Child soldier

This lesson plan explores how some armies and militias forcibly recruit young people into armed conflict. 

A child soldier
Lesson plan

How do children end up as soldiers?

Learn how child soldiers are recruited and explore their feelings through a powerful story and discussions.


Learning objectives

Learners will:

  • consider the thoughts and feelings of a child soldier
  • explore a range of perspectives and how these might be influenced by circumstances
  • understand how and why young people are recruited into armed conflict.


Resource overview

Activity 1

Explore some of the dilemmas families living in an armed conflict zone might face.

Activity 2

Use a true story to help students consider what they might do in the face of a dilemma around armed conflict.

Activity 3

Discuss the potential decisions and impact of the dilemma using creative writing or role-play.

Writing extension

  • Option 1 – Write a diary entry from the boy’s point of view, which describes how he might have felt when he discovered his brother had died fighting.
  • Option 2 – Write a conversation dialogue or a letter designed to comfort the surviving brother from the friend’s perspective.


This lesson plan was written by Jenifer Smith, based on an original idea by P J White. It was produced in September 2007. The testimony from a former child soldier in Ethiopia is quoted in Rachel Brett and Margaret McCallin, Children: The Invisible Soldiers, Rädda Barnen (Swedish Save the Children), Stockholm, 1996, pp 87–8.

The British Red Cross would like to thank A Bailey, D Berry, R Bristow, K Brown, C Carson, J Cassy, M Faulkner, J Gregory, P Hannam, G James, E Mason, J Perkins, J Robinson, M Turner and P Williams for their help reviewing and trialling the resource.

The photo shows a child soldier (© ICRC/John Spaull).