Today is election day in the United States. Beyond today and taking your child in with you to the ballot box, here are 50 other ways to teach children about the importance and value of having their voice heard:
1. Take children to the polls with you. Actually schlepping the kids down to the voting booth is a real way to show them the value and importance of voting. Have them vote on what to eat for dinner.
2. Let your child wear your “I voted” sticker to school the next day.
3. Organize a family field trip to the State House or the mayor’s office
4. Let the little ones decide what outfit to wear one day.
5. Get out a globe, give it a spin, then look up a random place on it online or at the library
6. Check out a civics book from the library and go through it with your middle school kid
7. Turn on CNN and let them watch poll results come in, at least briefly.
8. Involve them in your civic activity or volunteer effort, find a way to include your children. It helps them realize their role in society
9. Show them images of your local candidates from one of the many mailers they send
10. Talk to them about Women Suffrage or the Civil Rights Era and other groups battle to get the right to vote
11. Do some online or library research and talk to them about other forms of government in other nations.
12. Find and download a mobile or iPad app that does a great job at teaching civics and democracy
13. Nurture your budding leader. Whenever there is an opportunity for your child who may have shown to you s/he is a budding leader, encourage him or her to run for office, on the very local local level. Your kid would appreciate that the same type of work it takes to get classmates to vote for him/her as a candidate is a micro-version of what goes on in elections for higher offices.
14. Get a trivia board game or cards that includes a section about government and politics and play it with them
15. Visit historical landmarks.
16. Help them register to vote when they turn 18 years old.
17. Teach by example and let them know you are going to research issues and candidates before you vote so they can learn not to rely on others but to do the work to learn more on their own.
18. Take them to a homeless shelter so they can learn that their actions make a difference
19. Order pizza and count the toppings and determine which toppings has the most and use t hat example to teach about voting.
20. Let them volunteer. If there is a civic issue that impacts your community, talk to your child about it and about different ways to help. If you realize your child is inclined to or is interested, encourage him to lead an effort to hold a canned food drive or some other fundraising effort for the cause. It’s a great way to stoke an early interest in being a leader.
21. Let them watch the old School House Rock shorts from the 70s and 80s that teach about how a Bill becomes a law
22. Take them to a School Board meeting so they can see the importance of getting involved with those who make decisions about the schools.
23. Let them pick a topic that matters to them and encourage them to write a letter to the editor of the local paper about that issue.
24. Talk about age-appropriate issues that are in the newspaper each day.
25. Encourage them to write their local representative
26. Design a Civics Jeopardy! Game or find one online to play with them.
27. Look up info about and plan a trip to visit the oldest landmark in your town.
28. Find a charity that you and your family care about and volunteer at an event it plans to teach kids about awareness and responsibility to others.
29. Help them draft up rules for play, chores and civility in the home. Post them up on a posterboard in the kitchen so all can see.
30. Buy or make puzzles of the United States and play with them so they learn about all the different states that make up the union.
31. Talk about the differences in people, culture and topography of the different states so they appreciate the differences in different areas of their country.
32. Talk to them about different people and cultures of the world so they realize the world is a very big place.
33. Pull fun political cartoons from different papers online to look at and try to decode the message in them.
34. Create a survey and have them poll their friends and family so they learn about the importance of gauging other people’s interests and learn how polling works.
35. For the next election, encourage them to volunteer to register voters.
36. For the next election, take them to a political rally.
37. Encourage them to use their Social Media activities for good. Let the young people in your household know that even though they may not be eligible to vote yet, they could certainly encourage friends and family members they interact with who can use social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
38. Take a tour of the city council offices.
39. Take your child to a town hall meeting.
40. Download fun facts about government, the White House, Congress and local governments from online resources.
41. Talk to them about what the different parties stand for.
42. Talk to them about third party candidates and their role in elections over the years.
43. Participate in a live chat or another meet and greet opportunity with your local elected officials.
44. Talk to them about local issues that are of concern to your town, city, community or state.
45. Help them make a collage of state symbols.
46. Have them write a letter to the President.
47. Have them write a letter to a soldier.
48. Get your middle or high schooler to organize a donation drive for the soldiers.
49. Get them to memorize the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.
50. Play a game that helps them memorize the capitals of the different states.
Hopefully, one or a few of these activities will help you grow strong, indepedent thinking, civically- and socially- conscious children.