Today is a historic day. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent, presidential elections are important, and ripe with opportunities for learning.As parents, we need to seize the teachable moments in front of us, and use the election to educate our children.
I can still remember the first time I noticed politics. It was 1988, and I was in the second grade. I remember sitting on the floor of our front room. I was playing with a Lite Brite. My parents were watching the Bush/Dukakis debate. And I noticed. I remembered. I knew what was going on was important…and I fell in love with politics.
I have LOVED the conversations our family has been sharing around the dinner table over the past few weeks. My husband and I have been sharing small pieces of information with our kids as to why we’re voting for the candidate we support, why voting is important, how the process works, etc. Many people are frustrated with politics and hate getting caught up in it. However, I feel that we have a duty to set an example for our children. I want my children to grow up to be educated voters. I want them to research candidates, measures, and referendums. I want them to vote with their convictions. I want them to take an active interest in their community and country, and find out how their voice can make an impact.
In my home state, we no longer get to “go to the polls” to vote. (I miss it! It felt more patriotic somehow.) However, my children saw me sit down at the kitchen table with my ballot and giant “brochure.” At one point, I stopped and put my ballot up on the counter. “Why did you stop Mommy?” my six year old asked. I was able to tell her that I just wasn’t sure how I felt about something yet. She saw me wrestle with an issue. She saw me put thought into my vote. As our kids play at night, they see my husband and I engaged in political tv. They know we care.
In addition to teaching your children about their civic duty and the blessing it is to be able to vote, the election can be used as a tool to strengthen several different academic subjects.
We will be following an electoral college map tomorrow, and talking about the magic number of 270. As the numbers come in, we will be doing addition problems, discussing how many more electoral votes each candidate still needs to reach 270.
Older kids can do what the pollsters have been doing for months, and figure out which states will help each man get to 270. Mathematically speaking, the electoral college map is alive with opportunity for learning. Try to do some number work with your kids. (Ie- If Obama wins Iowa, how can Romney make up those numbers.)
You can work out number problems like, “If Candidate A wins XYZ, is it possible for Candidate B to win?” Engage their critical thinking skills.
Here is a link to the electoral map we will be using: Electoral Numbers Map (This will be updated as numbers come in throughout the day.)
2. Number Value
Have your child try to determine which states are the most desirable for a candidate to win.Discuss why the candidates spend a lot of time in certain states, and not in others. (Granted, you might have to explain why states like California and Texas, though big in votes, don’t get as much attention, as they typically stay the same color.) For younger kids, just have them figure out the states worth the most, etc.
Here is a link to a map showing the electoral votes per state: Electoral Votes Map
*I couldn’t find a map without a political slant. The electoral votes by state are accurate however.
About a week ago, I compiled a list of 44 books about the presidents. Check it out or scan the shelves of your local library for others. Reading a story about a president’s life is not only a fantabulous way to introduce your child to the world of non-fiction and biographies, but will help to develop their interest in politics.
4. Other Ideas
- Watch the returns together. Let them see you CARE. If you’d like, you can have your kids color in this great printable (made by one of my blogger friends).
- Make a red/blue treat. Top cupcakes with red and blue frosting. Serve up red and blue gatorade. Make red and blue JELL-O cups. Sprinkle red and blue M&M’s on top of cookies or brownies. Get creative!
- Conduct a mock election in your house. Make ballots to vote on a list of books, movies, dinners, etc. Let everyone in the family secretly cast their vote. Follow through with the winner. Read the story as a family. Watch the movie the next day. The winning meal will be prepared on Wednesday. Be creative. Your kids will LOVE this! (My daughter’s school has been holding a mock election for several books, complete with posters, speeches, etc. She is so excited to see if her pick “Bad Kitty” wins tomorrow!)
If you voted in this election, THANK YOU. I hope you will take an idea or two from this list and get your kids involved. Let them see you care. Talk. Discuss. Let’s raise a generation of caring, concerned, and educated voters.