9 Ways To Get Kids Involved In The Election & Understand The Importance Of Voting
With the presidential election in full swing, there's a good chance your child has seen or heard something about it. But seeing something about being registered to vote in a commercial or overhearing opposing candidates' radio spots aren't likely to give kids a deep understanding of the voting process or the importance of it all. Thankfully, there are a number of educational ways to get kids involved in the 2020 election.
"From elementary school to high school, kids will typically only experience two or three U.S. presidential elections, and each one offers a vital opportunity for kids to learn about the democratic process, develop critical thinking skills, and understand how best to exercise their rights as active, engaged citizens," Jane Nussbaum, Junior Scholastic's executive editor tells Romper. "Family discussions about civics and politics can happen at any age and as your children grow, so can the conversations."
While introducing kids to complex topics like politics, elections, and voting can be hard, Nussbaum says it's important to tackle them. "This is critical because we know that kids are paying attention to what's going on around them now more than ever, and learning about civics is an important piece in helping them become advocates for the kind of world they want to live in," Nussbaum explains.
To get started, here are a few ways ways to get kids of all ages involved and engaged:
Scholastic's Election 2020 Portal
With a long tradition of keeping kids informed about current events, Scholastic's 2020 United States Presidential Election Website is a great resource for kids (and parents) looking to learn about the democratic process. Designed for students in grades 3 to 12, Scholastic's Election 2020 website seeks to engage kids with age-appropriate information about presidential candidates, central campaign issues, and how electoral votes work.
Kids can find candidate profiles, quizzes and other activities, along with answers to big questions such as why do candidates focus more of their attention on certain states and how might COVID-19 affect the voting process? Scholastic's Election 2020 website also features explanations of where each candidate stands on a number of important election issues, including climate change, COVID-19, education, health care, immigration, national security and racial justice.
To further engage kids, Scholastic is continuing its 80-year tradition of hosting the Scholastic Student Vote, a virtual mock election. Scholastic will announce the results of the vote in October.
Turn To Books
Every child loves a story. And when it comes to introducing kids to a topic as complicated and important as elections and the voting process, books make a great learning resource for all ages.
Whether you and your child dive into a picture book like Clifford For President or One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote that explain how elections and voting work or take on a non-fiction book like See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House or What Is A Presidential Election?, books can prove to be both fun and educational.
Learn about the fight for voting rights with Equality's Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America. Discover what voting on Election Day entails with The Night Before Election Day. Uncover why every vote matters with Grace For President and If I Ran For President. See how persuasion plays a role in elections and learn about things like run-offs and absentee ballots in Amelia Bedelia's First Vote.
Additional books about elections and voting can be found at Scholastic.
Free Reading Of 'Arthur Meets The President'
If your local library is closed due to COVID-19 and obtaining new books isn't possible, you can still introduce your child to elections and voting through books with this free reading of Arthur Meets the President available on YouTube.
Count & Tally Political Yard Signs
Turn car rides and walks around your neighborhood with your child into opportunities for discussion by counting the political yard signs you see when out. Talk about why some areas of your town may support one candidate over the other. Tally the signs for each candidate. If each sign represented a vote, who would win your neighborhood?
Get Your Game On
Children can learn first hand that running for president isn't an easy thing to do in iCivics Win the White House game. The online game allows participants to manage their own presidential campaign by raising funds, outlining their own stance on issues, polling voters, launching media campaigns to get their name out there, and appearing at rallies and other campaign events. Throughout their campaign, players must monitor both electoral votes and popular votes in order to win the White House.
Common Sense Media rates iCivics Win the White House game as best for children in grades 5 to 12. Win the White House is available in the Apple App Store, Google Play, or online at the iCivics website.
Hold A Mock Election At Home
Dive deeper into what it takes to win an election and how voting works as a family by holding a mock family election. Have your children run for president of the family. Ask them to consider what they would do to address important family issues like remote schooling, getting to school or other appointments on time, equal chore distribution, or whatever issues your family faces. Give each candidate the chance to address the rest of the family and persuade them as to why they should vote for them. Hold a friendly debate between candidates if you'd like and then tally the votes.
Additionally, if a full on family election seems too complicated for your children, give them a hands-on lesson about voting by holding a mock vote for favorite family color, favorite family food, or favorite family animal. Gather suggestions to create a primary ballot. Use the first round of voting to narrow the choices down to just two choices that will then go head to head in a general election. Hand out stickers to those who vote and tally up the results. Additional ideas and resources for holding a mock family election can be found at Action Utah.
Enter KQED's Youth Media Challenge
While kids may be too young to vote, they're not too young to have opinions on the issues that power elections. Middle and high school aged students can share their thoughts on important campaign issues like gun violence prevention, climate change, health care, or the COVID-19 pandemic in KQED's Youth Media Challenge: Let's Talk About Election 2020. To enter, students must create a short audio or video commentary in which they make an evidence-based argument rooted in a personal experience to explain why others should consider their perspective on an issue. While entries must be no longer than two minutes and no more than 400 words, students are free to decide whether they want to submit their entry in the form of a podcast, narrated slideshow, video, animation, or other media work.
Get step by step instructions and see examples from previous years at KQED's Youth Media Challenge website.
Answer 'The New York Times' Student Opinion Question
Students aged 13 and older can further their involvement in the 2020 election by responding to The New York Times' Student Opinion Question. In it, students are asked to write about which issues are most important to them and which issues might be "nonnegotiable" for them (meaning they could not support a candidate who did not share their same stance on the issue). Participants are then asked to explain why these issues matter to them personally and how their personal experiences and values may have shaped their opinions. The New York Times also asks students to consider whether they feel "politically homeless" as many young people have reported feeling or whether they feel adequately represented by the Republican or Democratic party.
Watch The Debates Together
While the presidential debates won't interest younger children, older children may benefit from watching them with their parents. In fact, doing so could inspire kids to take an active interest in elections and being an informed voter. Before sitting down (the first presidential debate will happen Sept. 29 followed by the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7), discuss with your child why presidential candidates hold debates and why it's important that voters tune in.
Parents can take the presidential debates even further by using suggestions for engaging kids during and after the debates from Scholastic's presidential debate lesson plan.
Have you registered to vote yet? Click here to confirm your voice is heard in the 2020 Election.