There’s no escaping the fact that Election Day is just around the corner. Even children will notice the street signs and commercials and hear the conversations all around them about the candidates and the issues of the day. Hopefully they will also see adults proudly displaying the “I Voted” sticker on Election Day. But beyond the commercials and the stickers, how can we begin to introduce even the youngest children to the civic responsibility and the privilege that Americans have when it comes to casting their votes?
When introducing your preschooler to the concept of voting, it is important to keep it simple. Tell them that voting is a way that a group of people can make a decision. Talk about some examples of voting that they might already be familiar with such as in their classroom when they raise their hands to pick a book at story time or at home when the family is deciding which movie to watch or which game to play. Providing your child with relatable examples will help them begin to grasp how voting works. You can go on to discuss the fact that even though not everyone is happy with the results, everyone had the chance to have a say in the decision.
Once they have a general understanding of the concept of voting, you can begin to talk to them about the elections in America. Share with them that adults in America have the chance to vote for the people that will make the rules and laws. Explain how people who want to be leaders can run for office and how each one of them have different plans and ideas. (This would be a great time to tell them that someday they will have the opportunity to be a leader, too, if they want to!) Tell them that as an adult, it is your job to learn as much as you can about their ideas so that you can vote for the one that you think would make the best leader. Remind them that just like when they vote for a book in their class or for a movie at home, the person you vote for might not be the one that wins, but that you will be able to vote again next time.
Take your child with you when you vote. Find some children’s books that talk about voting and American government. Talk about some of the issues of the day and discuss the varying viewpoints. Help your child to understand how important it is that American citizens exercise their right to vote because there are many places where people do not have any say in who their leaders are. Lay a civic foundation for your child that can be built upon as they grow older. Together we can raise a generation of children that value their right to vote and seek to be informed when they do it.