It’s election season in the United States, and while this process is valuable and important, the process itself can be ugly, full of mud-slinging, name-calling, and fear-mongering. Especially for younger or more sensitive kids, there are ways to engage with the election while staying away from the vitriol. That’s what we’ve been trying to do, and so I wanted to share some of our favorite resources and ideas.
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When approaching the election with our kids, we focus on 3 things: the geography, the process, and the role of the presidency.
There are tons of great geography resources. We love this wooden 50 states puzzle
the Scrambled States of America book and game
and Sequence States & Capitols (which is unfortunately no longer in print).
Ken Jennings has a Junior Genius Guide called Maps & Geography that my son loves,
and atlases and infographic reference books like Where on Earth are great too.
The entire process of elections, from qualifying to run, to primaries, political parties, and then voting itself is a sophisticated process. Fortunately there are some worthwhile resources to help us understand it.
This book is brand new from the people who brought us the Who Is/Who Was series. It’s appropriate for upper elementary and looks at things from a rather neutral perspective.
We just got this card game. It’s overly simplistic in its vote distribution, but it’s a fun way of becoming aware of just how many votes each state has, and getting a sense of how those 270 votes come together. It has all 50 States and DC – is missing other territories and partial vote distribution, but as a quick and fun way to look at the process, I think it’s worth it.
The Office of the Presidency
It’s important for our kids to understand that all presidents started somewhere, that they and all public elected officials were children once, with their own stories and setbacks. The Kid Legends series has a great book called Kid Presidents that humanizes their stories and provides context for their terms in office.
Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guides has a book about presidents that my son adores. There’s a lot of trivia, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously, so the book is very enjoyable, especially for upper elementary boy humor.
There are, of course, biographies and picture book biographies of famous figures through the years, including tales from the White House told from an animal’s perspective.
History & Current Events
Ultimately, each family has to decide for themselves how much we want our kids to be aware of the issues, the controversies, and the stakes in the election. Every child is different, and every situation is unique.
This year, we’ve subscribed our 9yo to a news magazine, The Week Jr, which he’s been devouring. It treads lightly on the controversial subjects and tries to avoid endorsing a certain position or viewpoint.
My son has also been reading books like this American History text. It’s lighthearted but gives a big picture perspective of how this nation grew.
Others use musicals like Hamilton as a starting point, or tween-focused news shows like CNN10 to help give appropriate context.
We have a responsibility not only to be informed ourselves and vote for what we believe in, but also that our kids are learning their role in this democracy so that some day soon they’re ready and informed in how to take part in this big, messy experiment we call the United States of America.