It is never to early to talk to kids about the importance of voting and how it affects the laws and decisions we have to live by. The full election process is too much for young children to fully comprehend, however, and many issues are not something kids have any understanding about. You can still teach your child the basics of why we vote and how it works through age-appropriate activities that spark their interest in the election process.
Read About Voting
Reading books on the election process with your child can help him understand the U.S. voting system in a kid-friendly manner. "Election Day," by Patricia J. Murphy, introduces kids ages 4 and older to what voting is and the election process. For Kids 6 and older, "If I Ran for President," by Catherine Stier, teaches children about politicians and the process of running for office, including campaigning, choosing a running mate and being sworn-in as president of the United States. For older kids, 8 and older, "National Elections and the Political Process," by Bryon Giddens-White, discusses the history of voting in America, including women and minorities fighting for the right to vote, the Electoral College and the overall voting process.
Make Your Own Campaign Poster
Show your child examples of campaign posters with politicians promoting their record or highlighting their promises. Encourage your child to imagine if he were running for office, perhaps for president of the house, for example, and what changes he would make. Paste a picture of your child on white construction paper and have him come up with a campaign slogan and help him write what changes he would make if he won, such as "no bedtime," or "more TV time."
Have a Mock Election
To demonstrate the voting process, invite a bunch of your child's friends over and have a mock election about a favorite type of food, movie, book or something similar. For example, pick out three movies that you know all of the children enjoy. Choose one child each to campaign for their favorite of the three. Each child will get to stand before the group and say why this movie is the best and why they should vote for it for the best movie. Have the kids paint and decorate a small cardboard box that you can use as the ballot box, then let them vote by checking off their choice on a ballot you will give them. Emphasize the importance of the secret ballot -- no showing it to their friends. Whichever movie wins, have the representative make an acceptance speech.
Take Your Child to the Polls
To help your child understand the importance and civic duty of voting, take your child to your polling station during an actual election. When you are in the booth, point out the choices of the people or issues that you have to vote about. When you are done, give him your "I voted" sticker and talk on the way home about some of the choices you made in your voting decision. You should also emphasize that the importance of learning about the issues and making a decision for yourself, and not basing it on what other people think.
- Election Day; Patricia J. Murphy
- If I Ran for President; Catherine Stier
- National Elections and the Political Process; Bryon Giddens-White
- David Becker/Getty Images News/Getty Images