Federal Government Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
The federal government in Washington, D.C., is made up of three branches. In this lesson, you will read how the people who created the United States decided it was a good idea that each branch keep an eye on each other.

Where Does the Federal Government Get Its Power?

The United States' federal government gets its power from the Constitution, written in 1787. That is more than two hundred years old! The Constitution is a piece of paper with words and ideas that tell how the government of the United States works. You can see the Constitution in Washington, D.C. It is a very important document and is guarded day and night!

What Does the Federal Government Control?

In the United States, your state, like New York, California or Texas, has great power. But anything to do with the country, like how the United States protects itself or trades with another country, is under the control of the federal government. If two states have an argument, like how much water to use from a lake that both states share, the federal government decides.

Capital Versus Capitol: There's a Difference

A capital is the main city of a country or a state. The federal government is based in Washington, DC, the capital of the United States.

A capitol is a building where people meet to make laws.The Capitol Building is the place where Congress, a group of people who are elected to government, make laws for the United States.

The Capitol Building
The Capitol Building

How Does the Federal Government Work?

When the United States was born, people were afraid of having a king and didn't want one part of the government to become too strong, so the Constitution created a system of checks and balances. This idea tries to make all parts of the government equal. Let's see how this works!

Think of the federal government as a tree with three branches, with each branch doing something different.

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch makes laws and controls money collected from taxes. This branch consists of Congress. One part of the U.S. Congress is the Senate, and there are two senators from each state in the country. The other part of Congress is the House of Representatives, and the number of representatives for each state varies. Some states with many people, like California, have many representatives. States with few people only have a few representatives. For instance, Montana only has one representative! Both senators and representatives can serve as many times as they are elected.

Executive Branch

The White House
White House

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account