As far as election years go, 2020 is a big one! We are just weeks away from our Presidential Election.
We are not making any endorsements; we just want to encourage you to vote and to educate your kids about voting.
And, 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which provided women with the constitutional right to vote.
Now is the time to get our kids involved in voting and the election process. Our children are future voters. They need to know why voting matters, why it’s important that every citizen register to vote, and why each registered voter needs to participate in each and every election.
But, how exactly does a parent do that? Without it sounding like a history lesson? Here are a few ideas:
Remember, your children are never too young to learn the importance of voting
- We have pictures of our young son (he wasn’t yet a year old) in a white shirt with his belly showing, sitting on the couch, clapping along to President Obama’s televised inauguration. My husband was home watching it with our son. I was at work. There was no way our son could understand what he was watching or why it was historic. But it was still a special shared moment between my husband and our son. And it was the beginning of our son learning about the importance of our voting rights and responsibilities.
Take your children with you to the polls
- Let them come inside and see everything. Allow for extra time so that kids can ask questions and you’re not rushed. This year’s Presidential Election will no doubt look different because of the coronavirus. Families won’t be visiting the physical polling place but instead, mailing in your ballot. Take your child with you when you mail in the ballot or drop-it off.
Encourage a discussion
- The older your kids are, the more you can talk to them about your voting options. Allow them to weigh in on their opinions. And remind them that not everyone in the same family has to vote the same way.
- Your kids may be familiar with a form of student government. Begin the conversation there, with something already in their daily life. What does the Student Council President do? What are his/her responsibilities? Why does your school have a Student Council? Why is it important?
Attend an event
- Generally, when not in the midst of a pandemic, there would be a number of election-related events happening all around Los Angeles. Marches, town hall meetings, and informational discussions are all valuable learning opportunities. Now, many of these events are happening virtually. And in a way, that’s good news. It means you can go back and watch speeches from the Conventions, for instance, when it fits with your family’s schedule.
Watch a debate
- Older children especially can weigh in on the televised debates. Which candidate stands out? Why? Which candidate seems the most well-spoken? The most television-friendly? Which candidate inspires confidence? Which candidate is confusing?
Keep the mailers
- The flyers and brochures you receive in the mail shouldn’t automatically go into your recycling bin. Leave them out. Let your kids see them and look at them on their own. Use them as a jumping off point for a conversation about the propositions and candidates.
Review the sample ballot together
- Older children can read the sample ballot with you. Older children can discuss your choices. But even younger children can help you bubble in your choices. Talk to them about what you’re reading, who you’re choosing, and why.
Hold a family election
- Deciding on a movie? The destination for the family’s next road trip? Turn the decision-making process into a voting process complete with ballots, privacy areas in which to vote, and a ballot box. (This idea works best in larger families.)
- Make sure your honesty is age-appropriate but let your kids know why you feel so strongly about voting. In our house, it’s a matter of principle and honoring the past. Neither my husband (an African-American man) or myself (a white woman) were automatically given the right to vote. That right was hard-fought and we honor those who fought for us by voting in each and every election.
Read a book
- There are so many wonderful election-themed books available for children of all ages. But don’t just wait for election time to read them! Put them into the general rotation. That way, voting becomes a regular part of the conversation. Here are some title suggestions to get you started, but don’t forget to consult your child’s teacher and your public library children’s librarian for additional titles.
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
See How They Run by Susan E. Goodman
Duck for President by Doreen Cronin
Amelia Bedelia’s First Vote by Herman Parish
Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts by Sly Sobel, J.D.
If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier
Today on Election Day by Catherine Stier
My Teacher for President by Kay Winters
The Election Book: The People Pick a President by Carolyn Jackson
Vote! by Eileen Christelow
(All of these books can be found in our Amazon affiliate store.)
- While it may be more difficult to get some of our kids interested in sample ballots, most kids will willingly play a computer game. Check out iCivics, founded by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor with the “goal of transforming civic education for every student in America with innovative, truly engaging games and resources.” You’ll find interactive games and lots of valuable resources about our country’s history, the branches of government, the election process, and more.
Visit a Presidential Library
- Here in Southern California, families can visit two different sites – the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Regardless of your political affiliation, visits to these two libraries provide an opportunity for children to learn about the daily responsibilities of a President, life inside the White House, and much more.
- Because most museums remain closed at this time, families can take advantage of virtual tours and videos which will allow them to explore Presidential Museums throughout the country.
- On the website for the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, families can take a virtual museum tour. Families can view the Oval Office, Nixon’s birthplace, the gardens, and more. And then make plans to visit once the museum re-opens.
- While an in-person visit to the Reagan Library and Museum isn’t possible, virtual ones are! Find videos online highlighting the Museum’s collection including one video narrated by actor Gary Sinise. Your kids will be eagerly awaiting an in-person visit when they can walk onboard Air Force One. And, be sure to read our post Exploring the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum to help plan your visit.
- Thanks to the internet, no one is limited by geography. Check out the list of Presidential Libraries online with links available to each Library’s archives including videos, photos, and more.
Get the Word Out
- Make posters, lawn signs, and bumper-sticker-sized signs in the back window of the family car. Use markers, the computer, clip art, or stencils. Make them in color and black-or-white. Make them as fancy or as simple as you want. But creating posters and signs is a great way for even our youngest kids to feel like they’re playing an important part in the election process.
And don’t forget, one of the best ways we teach our kids is through exposure. Keep the conversation going and don’t limit these activities and suggestions to election time.
Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at her website WendyKennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).