International Women's Day is a global phenomenon, but only because of the people who work to make it possible. In order to honor the day and carry the message through to the next generation, we have to do our part to celebrate International Women's Day with our children on March 8, Because they won't understand its significance unless we show them how important it is.
Preschoolers and toddlers may not be ready for a lesson on gender inequality or the salary gap, but they can still come with you to a march or listen to a story about girls and women who did great things. You can even go around your house and point to all the everyday items that were invented by women, from coffee filters to dishwashers, windshield wipers to chocolate-chip cookies. Elementary-school children are old enough to start learning that the world still isn't a fair place for everyone. Tell them about Malala Yousafzai and her fight to ensure education for all girls, or demonstrate with coins the gender pay gap that still exists in the U.S. (Would they want to earn 80 cents for the same work that someone else is doing for a dollar?)
There are lots of things you can do with your children that are fun, educational, and inspiring. If you make them as much of an annual tradition as sending Valentines or hunting Easter eggs, they'll be more likely to carry on the cause as they grow up.
1. Attend An Event
All over the world, International Women's Day is being celebrated through marches, concerts, festivals, and other events. Search on the International Women's Day website to find out what's going on in your area.
2. Decorate Your Child's Room
The unicorns, superheroes, and mermaids on your child's wall won't mind sharing the space with images that remind them of their own worth. Frame a portrait of an historical woman they admire, or help your child create a sign with one of these inspiring women-power quotes (example: "Life is tough, my darling, but so are you").
3. Make Puppets
Natural Parents Network suggested this fun way to teach women's history through puppetry. Print out several copies of a simple body outline (like this one) and have your kids decorate them to resemble women of their choice: Frida Kahlo, Nefertiti, Sally Ride, Aunt Kathy. Cut the excess paper from around the outline, glue onto popsicle sticks, and have fun playing!
4. Make A List
The whole point of the day is to acknowledge the power and contributions of women both past and present. Sit down with your kids and talk to them about the day, then make a list together of all the women you know, either personally or historically. Seeing the long string of names will help your children understand the significance of female history.
5. Write A Letter
Who are the awesome women in your child's life? A grandmother or aunt? A teacher? A neighbor who's in the military? The local librarian? The cashier at Dunkin' who always slips your child a free Munchkin? Have your child pick one and write a letter or email thanking her for being a super female role model.
6. Take A Picture
Break out your camera, tablet, or cell phone and get clicking! Eye Em, a partner of International Women's Day, is sponsoring its first annual photography contest. They're looking for "exciting, engaging images that portray women in real and diverse ways." The pictures can be silly, unconventional, or spotlight a harsh reality of women's lives. You could win a pro photography kit or get featured on the International Women's Day website. Have your child think of women you both could photograph: a science teacher, a yoga class, or even something more sobering, like a homeless female vet.
7. Order A Special Doll
For the last several years, Mattel has designed a line of Barbie Inspiring Women and Shero dolls that honor real women from all walks of life. Four of them are available for sale — Amelia Earhart, NASA "Hidden Figure" Katherine Johnson, fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad, and gymnast Laurie Hernandez — and a Frida Kahlo doll will be out later this month.
8. Watch A Movie
Break out the popcorn and watch a film about an inspiring, rule-breaking, or world-changing woman. Depending on your kids' ages, you could go with an animated choice like Moana or Brave, a fiction film featuring strong girls (like A Wrinkle in Time or Whale Rider), or a biopic of a real-life heroine, such as Ruby Bridges, The Miracle Worker, or Hidden Figures. The A Mighty Girl website has lots of suggestions to check out.
9. Read A Book (Or Two)
Books featuring strong heroines have inspired children for generations: think Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, the Little House, Ramona, and American Girl series. Take some time to sit down with an old favorite, or discover a new one. Or read your kids a picture-book biography of real-life heroines like Molly Williams (the first female firefighter) or Elizabeth Blackwell, the first American woman to become a physician.
10. Have A Girls' Lunch
Honor your daughter (and you, too!) by going out together to a favorite restaurant or coffee bar. Toast to the inspiring women who came before you, and to the inspiring woman your child will grow up to be.
11. Help Provide Period Products
"Period poverty" — lack of access to clean menstrual products — affects 40 million women and girls worldwide, according to stats quoted by the Borgen Project. It affects not only girls' education (often they skip school during their cycles), but also their health (if they resort to using dirty rags or wearing one tampon for several days). You can help by organizing a collection drive of new sanitary products to donate to an organization such as PERIOD, which distributes the products to women and girls in need. If you have a preteen or teen girl in the house, this cause will especially resonate with her.
12. Support A Woman-Owned Business
That girls' lunch mentioned above? Make it at a cafe or restaurant with a female owner or manager. Or pay a visit to a woman-run clothing store, dry cleaner, newsstand, hair salon, or other business in your neighborhood. Showing your kids the role that women play in their everyday lives will impress and inspire them.
13. Wear Purple
Eggplant or lavender, the color purple symbolizes women, according to International Women's Day's website. It represents "justice and dignity," which is what we've been striving for virtually since time began. So have your kids put on their favorite purple outfits and stand strong.
14. Get Out The Crayons
The Moments A Day blog has downloadable coloring pages that bring home the message of gender equality. Get your kids coloring and talk to them about the images and what they represent. My personal favorite is a picture of a bird in flight, accompanied by a quote by 'Abdu'l-Baha: "The world of humanity has two wings — one women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the world fly."
15. Strike A Pose
In keeping with this year's International Women's Day theme "Balance for Better," the website encourages supporters participate in striking the #BalanceForBetter pose — arms out to the sides, elbows bent and palms up like a scale — and post the pictures to social media. You can take a pic of your kids individually, or pose for a group selfie. There's power in numbers!