The US Constitution Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

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  • 0:04 A New Set of Laws
  • 0:33 What Is the Constitution?
  • 1:25 Three Branches
  • 2:26 The Constitution Today
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Crystal Ladwig
Rules try to make it clear what behaviors are expected and allowed. What rights do you think that all children in your home or school should have? That's what the framers of the United States Constitution got to decide.

A New Set of Laws

After fighting for and winning independence from England, the people of the United States needed a set of laws (or rules) to govern the country. At first, they created a set of rules called the Articles of Confederation. But, in 1787, these rules needed to be updated. Representatives from throughout the United States met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and eventually wrote the United States Constitution, which was (and is) the document that lays out the legal and political foundation of the United States.

What Is the Constitution?

Laws are rules that govern a group of people (such as a community, a state, or a nation) to make sure that people are treated fairly. In the United States, the Constitution is the highest set of laws. The Constitution doesn't include every law in the country, but in only four pages it does provide the foundation upon which all other laws are supposed to be made.

The Constitution explains how the national (or federal) government will be set up and run. It generally explains the powers of the federal government, state governments, and to some degree, individual people. It also includes the Bill of Rights, which includes specific rights that all citizens of the United States are entitled to have. These rights were added to the Constitution as amendments (or additions). Other amendments can still be added when at least 2/3 of the states agree to them. That doesn't happen very often.

Three Branches

One unique part of the United States Constitution is the creation of three branches of government with checks and balances. This sounds like just what it says: the three branches of the government keep each other in line so one doesn't get too powerful.

The three branches are the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. The executive branch includes the president and agencies/people who work for the president. This branch approves laws, implements laws, and represents the United States in meetings with other countries. The legislative branch includes the Congress (Senate and House of Representatives). This branch makes laws, funds the government, and approves justices (or judges). Finally, the judicial branch, which is the Supreme Court and other federal courts, decides if individual laws are constitutional, meaning if they follow the laws in the Constitution. This system of checks and balances limits the power of government by making sure that no one branch of the government can have too much power.

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