Sometimes we take Election Day for granted. We forget that through much of the history of the world the rights and freedoms we have were not afforded to most. We forget that the opportunity to make our voice heard through our vote is a precious gift, one that has been given to us through the prayers of many patriots and the blood of many soldiers.
Help your kids understand this important day and the significance of democracy with some of these 10 election day activities. The hope is that when they are old enough to vote, they will value it and understand their role in being the voice behind our country. Too many of us ignore the off-year elections when it isn’t a year for electing the president, but our local and state leaders play a gigantic role in making decisions for us, so get out there and VOTE! Be heard! And make sure that you are training the next generation to do the same.
Take Them With You
Take your kids along when you go to vote. Let them see the ballot booths and watch as you exercise your voice in our government. Then let them have a little “I Voted” sticker.
Vote on Dinner
Introduce them to the voting process by letting them have a say in your own in-house election. Nominate two dinner options, write the choices on a ballot, then let them vote one by one. Tally the votes and cook the winning dinner. *You could also modify this and hold a vote about a family activity like either going to the movies or swimming at the community pool for the evening.
Learn About How The Government is Organized
Climb the branches of government. A great way to explore the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government is visually with the help of graphs that highlight roles and responsibilities. Work with students to research the branches and then make your own graph to showcase new knowledge. You can use our Three Branches of Government Worksheet for this project.
Don’t Argue, Debate!
What decision is your family pondering? To get/not get a hamster? To paint a teen bedroom neon green or white? Where to go on vacation? Why not open the decision up to a debate? A lighthearted “formal” debate offers students the opportunity to analyze their opinions, organize thoughts, and speak in front of a group.
Walk the Footsteps of Our Nation’s Leaders
Local historical sites, government buildings, and, if nearby, homes of past presidents or local leaders make for a memorable day trip. Be sure to brush up on a few facts about the location before you go and take guided tours where offered. In my experience, this can make for a fascinating field trip for you as well.
Learn About Local Officials
Learn the names of local officials, what they do, and what they stand for. Learn about who is running against them as well. We make a point to talk about who is running in our elections as we see campaign signs while driving in the car. We discuss what we know of their stands and certain issues and whether or not we agree with their views. Demonstrate how important it is to be an informed voter when you show up at the polls. I like to take my kids to city council meetings now and again just so they can know who leads our city and how decisions are made.
Make Campaign Posters
What issues are near and dear to your children’s hearts? The environment, healthcare, energy? Or maybe things closer to home like bedtime, chores or eating vegetables. Ask questions like, “Why is this issue important to you?” and encourage kids to make campaign posters for their causes. Explain the importance of facts and figures and how relevant statistics help convey a compelling, smart argument. They could also create a campaign poster for themselves as a candidate.
Write Presidential Paragraphs
Begin like this: “If I were president, I would…” and encourage them to fill in the rest with a paragraph or more (depending on the child’s age) about what they would strive for as commander-in-chief. Visit the White House website to learn how to mail letters to the president if you want to share the writing with the actual president.
Visit your local library today and find some books about government, the election process, or presidents. Even very young kids would enjoy a story like Duck for President.
Hold a Mock Election
Help your kids create a ballot box out of a shoebox, some construction paper and a few simple art supplies. Have your kids prepare speeches before it’s time to vote. Then invite friends and other family members over to hear the speeches and cast their ballots.
Hope you’ll try out at least some of these ten election day activities for kids.