Teaching About Child Labor


Child labor is defined as the “use of children in industry or business, especially when illegal or considered inhumane” (Oxford Dictionary). This term refers to work that interferes with a child’s ability to learn, endangering them emotionally and/or physically. Though there are laws on child labor in the United States and several other countries, child labor still exists and is especially prevalent in developing nations. In learning about child labor, students will also learn how they can spread awareness and fight against it.


There are many resources available online for teaching students about the history of child labor and its presence in many industries, especially in agriculture. Unfortunately, it is still a widespread issue across the globe but by raising awareness about child labor and its dangers, change is more likely to be made.

Lesson Plans

  1. Academy 4SC: Find videos related to the issue of child labor at Academy 4SC, like Convention on the Rights of the Child: Children’s Rights are Human Rights, among others. Teachers have access to resources like worksheets, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more included in each topic’s lesson plan. Explore Academy 4SC’s full library of applicable content under the tag Child Labor.
  2. Leaders 4SC Forces: Leaders 4SC provides a variety of Task Forces that provoke students to think critically about key issue as they roleplay as decision-makers and brainstorm well-detailed solutions. Each Task Force comes with step-by-step instructions, Google slide templates to be used with virtual breakout rooms, and topic-specific questions to get students started. The activities can be completed either individually or as part of a group. A fun Task Force is Combating Child Labor.
  3. Child Labor in America: The Library of Congress provides a lesson overview, preparation, procedure, and evaluation on child labor in the United States. The lesson itself contains an introduction and background on child labor, a primary source analysis of documents and photographs, a guided practice, and a student project. Students will gain a deeper understanding of child labor after the Industrial Revolution, during the Progressive Era, and in modern-day societies around the world.
  4. Giving Voice to Child Laborers Through Monologues: ReadWriteThink offers a lesson on giving a voice to child laborers, which includes a preview, standards, resources and preparation, an instructional plan, and related resources. Through multiple sessions, students will be asked to write a monologue from the viewpoint of factory reformers, supporters of child labor, and factory workers during the Industrial Revolution. By the time students have finished the last session, they will have learned about child labor in the past and present!
  5. What Is Child Labor?: TeacherVision has put together a lesson plan which teaches students about child labor and encourages them to take action. With this lesson, classes will first discuss the International Labor Organization’s definition of child labor, learn about the types of jobs children have historically performed, and finally, complete a project related to combatting child labor and spreading the word about its injustices.


  1. Q&A: America’s “Invisible” Child Labor Problem: The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) offers a Q&A with Michael Hancock on America’s “invisible” child labor problem. As an attorney who spent 20 years at the Department of Labor, Hancock explains what the landscape of child labor looks like in the United States, including the kinds of jobs children can work and at what age, how prevalent illegal child labor is, the impact is on the children themselves, the whether we know how many child workers are undocumented, and more important topics.

Informational Sites

  1. Child Labor (Grades 6-8, 9-12): Scholastic provides a brief article on child labor geared towards students in grades 6-8 and 9-12. Included in this article is an explanation of child labor, a quick history of child labor in the United States and other countries, and the implementation of laws against child labor.
  2.  Human Rights Watch – Child Labor: The Human Rights Watch has put together a collection of videos and news reports on child labor. From these resources, students will learn about child labor and human rights issues around the globe.
  3. ILO – What is Child Labour?: The International Labour Organization provides a definition of child labor and examples of its worst forms, including those considered hazardous child labor. The information here will help students grasp the gravity of this issue, which is often overlooked by the masses.
  4. Child Labor – Laws, Definition & Industrial Revolution: HISTORY offers valuable information on child labor, including child labor in the United States, the Industrial Revolution, immigration and child labor, child labor reform, the Great Depression, automatization and education, and child labor today. Additionally, it includes a collection of photos (Lewis Hine’s Photographs Expose Child Labor in America), which will help students understand how apalling and horrifying child labor truly is.


Teaching students about child labor is important, even though its sensitive nature may not make it an easy subject matter to teach. We still have a long way to go regarding child labor reform and enforcing thos child labor laws already in place. However, learning about an issue is the first step in taking a stand against it! The resources above will help educators teach their students about the most salient aspects of child labor.

Additional Resources

  1. Child Labor: The National Education Association (NEA) has put together a brief overview of child labor and a list of related resources, including articles, documentaries, blog posts, posters, and activities which focusing on providing information and increasing awareness of the topic.
  2. Child Labour: The Encyclopaedia Britannica provides key information on child labor both in the United States and around the world, specifically in developing countries. This page will give students background information on child labor before they begin participating in activities or lessons in the classroom.
  3. Child Labor and Reform Movements: Khan Academy provides an article on child labor and reform movements, touching upon how work changed after the Industrial Revolution, the need for reform by the beginning of the twentieth century, the moral objection to child labor, economic reasons to end child labor, and more. In addition, they include a guide for students using the process of “Three Close Reads.”