According to Kidshealth.org, over 75% of kids believe that the outcome of an election will change their lives.
So while you may be tempted to hide under a rock until November 8th, chances are your kids have questions. And the election provides the perfect opportunity to talk to kids about the voting process and civic engagement.
Here are some age-appropriate tips for navigating through until November.
Very young children are ready for some basic facts about the voting process and government.
PBS Kids has put together a totally non-partisan, kid-friendly page called “You Choose 2016“. There, you can find videos about the voting process, fun facts about the candidates, and you can even print off trading cards featuring historical figures including past presidents and first ladies.
Read all about it!: You can also find picture books such as “Bad Kitty for President” and “The Kid who Ran for President” that help kindergarteners understand government and the election process better.
And sing, too! – Now’s the perfect time to practice the President’s Song, as shown below.
School aged children are ready to learn more details about the election process.
Answering questions: PBS provides parents with well-phrased answers to kids’ most common questions about the election. For example, they suggest talking to kids about who can vote and how this has changed over the years, explaining the different branches of government, and introducing them to the major and minor political parties.
Use cartoons: Many young kids love cartoons and drawings, so they might be especially drawn to the symbols for the political parties. Find a brief history of the donkeys and elephant symbols here.
Play games: There are pre-made bingo cards to practice with election vocabulary, or you can simply count bumper stickers and yard signs while you’re in the car. You could even play “President for a day” in your own house (you can retain veto powers), and write up a family constitution. (Thanks to parentmap.com for these great suggestions!)
Avoid negativity: Regan McMahon of Common Sense Media explains that even though young kids might not understand the political issues being discussed, they can sense the intensity of emotions involved. It’s probably best to turn these off very heated discussions when young children are in the room.
McMahon also warns that if you are prone to getting angry about the election, your very young child might think they are fault, so it’s important to explain why you are angry and who is making you angry.
Ages 10 and up
Middle school kids are ready for considering the issues and intricacies of the political process.
News for kids: Time for kids has a database of kid-friendly news articles and biographies for parents to read with or provide to their kids. For example, young reporters detail their experiences at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, an explanation of the electoral college, and up-to-date news articles that are published in kid-friendly language.
Analyze ads – You can’t avoid the constant barrage of political advertisements, so why not use it is as an opportunity to discuss the techniques behind the ads? Analyze with your child the music and language that is used, and what effects they have. This can empower your children to think critically about what they hear.
Share political cartoons – Middle schools kids are ready to learn about the time-honored tradition of mocking and challenging our political figures through political cartoons. Share and discuss some political cartoons and start a discussion about them.
Get involved! – If they are so inclined, talk with your kids about how they can get involved in the political process. They can pass out fliers, watch the debates, wear pins and other memorabilia, and raise money for a political cause they believe in.
Lead by example – Take your child with you to the polls so they can see the process in action. Leading by example is often the best teacher.
If you choose to talk to your kids about the candidates and who you are supporting, use it as an opportunity to demonstrate how to express your opinions and disagree respectfully.
When all else fails, make cookies – In this crazy world, it seems as though you can buy anything. Have a little fun on election night or debate night with these Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders cookie cutters. (So ridiculous.)