explain that sharing makes the game more enjoyable.
5. Practice the right response
When a child feels they are treated unfairly, expressing how they are affected can improve their conflict resolution skills. Encourage your child to say, “When you don’t want to take turns, I feel sad because I can’t play with you.” Others will become more aware of their actions and their impact.
6. Read books about fairness
Is your child a voracious reader? If so, you’ll be pleased to know a wealth of picture books teach fairness. Some famous favorites include “Fair Shares” by Pippa Goodhart, which illustrates the story of a bear and hare trying to reach some pears, and “Fair is Fair” by Sonny Varela, which explores the concept of equal love among siblings.
7. Play team games
Team games emphasize cooperation, communication, and equal participation and can effectively teach fairness. You can introduce games like scavenger hunts, puzzles, obstacle courses, or sports matches.
8. Make up the rules
When playing simple games like hopscotch, hide and seek, or tag, give your kids the freedom to make up rules based on what they believe is fair. For instance, they might alter the number of hiders and seekers or the arrangement of hopscotch squares.
9. Allow children to make mistakes
Mistakes are natural, especially in younger children learning to do things for the first time. Remind your child that mistakes are normal and that some mishaps are inevitable. Accepting mistakes with grace will make children more willing to try again.
10. Watch cartoons
Most cartoons, such as Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street, Blues Clues, and PAW Patrol, highlight important social skills and life lessons for children. Watching them and reflecting on what your child might’ve learned from each episode is an excellent way to reinforce fairness.
11. Roleplay fairness
Get your child’s imagination going and introduce a fun way to explore fairness through roleplay. Use stuffed animals, action figures, or puppets to model various scenarios, like going to the store, meeting with a friend, or playing a game. Assign each child a role and allow them to play out scenes organically, pointing out your observations. Reflect at the end of the activity.
12. Write in fairness journals
If you have older children, encourage them to keep fairness journals where they reflect on real-life instances they believe were fair or unfair. Then, explore each journal entry. Use this opportunity to consider how your child can react next time.
13. Study different cultures
Children accustomed to a specific culture may not know the nuances of others. Teach your child about cultural differences through stories and books, music and dance, cultural celebrations, cooking, arts and crafts, and language learning. Learning about these differences can make children more empathetic.
14. Play “Split the Candy”
Split the Candy is a simple activity that helps teachers understand how their students perceive fairness. Here’s how to play:
- Split your students into groups of 4 to 6.
- Give them an odd number of candies and instruct them to divide them fairly (not evenly).
- At the end of the activity, ask students to reflect on whether they devised a fair solution.
- Ask questions like: What made you decide to split the candy this way? Did someone take the lead on splitting the candy? Did you make a decision based on need? Strength? Equality?
15. Go to “Court”
Ask your students to pick their favorite cartoon characters and historical figures. Consider their character traits. Are they kind? Are they naughty? Do they sometimes get away with things they shouldn’t? Put them on “trial” and determine the consequences (or rewards).
The Bottom Line
Life isn’t always fair! The earlier your child learns the ins and outs of fairness, the better they’ll navigate challenging situations.
Being fair is just one character trait that makes for a successful adult. Learn more about what it means to be well-rounded using our character education posters.
- Hong Y, Cai J, Lan R, Wang K, Lian R, Chen L. “Empathy and teachers’ fairness behavior: The mediating role of moral obligation and moderating role of social value orientation.” PLOS ONE, 2022.
- Castelli I, Massaro D, Sanfey A, Marchetti A. “What is fair for you?” Judgments and decisions about fairness and Theory of Mind.” European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 2014.