Election Day is just ahead! We tend to think of this as an adult responsibility. But as parents, we know we’re raising little adults-to-be. So let’s use this election time to teach our kids about this adult responsibility. There are some fun, simple things we can do to help our kids have a solid understanding of elections as they get older. So this is a great time to teach our kids about voting and good citizenship!
Campaign signs are everywhere
The signage is the main thing my kids notice about election seasons. Because of the campaign signs on every corner, they know the names of every candidate running for mayor in my city this year. They keep telling me who they think I should vote for based on the pictures on the signs. “Vote for the lady in the cowboy hat, Mom! She looks fun!”
These signs have provided me with an opportunity that I didn’t have to come up with myself. I’m actually like many Americans who vote only in presidential elections. But this year, my kids have gone on and on about these mayoral and city council signs everywhere. And of course, they want to know who I’m voting for. So instead of being caught off guard, as I often am on average election days, I have had to do the research and make some decisions so that I can answer my kids’ questions!
Because of my kids’ insistence, I’m going to be a responsible adult this year and vote in a non-presidential election. And they are learning a bunch in the process. My daughter sat next to me while I read the policies of each mayoral candidate, and she wanted to know what each point meant and why I agreed or disagreed with it.
Use signs and ads to teach your kids about the issues
So point out campaign signs, billboards, and bumper stickers. Use them as an easy opportunity to explain the positions and responsibilities of the positions being filled. Maybe your conversations will balloon into bigger learning opportunities for both you and your children.
While we’re thinking about campaign advertising, we can also help our kids to understand and interpret political ads and commercials. These can sometimes turn negative or bring up concerning issues. But we can help our kids to understand the things they hear from commercials and the media. Most of these serious sounding accusations or issues are indeed inflated or exaggerated. So when our kids get worried about what they hear, let’s help them to understand what is really happening. These are actually some of the first steps to media literacy, another great thing to teach our kids.
Talk to your kids about your choices
When it comes time to vote, tell your kids who you are voting for and why you have made those choices. Show them your ballot if you have one to mail in. Help them to understand that it’s about the issues that you believe in, and that we can each make our own choices. You can even turn it around and ask them who they would have voted for and why.
If you’re heading to the polls, consider taking your kids with you. Yes, this can be a real challenge. But it is an experience that they will remember. In one of the presidential elections, I wore my infant in a sling, and I held my almost 3-year-old’s hand while we waited in line to vote at what turned out to be the busiest polling location in the county. We waited in line for 3 hours. Our location was in the news that night because of the line. Yes, it was almost torture, and hopefully you won’t have to wait for 3 hours. But that 3-year-old remembers that day. He knows why we waited and didn’t go home. He knows that he would wait 3 hours again because it’s important.
Teach your kids about voting at home
You can teach your kids about voting with simple voting activities at your house. Let them vote on snacks or meals. Will apples or oranges win today? Burgers or pizza for dinner? Hold a family vote on what game to play together tonight. Or choose any other activity to be decided by vote.
As you decide what activities you’ll vote on, check our Signing Time Dictionary and see if you can learn some signs to go along with your topic or your choices. We have a section with all kinds of actions, a section about mealtime that has several types of foods, and a section about places. Explore these and the other sections, and see if you can learn a few signs with your kids to help in your home voting activities.
A great place to start is the sign for choose!
Teach your kids about losing a vote
As you hold some voting activities at home, teach your kids how to lose a vote graciously, without treating other people badly. If we can help our kids learn that we don’t hate people for choosing burgers when we wanted pizza, we will equip them for the deeper lessons that we don’t hate people for supporting a different candidate than the one we wanted. And as adults, let’s aim to be kind to the people we don’t agree with. Let’s show our kids how to lose graciously.
At My Signing Time, we provide programming that is both educational and character building. Love, care, and kindness are qualities promoted throughout our shows. So if you’re looking for shows that are educational, fun, and character building for your young children, check out My Signing Time. You can even just try it with a 14-day free trial right here!