2020 Election Action Series: #3 Talk to Kids about Voting

  1. Talking about voting with preschoolers
  2. Talking about voting with elementary aged kids
  3. Talking about voting with middle and high schoolers

Talking about Voting with Preschoolers

  • Demonstrate what it means to vote with a simple vote over what to have for snack and have the group vote (goldfish or broccoli?). Explain that for the upcoming election, grownups vote for who will be in charge/make rules. 
  • Point out election signs around town
  • Check out these videos that talk about voting
    • This two minute clip shows Daniel Tiger and friends voting if they should add a slide or swing to their playground. Daniel votes slide, but swing wins. 

Talking about Voting with Elementary Aged Kids

Talking about Voting with Middle and High School kids

  • Make explicit connections between voting and current events For example, the Mayor and City Council hire the Chief of Police, Congress passes (or doesn’t, ha!) legislation related to climate change, the School Board votes on reopening plan.
  • Watch news and debates together. Talk about differences in coverage from one station to another. Use factcheck.org to check candidates’ claims. 
  •  Discuss the role of social media in elections— how are candidates using social media? What ads are they seeing? This guide from Common Sense Media can help teens (and adults) navigate social media and the news. 
  • Talk about political advertisements. This is cut and pasted directly from Common Sense Media. It really resonated with me! 

Talk about fear and hate-mongering among politicians — and how mudslinging is nothing new. Sometimes it’ s helpful to discuss the historical context of election politics. Teens are old enough to understand that extreme positions and outrageous comments attract attention — and sometimes that’s all politicians want. Talk about the grand old tradition of mudslinging in campaigns. Why do candidates make offensive statements, and what impact do zealous positions have on voters and the political process? Do you pay more attention when a candidate is making outrageous statements or discussing actual policy? How much of what a candidate says is designed to appeal to voters’ emotions? 

  • Get kids involved in a campaign! While teens may be too young to vote, check out this list of ways they can get involved about something they are passionate about. Lead by example– are you writing postcards, canvassing, phone banking, etc? Make it a family affair!
  • Show them your sample ballot (get yours at fcvotes.com) and discuss it with them. They might want one to fill out too! 
  • Discuss our country’s complicated history of voting— white women got the right to vote in 1920, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and current voter suppression tactics (gerrymandering, voter id laws, felony disenfranchisement).

In all of the above, make connections to your values.