• Millions of Mothers

Protesting With Young Kids...Making spaces for those with young children (or other challenges)...

Updated: Oct 7, 2019

Millions of Mothers Hawkes Bay at Intergenerational Strike Friday 27 September 2019. Photo credit Tracy Hardman

Guest post by Tracy Hardman

Protesting with young children...making spaces for those with young children (or other challenges).

Two weeks ago, planning to attend our third school strike for climate, I was searching for a guide on how to protest with young children, or what to bring when protesting with little kids. I couldn’t find one, so I decided to wing it, and then share my own ideas in the hopes of helping others searching. Here goes!

Walking, cycling and going by bus are great for those who are able, but for some people a car will be their only means of attending, so information about parking facilities can be helpful. Similarly, availability of toilets and information on where to find them can be very important.

Mobility can be a barrier for parents with young children, just as it can for the very old, or due to disability, injury or disease. If we want the biggest, broadest, most inclusive movement possible, we’d be wise to remember this. More sit-ins, rallies, picket lines (mindful of traffic hazards) and less marching would be helpful - after all, surely the number of people coming out in support is what matters most? That said, I do appreciate that marches may be helpful in attracting more attention, and I’m not suggesting we must rule them out completely. Where a decision to march has been made, good communication about timing and routes is vital - I have witnessed young families turn up later than the start of a protest but in time for the scheduled march, only to find the march had already left - will they come back? On other occasions, I’ve joined other families in attempting to keep up with marching teens, only to lose them half-way through due to the pace they set.

If there is marching, its helpful to have a ‘base camp’ somewhere for those unable to march, ideally in the vicinity of any speeches. Some people will have a greater need for shelter from the weather and may be more willing to attend if they know this can be provided for them. When you are carrying children, or face other challenges, sometimes its simply too difficult to carry all that you need, to say nothing of the mental load of preparation and contingency plans.

In setting up our ‘kids zone’ last week we supplied a sun shelter, mats, and cushions to make the space inviting and hopefully help make things more comfortable for the likes of parents with infants needing feeding. We kept well back so the noise wouldn’t overwhelm the little ones, and so our older children had space to move and wouldn’t disrupt the teen/adult audience. When the march began we stayed behind having storytime (‘The Lorax’ and ‘Munkle Arvur and The Bod’).

Hungry kids are not happy kids, so we also provided some basic economical non-allergenic healthy seasonal foods to share with those who found themselves in need: home popped popcorn, and slices of locally grown oranges and pears (sliced onsite so the pears wouldn’t brown). Ideally, we would’ve had something a little softer for the very youngest - perhaps cooked apple slices.

To keep the wee ones occupied we provided;

  • chalk for writing protests or making hopscotch squares

  • a 2L block of ice - both fun and symbolic as it melts - combines well with chalk!

  • beeswax crayons, paper, scissors, glue and national geographic magazines for if the kids liked to do collage posters

  • a bowl of heuristic play items for babies

  • flax for weaving, and calendular and forget-me-nots from our gardens for making crowns

  • tennis balls

  • card games (Nature Fluxx, nature-themed ‘Top Trumps’ games)

  • musical instruments (marracas, xylophone, wooden drum, ukelele) and a bluetooth speaker

  • an elephant costume (to be ‘the elephant in the room’) and a super hero cape (for saving the planet)

  • an assortment of picture books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the natural world.

Other ideas we’ve discussed for the little ones for future protests include:

  • a big skipping rope and elastics

  • clay/playdough

  • a netball

  • cornflour and food-colouring-based fingerpaint/gloop

  • bubble-mix

  • pinecone-based crafting

  • hula hoops

  • a guitar and tambourines

  • facepaint

  • seed-planting

  • making ‘seed bombs’ for guerilla gardening

  • origami

  • sheets or a rainbow parachute, along with rope and pegs for the kids to make their own shelter.

We’ve also talked about perhaps exchanging seeds and cuttings or clothes and toys while protesting in future.

Imperative with arts and crafts and messy play is advanced warning so parents can have spare clothes ready, or a means to clean up - we organised last minute so brought water and cloths for getting clean - no wet wipes required. This was also helpful for sticky fingers after eating orange slices.

The babies of this world are the ones who’ll face the most of the dire future scientists warn of. As their parents, we are desperate to act to help protect them from these grim forecasts, but we must also meet their immediate needs.

I hope we can all be mindful of the barriers to participation that people may face and those who are more able can support those who, for whatever reason, are less able. With any luck, these ideas may be helpful to those seeking to create more inclusive protests.

I’m pretty new to protesting so I’m no expert - if you’ve got more ideas, I’d love to hear them. Most importantly, if you’re not sure how you can support young families (or the elderly, or those with disabilities) to join in, ask them!

Tracy Hardman

Millions of Mothers Hawke's Bay

Note from Alicia Hall of Millions of Mothers

Making more timely contact and better supporting school strike organisers is something we take full responsibility for not doing as well as we could have. We could have organised our own Millions of Mothers family spaces in a much easier, inclusive way and we pledge do better in future. A big learning curve for us all!

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