Better World

6 Easy Ways to Teach Your Kids About Voting

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Kids may not be able to vote yet, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn all they can about the electoral process. Exercising the right to vote is an important way to participate in our democracy and have a voice in our future, and when kids see parents take that responsibility seriously on a regular basis, they may be more likely to vote in the future. Plus, they can learn so much about how our country works just from the discussions around election season.

Here are some easy ideas for getting kids excited about elections, even if they can’t vote themselves yet.

Show them the signs

Point out some of the election signs, bumper stickers, brochures, phone calls, and ads that you encounter during election season. Talk about what the messages mean, and consider putting up a poster or sticker for a candidate that you support.

Talk the talk

Don’t shy away from talking about the candidates you prefer and how you plan to vote. Having to explain your reasoning in simple terms to a child, and answer all their unexpected questions, may even challenge you to learn more about the candidates and issues at hand.

Make it real

Show kids how voting works on a smaller scale. Have a family vote about which movie to watch, or what outdoor activity to do on the weekend. Make a ballot box and an anonymous paper voting system, then have the kids help tally votes. Older kids can even promote their favorite choice by making a speech or sign before the family votes.

Spread the word

Remind others in the community to vote by chalking on your driveway, making a sign for your window, or getting involved in a volunteer postcarding campaign to voters. Older kids can come up with their own messages, while younger kids can help with coloring and decorating, or with stamping and mailing postcards.

Walk the walk

When it’s time for the adults to vote, have kids witness the process in some way. If you’re voting by mail-in ballot, show them how you fill it out, then enlist their help in mailing or dropping it off. If you’re voting in person, show them the outside of an early voting site or Election Day polling place and read the signs together—or even bring them in with you if you can do so safely.

Count on it

After the election, do a simple math activity with kids to show them how the votes were counted. For example, count out 100 Cheerios and divide them into two jars to show them the percentage of votes that went to each candidate. Or print out a map of the U.S. so they can color in each state according to poll results—older kids can add up the electoral votes to understand the outcome.

By seeing your enthusiasm for your civic duty, and getting involved in small ways themselves, kids will absorb more than they would just by reading a book or watching a video about voting. Keep it up for every election, and they’ll probably become a lifelong voter too!

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Joanna Eng is a freelance writer and editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and co-founder of Dandelions, a parenting and social justice newsletter. She lives with her wife and child in the New York City area, where she is constantly seeking out slivers of nature. You can find her on Twitter @joannamengland.