Raising kids who vote

If you ask any group of kids whether they’d like to play soccer or tug-of-war, one thing’s for sure: Every child will want their vote to be counted! We can encourage our kids to become voters and help them learn through play. Check out these ideas to get started.

Between our kids’ elementary school years and the time theyreach the voting age of 18, they lose steam. Four years ago, only41 percent of registered 18- to 20-year-olds showed up to vote inthe presidential election.

We want our kids to be less intimidated by the word “politics”and to be engaged in the process, says Tammy Gagne, author of thebook series A Kid’s Guide to the Voting Process (Mitchell Lane,2012). “A child who understands the importance of the issues won’tsee a ballot as just another piece of paper.”

Kirsetin Morello is a freelance writer, blogger and mom.


Message: Every vote is equal.

How to play:

  1. Choose a ballot topic:Family night: board game, movie, orread aloud?Next vacation: hitting the beach in Door County,zipping down water slides at the Dells or a staycation in downtownChicago?
  2. Create ballots with more-or less-options than family members toavoid a tie.
  3. Discuss the pros and cons of each idea. Lobbying isencouraged.
  4. Allow everyone to fill out his or her ballot privately and dropit into the ballot box (any box with a slot cut in the top).
  5. Count the votes.

Parents of younger children may want to split their votes, sothat two kids who vote together can win. But with older kids, it’simportant for everyone to vote their conscience, says Gagne. “Thevalue is in teaching them that you’ll vote the way they’d like ifthey can convince you it’s the better choice,” she says.

Mock ballots


Message: In a democracy, you have the right tovote.

How to play:

  1. Explain the concept of a dictatorship, like North Korea, toyour kids.
  2. Choose one person in the family to be Dictator for a Day.
  3. The dictator gets to make all of the important decisions thatday. If she wants ice cream, she gets it. If she wants others toget none, it’s her call. Bedtime, dinner, snacks, books-theDictator decides.

It’s especially effective to play Dictator for a Day afteryou’ve already done the Mock Ballot game. When your kids haveexperienced both sides-having their say and having no say atall-it’s not hard for them to figure out that they’re lucky to havea vote and to want to exercise it.

Dictator for a Day


Message: It’s important to have foundational rules thatgovern a country or a family.

How to play:

  1. Brainstorm lots of ideas for potential family constitutionrules.
  2. Get specific. For example, if one of your laws is Respect OurHome, you could include ‘clear your place after meals,’ or ‘putyour clothes in the hamper’ as bullet points to make sure everyoneunderstand how to respect your home.
  3. Have everyone sign a copy of your family constitution with afancy pen. Display your family constitution prominently in yourhome.

Create a family constitution


Message: Your vote matters.

How to play:

  1. Create a list of ideas for family fun this weekend.
  2. Write everyone’s ideas on a poster board.
  3. Allow each family member to cast three votes by placing tallymarks by the activities they support. They can divide their tallieshowever they’d like.
  4. Count ’em up.

This activity is great for visual learners, because they can seethe tallies accumulating as each person votes. When you do thewinning activities with your kids, it helps them feel the might oftheir vote.

Family fun poster board


Message: Mom and Dad vote.

How to:

  1. Take your kids to the polls with you. “If you tell your kidsthat voting is important, but don’t make the time to vote when yourschedule is busy, they’ll quickly realize your heart isn’t in it,”Gagne says.
  2. Get an “I Voted” sticker for you and your kids.
  3. Bring your camera, suggests Gagne. “Take pictures of your kidsbeside the sign that says ‘Vote Here’ so they see the event as oneworthy of recording in the memory books.”

Take them to the polls


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