6 Ways to Talk About the 2012 Presidential Elections with Your Kids
Our democracy relies on participation. You can raise the citizens of the future by emphasizing the importance of voting from the start. Young kids do not need to know every detail of the current election but you can get them involved in some of the excitement.
1. Vote for Chocolate!: Introduce the idea of voting by having the kids vote on something near and dear to their hearts--what to make for dinner, which dessert to buy, or where to go on the weekend. With older kids, you can introduce some of the complexities of elections. Should ballots be secret? Why or why not? Is it fair that those who voted for cookies have to go out for ice cream instead? If there are more than two options, should the one with the most votes win or should their be a run-off if no choice receives more than 50% of the votes?
2. Get Social: Kids are digital natives and most politicians realize they have to meet their constituents online. If your kids have a question, why not e-mail or tweet it to the candidates?
3. Think Globally, Act Locally: While local elections often do not receive the same level of coverage, they can have big impacts on our lives. Seeing how politics matters on the local level can engage young children. Find out who is running for local office and how the elections will affect your family. See if your child can interview the candidates for the school newspaper.
4. Be News Junkies: Share the news about the election with your kids. Look at maps, charts, and graphs. This is great practice for the new Common Core Standards, which will ask students to process real-world information in a number of formats. There are a number of kid-safe news sources available, like those at Scholastic or TIME. Older kids can critically analyze media coverage for bias.
5. Read All About It: Picture Books can break down even the most complex topics to understandable ideas for young children. After reading books, my 6 year old spontaneously started making campaign posters and buttons. Here are a few picture books about elections:
* Grace for President, by Kelly DiPucchio
* If I Were President, by Catherine Stier
* My Teacher for President, by Kay Winters
* Vote!, by Eileen Christelow.
* If I Ran for President, by Catherine Stier
* Max for President, by Jarrett J. Krosoczkae
* Woodrow for President: A Tail of Voting, Campaigns, and Elections, by Peter W. Barnes
* The Kid Who Ran for President, by Dan Gutman
* America Votes: How Our President is Elected, by Linda Granfiedl
* Today on Election day, by Catherine Stier
6. Bring Your Babes to the Booth: Our kids are watching us, even when we think they are not. And all of the activities and speeches about the importance of democracy won't make a difference if they do not see us voting. So, bring your children with you when you go to your polling place. Your own actions will be the strongest civics lesson.