5 Ways to Make Voting a FUN Memory (and Inspire a Future Voter!)
Make voting a fun and happy occasion for your kids. Doing this will make the moment memorable, and it will inspire a future voter! Regardless of who is elected, your family wins.
Taking my kids to vote in a 2018 special election was anything but convenient, but I'm glad I did it. Now, my kids look forward to voting! In fact, they inspired the very idea of this article.
Practice voting before Election Day
Your family can vote for what book to read, what to eat for breakfast, or what TV show to watch. If you don’t have many people in your immediate family, think about including grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, cousins and neighbors. Make columns for the options, and show tallies for the votes. Circle the choice that gets the most votes, and act on the result -- even if your kid’s choice isn’t the winner! You may face a momentary meltdown, but the lesson will sink all the deeper. Note: Your kids may just catch onto the voting thing and want to make everything “electable,” but you can remind them that while their country is a democratic republic, sometimes mama / daddy need it to be a benevolent dictatorship. What we say, goes!
Take your kids with you to vote
As you read this title, you may think one of two things:
1) “I already voted, so I guess it’s too late.” If so, good for you! Skip Part A and continue to Part B.
2) “Why would I do that? It just makes things harder, especially in the COVID era of masks, waiting outside, and long lines.” Oh can we relate! Then comes a tantrum, a diaper change, snack time. . . don’t forget about that toy dropped somewhere in line! In the end, was it all to wish you went by yourself or voted via mail-in ballot? This brings us to . . .
Part A. We didn’t embark on this parenting journey because we thought it would be easy. We did it because we thought loving, sacrificing, and teaching (aspects of parenthood) were noble and worthy quests. Teaching your children a love of country and the rights you have as a citizen -- including voting in free and fair elections -- is your pride and privilege. We get the chance only every couple years! It will be over before you know it, so stock up on wipes and patience, and add this invisible merit badge to your parent uniform. Now for --
Part B. Even if you’ve already voted or plan to vote from home, you can still mark the occasion. Turn off any distractions at home. Maybe put on a special outfit. Explain that not everyone in the world gets to vote. As Americans, we have the ability to choose who we think the best “line leaders” should be to make decisions for our town, state, and country (maps or kid atlases like this one can be helpful for explaining the difference between those). Allow them to watch you bubble in the names on your mail-in ballot, or if you’ve already voted, print out a sample ballot online and do it again for the commemoration.
2016 Primary 2018 Primary 2020 Primary
2016 General 2018 General 2020 General
Create a special ballot for your kids
Explain to your kids that while they will not be able to officially vote until they are eighteen (my four-year-old daughter was disappointed by this!), it’s never too early to start practicing this civic responsibility. So in the spirit of learning by doing, create a sample ballot with a couple of candidate’s names and positions on a piece of paper.
You can even introduce the idea of ballot amendments if your state has those. Create big circles next to the choices. Ask them to color in the circle for the option they want to pick. Ask them why they are picking that choice (you may be surprised to find out who your kids have been listening to). See who the winners are in your family, and compare them with the actual results. If the outcomes aren’t the same, take that opportunity to teach your kids that every family -- like every voter -- is different. We find this theme helpful in myriad situations. If the outcomes are the same, even then remind your kids that every voter is different. God bless America for being founded on diversity of thought. Without that, we wouldn't really need our democratic republic, as everyone would just think and then vote the same.
Get your kids an “I VOTED” sticker -- and stick it somewhere special
A perk of voting in person is the hallowed sticker that accompanies the action.
Usually, the poll workers are sweet enough to give kids extras. Over a decade ago,
I started a tradition of putting my “I VOTED” stickers in a book of special importance to me. This one book now holds multiple stickers from various elections. Underneath each I write the year and the notable races it represents. Not only do you document your own “voting record,” but you leave a visual representation of your civic representation.
Imagine your grandchild or great-grandchild opening that book someday. What might that discovery teach them?
Reassure your kids that our political system is greater than the political election
Zooming out for the big picture, our political system is often referred to as “the grand American experiment,” and thus far has proven to be an exceptional one. Our exceptional country has overcome and strengthened since its revolutionary founding, sin of slavery, civil war, two world wars, more international conflicts, economic depressions, attacks by foreign terrorists, and internal unrest. Any American election, though passionate or tense, is no match for our great American spirit.
Zooming in for the personal perspective, in the words of former First Lady Barbara Bush, "Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House, but what happens inside your house."
Read "If Your Candidate Doesn't Win" to see how we’re helping our kids -- and ourselves -- take deep breaths upon discovering the outcome of Election Day 2020.