"The single most important factor in whether young people vote in their first or second eligible election is whether their parents vote."
Eric Plutzer, a Pennsylvania State University political science professor. [US News, 12/20/07]
My girls were intrigued when I left them with a friend to go vote at the local elementary school a couple of months ago for my state primaries. It took me 10 minutes and I came back with a bright green sticker saying "I voted." They of course wanted a sticker, but beyond that what did voting mean. I was unprepared for all their questions. Today I will be prepared. What a great teaching moment!
I've compiled a list of 11 (for the election month, November) activities, kids websites, and conversations you can have with your children today.
1. If your child is old enough to be patient and quiet, take them with you to vote. Let them see what this process is all about. Explain what a privilege it is to vote. I'm confident they will remember the experience.
2. For story time, look at coins and bills. Tell simple stories about the past presidents found on the money. Here is a quick review: $1 George Washington, $5 Abraham Lincoln, $10 Alexander Hamilton, penny- Abraham Lincoln, nickel- Thomas Jefferson, dime- Franklin D. Roosevelt, quarter- George Washington. Click here for quick facts about past presidents.
3. PBS Kids has a great website called The Democracy Project. On this website you can find out more about the importance of voting, discover what it takes to be president and enter a time machine that takes you to past voting events.
4. Teacher Planet has a myriad of links to patriotic activities, lesson plans and coloring pages. A great resource!
5. Memorize the Pledge of Allegiance.
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: One Nation under God, indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all."
Take time to discuss what some of the bigger, more complex words mean.
6. Sing the Star Spangled Banner. If singing it alone might seem daunting, then click here for accompaniment and lyrics.
7. Look at the American flag or make one out of construction paper. Discuss what all the symbols mean, stars, stripes, colonies and states. Include that red=courage, white=purity, and blue=justice.
8. Ben's guide to U.S. Government for kids is an interactive website that gives an overview of the nation and the government. You can choose the appropriate age group for your child. It is good for K-12.
9. What are the symbols of our nation? Do you remember? How about the flag, bald eagle, White house, Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty to name a few.
10. I had no idea there were so many different government sponsored websites for kids. The list seems endless. Click here for a comprehensive list. Some good ones are H.I.P. Pocket Change (U.S. Mint), Fact Finder Kids Corner (Census Bureau), and Kids in the House (Congress).
11. Let your kids vote. Also powered by PBS kids is ZOOM. ZOOMout the vote is conducting an online vote your kids can participate in today. Its also a good place to learn about the election process and how kids can be involved in their communities.