United Nations Lessons for Kids: Definition, History & Facts

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Don't you ever just wish we could all get along? Come and learn about the organization that works to make this happen. In this lesson you will learn what the United Nations is, its history, its successes, and its failures.

What Is the United Nations?

Have you ever been in a club? It might be a 4-H club or even a super-secret club with your friends. What does it mean to be in a club? Well, typically you have a purpose or a reason why you are in the club. You are working with other people to achieve a goal or do something you enjoy.

The United Nations (UN) is kind of like a club, except instead of the organization being made up of people, it is made up of countries. Specifically, it is made up of 193 member states, which are nations from around the world. Every club needs a headquarters, and the United Nations is headquartered in New York City.

The flag of the United Nations


Before the United Nations existed, there was a similar organization in place called the League of Nations. Formed in 1920 after the end of World War I, its goal was to keep the peace in the world. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons, the League of Nations was never a great success and it was unable to stop World War II from occurring.

Still wanting an international peacekeeping organization, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1942, led the 'Declaration of the United Nations' which was signed by 26 countries. At the end of WWII, the United Nations officially became an international organization on October 24, 1945, and was made up of 51 countries.

The light blue countries were in the United Nations in 1945

What Does the United Nations Do?

So, what is the goal of these 193 member states of the United Nations? Their ultimate goal is to maintain peace and security worldwide. Specifically, the United Nations has five major goals:

Maintain International Peace and Security

  • The UN attempts to prevent wars and conflicts between countries by trying to help them get along - they help resolve disputes
  • The UN sends peacekeeping missions to countries to help restore law, protect citizens and prevent further conflicts

Protect Human Rights

  • The UN encourages and tries to protect democracy
  • Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN attempts to protect people from mistreatment by their own country

Deliver Humanitarian Aid

  • Provides aid to countries who have been affected by natural disasters, losing their homes and livelihood
  • Through the World Health Organization (WHO), provides medical assistance with health emergencies, like diseases

Promote Sustainable Development

  • Helping to end poverty, conserve and protect our natural resources, and provide clean drinking water are just a few of the many goals
  • The UN is also helping countries adapt to and prepare for the many effects caused by climate change

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