Getting your kids in on the vote

With the president being elected only every four years, there are limited opportunities for kids to learn first-hand about this important office.

And on Election Day this year is one of those times. Don’t forget your kids when you head to the polls on November 6.

When I was a little girl, I loved Election Day. When I was really little, I would go to the polls with my grandparents and my grandfather would let me go into the voting booth with him. I remember the screech of the closing curtain and the feel of the levers that he’d let me pull, selecting his chosen candidates.

These days, it’s my children who come to the polls with me. And while my town doesn’t use the same voting machines I remember from my childhood, the experience is still very special for me to share.

Whether you choose to take kids to the polls because it’s an educational opportunity — or because you have to for childcare needs — you can turn the experience into something that will stick with them for a lifetime.

Civic participation

Voting is an important part of the American democracy. But moreover, it’s a key opportunity to allow our kids to see how politics work first-hand. “It’s important to understand how the voting process works, how decisions are made and how kids can be involved, informed, and even influence decisions and discussion before they turn 18,” says Erin Watson, the vice president of marketing and communications for Kaleidoscope Youth and Family Marketing, which specializes in cause and education programs for kids and families. “We believe that there are learning experiences in nearly every adult/child interaction, and particularly in the electoral process and voting.”

Parents agree.

“I take my children to the polls any time I vote and can because it is an educational experience and teaches them the importance of being engaged and involved in the community. I am confident that it will provide them lifetime memories and encourage them to vote when they are old enough,” says Daniel Rothner, founder and director of Areyvut, a nonprofit that empowers and enriches Jewish youth through enrichment programs.

Rothner points out the importance of this because there are so many people eligible to vote who aren’t engaged in the process.

“As citizens, we have a say in how our government is run, and voting is that say. I want my kids to understand their responsibilities as citizens, and I want them to learn to think for themselves,” says Jennifer Turner who writes at StudentsAtHome.

And there is also the choice factor. While some people will vote along party lines, every election is an opportunity to choose the best person for the elected position. Who really will make a better president?

“Our kids need to understand the reasons people run for political office, and they need to learn how to compare the candidates. My 6-year-old isn’t too interested yet, but my daughter wants to understand the reasons why we choose a candidate — it’s about more than TV ads or physical appearance. Going to the polls gives me a chance to teach my kids about politics and citizenship,” says Turner.

Fun for kids

Beyond the learning experience, learning about elections — and even participating in mock elections and polls at school — can make the experience even more fun for kids. And, of course, the “I voted” stickers are always a hit with kids too.

Tell us

Do you take your kids to the polls? Why or why not?

More on kids and politics

Election 2012: What moms should know
Presidential debate: Romney 1, Big Bird 0
Teaching children about the presidential election


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