• angela lyonsmith

protest sign making

It is essential as protests extend across our country to thoughtfully discuss with our children our country's long history of racism, police brutality, and the role of protest and public demonstration for change. Please access our pages on:

to support these conversations. Antiracist work relies upon educating yourself and an ongoing commit to question and be increasingly honest about our own relationships to power and oppression. In the United States, we live in a society whose history and present is embedded in systemic racism. Choosing to be antiracist will require action and challenge.


You and the children in your care may both be wondering what to do with the feelings and thoughts that arise from these conversations. Sign making together can be a meaningful way to not only express these ideas but also elevate the voices and perspectives of our children. We can model intentional listening, amplify their message and, whether you decide to march or publicly post your signs, have an impact on your broader community.



These signs were created in March 2018 in response to the youth led anti-gun violence movement that surged after the atrocity at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Protests emerged across the country that applied an intersectional analysis of gun violence in our country and attempted to influence reforms to our gun laws. There is still much to do, but importantly we witnessed as a society how young people are able to mobilize and inspire others for change. Our daughters (age 3-8 years old at the time) made the above signs with our help. Similar to this moment, we talked to them in a developmentally appropriate way about what was happening and decided it was important to be a part of the demonstrations as a family. We asked each of them what they would like to say, in their own words, and supported by spelling or writing the words they spoke on heavy paper. Our daughters traced or added emphasis to the letters and incorporated other details to make their signs their own. We attached paint sticks to the signs to make them easy to carry for several demonstrations.


Words are powerful. They allow us to question what is, to highlight what is missing, to bring attention to a cause, to inspire a new way of being, or to quite literally change the world. Figuring out what message you want to send is the most important first step. Consider what phrases already exist in the movement you are participating in or create your own words to communicate what is most important to you. Remember that short, bold sentences, single words or simple images may be the most impactful and easy to understand at a distance.


If you are ready to make a sign to express what you care about you will need the following materials:

  • pencils

  • markers or poster paint

  • heavy weight paper or cardboard

  • a paint stick, dowel rod or paper tube

  • heavy tape or school glue

  • masking tape

Essentially, letters are made out of lines and shapes. Think about the many ways letters are made in the world around us. They can be bold, thick, tall, thin, bubbly, swirly, sharp, big, small, upper case, lower case or constructed out of other shapes. When you approach lettering like drawing, there are limitless ways to write. Consider how the script you choose can amplify your message too. For more inspiration check out this lesson from the Tate in the UK on poster making and letter art.


Once you decide on a phrase and style of lettering, plan out your words by drawing them on your paper with pencil. If you want, you can figure out how to space your words evenly or determine if you have enough space for each line by counting the spaces between and letters in each word. If you are doing a single word sign, you can begin by determining the middle letter in that word and place it in the center of your poster. For example, if writing the word "peace," start by counting out "p-e-a-c-e" to determine it has five letters. The middle letter is "a." Then begin the sign by writing the "a" in the middle and the other letters evenly spaced on each side.


For younger children, adults can support by becoming the scribe for their message. You can use pencil to lightly sketch letters that your children can trace and emphasize with markers or paints. The following images from @rainatherapist provide an excellent example of another way to collaborate with your little one on sign making. First, the parent-caregiver builds the letters with removable masking tape. Be sure to press the tape down flat so that it adheres well to the poster. Next, use markers and crayons on light paper or paint and oil pastels on darker paper to add color all over the sign. Importantly, you will want to color a bit on top of the tape in order to see the letters clearly. Remove the masking tape to reveal your message.



Once your sign is complete, consider where you will share it. If you are attending a demonstration or march, it is helpful to attach a stick or cardboard tube to make it easier to carry. You can use heavy tape or school glue to attach your sign to your stick. You may consider making your sign double sided by attaching two signs back to back with your stick in the middle. This way your poster can be read from both sides and you double your space to amplify your message. If you are not attending public demonstrations, you can still make protest signs and hang them in places where they can be seen by others. It is powerful to encounter messages of solidarity and challenge as we go about our day. This may be a very important way for you to communicate with your community. Consider also sharing your sign on social media with parent support and guidance.


As acts of protest are evolving constantly be sure to check what is happening locally in your community and what organizations are hosting actions of solidarity and resistance. It is important to thoughtfully consider what precautions are being taken regarding responsible social distancing during the pandemic, how safety is being maintained, the aims of the organizers, the political climate in your hometown and the local policing response. If you decide to join in a public action, please wear masks, do your best to maintain social distance and be safe. Safety is a complicated concept in these times as our current demonstrations are highlighting the lack of safety for BBIPOC (Black, Brown Indigenous and People of Color) in our society. There is risk in making a public stand and each family has to weigh that risk and determine how they can best respond. Making and sharing your own signs of protest can be a powerful way to make your voice heard and push for long needed change.


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