Local Government for Kids

Jennifer L. Betts
Students in classroom holding American flag

How do you explain the local government to your students? Breaking down the interworking of the local government in an easy to digest way can be hard for kids. Delve into the local government and the different workers along with ways to teach this to kids.

What Is the Local Government?

In the U.S., there are all different types of government. You have the federal government that runs all the states and is headed by the president. After the federal government, you'll find the state government. Each state runs their own government slightly different but they all have a governor that runs the state. After the state government, you come to the local government. This is the government around where you live. This government includes the school that you attend, the sanitation workers that pick up your garbage and the local council members that meet to discuss resident concerns.

Breaking Down the Local Government

While the local government might be smaller than the federal or state government, it's still broken down into parts. There is the regional and municipal government. Check out how they differ.

Regional Government

The regional local government is the county government which oversees a large county. For example, you might live in Millington, MI, but your county would be Tuscola. A regional local government will oversee several small cities or towns.

Municipal Government

Below the regional government is the local government of your city, town or village. This government will watch out for your small area. For example, if you live in Millington, MI, your municipal government will only watch out for things that happen in Millington. But they will report to the regional government.

Other Local Governments

You might also find other local governments called special and school districts. Special districts are set up by the government. School districts provide education in an area and have a board and superintendent to run them.

Roles of the Local Government

Just like the federal government has leaders, so do local governments. And much like the state governor, they are also elected into their different positions.

Mayor

Mayors are like a president of a local municipal government. They are the city or town leader and resolve problems that might happen within their area. The mayor is responsible for running the daily operations as well as working with other leaders like city council members.

Council or Board Members

Also called a city council, these professionals are responsible for working with the mayor to oversee the government in their area. Not only will they create policies but watch over the daily activities. They also take the opinions of the members of the community into consideration through town or local meetings. The number of members of a council can vary, but each member plays a part in the workings of the local government.

What Local Government Oversees

Without local government, a town or region could not run smoothly. Not only do they create schedules for collecting trash, but they also clear snowy roads, collect taxes, monitor courts and public transportation. The local government also oversees the schools, fire department, police and emergency services in your area. If an ambulance has ever come to take care of you that was your local government. Parks, signs and road maintenance also fall onto the plate of the local government.

Teaching Kids About Local Government

Knowing and understanding the local government are two different things. Therefore, it can be helpful to have lessons that kids can complete to help them to truly understand the workings of the local government. These activities work for kids in preschool to seventh grade.

Kids Listening To A Story

Mayor for the Day

Research a few local issues that are happening in your area. For example, maybe budget cuts for the police department or funding a new park. Now, use this lesson to help kids to understand more about local government. This will work best for 3rd to 6th graders.

  1. Discuss with students the different roles in local government and the importance of the mayor.
  2. Introduce the different issues that are happening in your area.
  3. Tell the students that they are going to become mayor for a day.
  4. How would they handle the issue or issues? Brainstorm a plan of action.
  5. They also need to remember that they need to have a plan that the council members will agree with.
  6. Have each student write out their different plans of action.
  7. They should present their plan to the class who will become council members.
  8. The mayor and members should discuss why the plan will or won't work.
  9. They should include how to fund the plan.

Being a Council Member or Board of Supervisors

For this activity, kids will need access to research materials or information about their local city or municipal council. This lesson is great for kids from 2nd to 5th grade. This can be helpful to do around government elections as well.

  1. Have your students research the local council.
  2. They should then find one member that they really like.
  3. Group students to create several councils.
  4. Have kids create a play where they can dress up and become their council member.
  5. They might enact a local issue or create a mock council meeting.

Create Your Community

This lesson can work for kids of all different age levels. You will need poster boards and markers or crayons. You can also have kids work in groups or individually.

  • Using the poster, have the kids create a fun poster for their local government.
  • For little kids, they might draw the mayor, council, firemen, etc.
  • Older kids might break down the different roles and workers discussing what each person does. For example, they might name the mayor and his job duties. They could then break down the council members and their roles, etc.

Design a Local Government

Great for kids that are in grades 5th to 7th grades, kids will design a local government for a new community in this lesson. They should elect a mayor and council members. They should also discuss the different workers they will need in their community: firemen, sanitation workers, park workers, etc. They need to think about:

  • How the community will be funded?
  • Where will the school go?
  • What they need to discuss with their regional government?
  • How the election process will work?
  • When the town meetings should be?

Have them work as a class to create a plan of action for their imaginary local government.

Understanding Your Local Government

The local government has a lot of different parts. These parts vary based on the state the government is in. Typically, you can find local governments as counties and cities or towns. Want to explore more? Explain the U.S. Constitution to your class and follow with Constitution activities.

Local Government for Kids