“The way kids learn to make good decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.” -Alfie Kohn
Election season is in full swing, so what better time to introduce your child to the democratic process? Voting is one of the most important ways we, as Americans, can make our voices heard. Use this election to teach your child about the importance of voting, civic responsibility, and democracy through discussion, action, and reflection.
Hold votes in your home
Whenever you're able, hold a vote before you make a decision. Should we go to the park or the playground? What movie should we watch? This works best if you only have a few options so narrow them down together before voting. Some children may even be able to make a speech to advocate for their choice.
Tally votes on a dry erase board for a small group, or vote with objects in jars if you have a larger group. In both instances, kids can visualize which choice has the most votes. It's also important to count together and compare the numbers. This is a good time to introduce the word majority, too!
Involve kids in the voter experience
If you're going to the polls on election day, bring your kids along with you (don't forget your masks!). If you've chosen a mail-in or absentee ballot, show it to your child. Walk to the mailbox or take a trip to your local ballot drop box together. Involving children highlights the importance of voting and gets them excited about the process.
Share your beliefs
Talk with your child! Tell them who you're voting for and why. Share the things that are important to you and your family.
Teach them to respect the opinions of others
The most important thing we can teach our children is how to respectfully disagree with others. Point out instances when they disagreed with you, a sibling, or friend. How did they get over that disagreement? A great way to acknowledge and respect differences of opinion is to say, "It's okay to have different thoughts about..."
Of course, sometimes different opinions can hurt, be exclusionary, or damaging. When applicable, work with your child to practice how you might challenge beliefs, while maintaining respect (like speaking in a calm tone, asking questions, etc.).
Point out signs of the election in your neighborhood
Political signs are everywhere, and not just for the presidential race. Some are for state or local government spots or levies. As you walk or drive through your neighborhood, point out the signs you see. Share with your child what each sign is for and how it shows your neighbor's support. Work together to make your own signs for something your child is passionate about. Paw Patrol 2020 anyone?
Follow your child's natural curiosity. They have already heard and will hear much during this election season. Answer their questions as they come, share your experiences, and talk about their ideas for the future.
The more children are exposed to the democratic process, voting, and the like, the more they will understand the process and grasp the importance. Check out HuffPost's recommendations for children of all ages.