With the upcoming primary election on Tuesday, September 11th and the general election on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, that will determine who leads our country for the next four years, we are surrounded with news, sound bites, posters, fliers, and roaming politicians vying for our attention. Through the eyes and mind of a child, this all must seem absurd. One of my sons recently asked, “It seems like everyone spends so much time trying to get elected or re-elected, who is actually doing their job and why can’t we use the money spent on campaign promotions for something more important? (Like pencil sharpeners or school field trips.)” Well said.
Teaching children the meaning and importance of voting — on the playground, in the classroom, at home, and for the national government — are important life skills for kids to learn at any age.
I have always believed it is my civic duty to be informed and exercise my right to vote both locally and nationally. As a parent I want to share this value with my children teaching them the importance of acquiring factual information, expressing their opinions in a mindful way, standing up for what they believe in, and taking part in the voting process.
Although I have written about voting in the past, I want to share some additional resources in addition to to the past Kidoinfo posts.
Tips on helping future voters get involved with the election:
Before Election Day
- Get informed. Listen to the radio, watch the debates, read the newspaper, analyze campaign ads on YouTube – decode, discuss, and analyze their meaning.
- Read books. Read about voting, presidents, and how our government works.
- Join the campaign. Attend local events with the candidates, help put up signs together in your neighborhood, pass out fliers.
- Make your own paraphernalia. Kids can make their own buttons or stickers showing their support for their favorite real or fictional candidate. Make your own party T-shirt using Avery iron transfer paper.
- Make time for dinner discussions. Talk about what’s happening at school, ask kids about the rules they like / do not like or ask them if they ran for school president what issues would be important to them. Share stories about past elections, discuss news about current election. Ask kids their opinions.
On Election Day
- Take children to vote. It is exciting to see the polling place, the ballot and the machine or process of recording the vote.
- Explain the process. After voting, discuss why elections make a nation strong and how voting gives all citizens a chance to contribute.
- Track the results. Throw a party and/or watch the returns. Make up games. Print out a map of the United States and track who wins in each state with colored stickers or post-it notes. Be prepared to celebrate with or comfort your child once the winners and losers are announced. We all know how disappointment feels when our candidate does not win. We need to be prepared for our children’s reaction to the results and teach them despite the outcome, we need to stay part of the process.
Books and Resources:
- PBS Parents: Answers to basic question about voting, fun facts about past elections, and more.
- The Election Activity Book: Dozens of Activities That Help Kids Learn About Voting, Campaigns, Our Government, Presidents, and More by Sarah De Capua. For Grades 1 – 3
- 270 to Win website (Also available as an app for the iPad for $.99): Get state by state election history results, see the electoral vote, create your own 2012 election map and map the path to 270 to win. A fun interactive way to engage kids in the voting process, and help them make their own predictions.
Previous articles about voting with kids
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