One of the best Election Day activities for kids is extremely simple: vote with them! It is also a great way to learn about democracy and show them you value voting rights.
Take your kids to the Polls:
Today is Election Day and even though it might take a bit of extra time and planning, I hope you take your children with you to the polls! After all, learning activities for kids are most effective when experienced with real-life situations. Because the schools are used as polling places, New York City public school kids have Election Day off, so when my fellow parents ask me what we are going to do all day today, I respond, "Vote, of course!"
Talk about Democracy with Kids:
On the walk to the polls, I tell my kids (ages 8 and almost-5) about what issues I'll be voting on. This year we are voting for a new mayor, other city-wide offices as well as ballot initiatives. I present the issues in a way they can understand and ask their opinions. (Bonus: it forces me not to be complacent about the issues.) My older son, especially, likes to be included. He is at the age where he is really starting to understand how policies affect his life.
I try really hard to ask questions, rather than simply tell my sons how I vote. I want them to grow up to be curious, open-minded citizens, not just vote one party because that's what their mom and dad told them is the right thing to do. It gets so tiresome hearing people spout angry one-sided opinions at each other and I want my kids to grow up to be better than that.
Let Your kids do the voting:
I actually let my kids slip the ballot into the voting machine or pull the lever, depending on what type of voting mechanism is in use that day. They love the hand levered machines but New York is phasing those out for electronic voting, which isn't nearly as fun, in my opinion! If I remember to do so ahead of time, I fill out a practice ballot and let my son read me the "answers" as I fill in the bubbles.
Common responses I get from parents when I tell them I take my kids to the polls:
The lines are too long!
True, kids aren't that great at waiting in lines. Chat with them the importance of waiting! Talk about what measures communities could implement to reduce wait times and make voting easier. Depending on the age of your child, it could spark a really good discussion about ensuring everyone has equal access to the polls.
My kids don't get the day off school.
Fair enough. Decide if it's important enough to you to take them with you before or after school. My mom always took me after school. Try going with friends. I remember playing with the other kids while my mom and her friends voted.
Alternatively, if you really can't take your kids, be sure to sit down with them and talk about the experience. Tell them what you voted on, what it was like at the polls, and most importantly, ask them how they would vote!
Do you think it's important to take children along when you vote? Will they be going with you today?