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“If I Were in Charge”: An Election Platform Written by Your Kid

I still remember a writing assignment my first grade teacher gave us: to write a book called “If I Ruled the World,” based on the Judith Viorst poem, “If I Were in Charge of the World.”

If I were in charge of the world

I'd cancel oatmeal,

Monday mornings,

Allergy shots, and also Sara Steinberg.

If I were in charge of the world

There'd be brighter night lights,

Healthier hamsters, and

Basketball baskets forty eight inches lower.

If I were in charge of the world

You wouldn't have lonely.

You wouldn't have clean.

You wouldn't have bedtimes.

Or "Don't punch your sister."

You wouldn't even have sisters.

If I were in charge of the world

A chocolate sundae with whipped cream and nuts would be a vegetable

All 007 movies would be G,

And a person who sometimes forgot to brush,

And sometimes forgot to flush,

Would still be allowed to be

In charge of the world.

Although I can’t remember most of my pages, I remember the triumph I felt about the Caldecott Medal-like silver medal sticker my teacher put on my cover. No doubt, my teacher knew this task would bring out creative, and often hilarious, ideas from kids who for a brief moment could imagine that they, not their parents, were in charge.

Encourage your kids to develop their own election “platforms.” If they were running for President, what would they do? Why should someone vote for them?

This election season, take a page from my teacher’s book -- and from this poem that so perfectly captures a child’s mind and angst. Encourage your kids to develop their own election “platforms.” If they were running for President, what would they do? Why should someone vote for them? Kids even as young as three years old can have fun imagining a world in which they are in control. For little ones, write down their responses, and delight them by sharing their answers the next time an election rolls around. For kids who can write, grab a poster board and some markers, and let their creativity fly. You’ll be amazed at what you learn about how your kids think, and what is important to them. Consider the additional benefits:

1.) Kids get a bigger view of society. My son, for example, started with more self-focused goals (e.g., endless seasons of his favorite television series), but after listing several of those, he started to think more broadly (kind of like the gratitude pumpkin!). He wanted certain items to be free for everyone, but then we talked about how that could cause problems for our favorite toy store and taco truck "mom-and-pop shops." We even came to have some good conversations about taxes, as we thought about what taxpayers should pay for (check out another brilliant lesson on taxes using all that leftover Halloween candy).

2.) Kids learn about the proper role of government. When discussing what people should eat, we also started having a great conversation about who should have the power to tell us what to do. What should the government tell us to do as private individuals, versus members of a community, versus citizens of a country? What issues should be our own decisions, based on our personal, our family’s, and/or our religion’s values?

3.) Kids learn about consequences and responsibility. This activity can encourage good conversations about Spider-Man’s wisdom that “with great power comes great responsibility.” “I’d let everyone eat dessert for every meal!” my son (who, sometimes to his chagrin, lives in a vegetable-focused house) once told me. We then started discussing what that would do to our bodies and minds, and then the multiplier effect of what would happen if everyone was sluggish from too much unhealthy food. His mind was blown, and he somewhat begrudgingly admitted that would not be a good idea. “No homework!” he wrote, but then we talked about all the important lessons we actually learn from homework. And on and on.

4.) Kids can get a glimpse of you as a kid. Even now, I remember my dad telling me as a young girl about how as a kid he dreamed of the day he could go to the grocery store and fill his cart with only hamburgers and lollipops. Of course, once he was a responsible adult, that day never came, but it was a fun story for me to think of him as a dreaming little boy. So as your kids make their campaign platforms, perhaps share a silly dream you had as a kid. Show them a little bit about your dreaming young self . . . and how that little kid is still a part of the responsible adult you now are.

5.) Kids understand and appreciate our leaders more. When I was a kindergartener, I walked into a room where my dad and one of his friends were watching the President of the United States on the news. “What does a President do, anyway?” I asked. They laughed, and then paused, as they actually found it a bit challenging to encapsulate all that a President does, and to do so in a way a five-year-old kid could appreciate. I don’t remember exactly what they said, but I do remember responding, “Ok, that sounds good. I think I’ll be President.”

At Primerrily, we believe in showing, not telling. So instead of telling your kids what a President does, having them step in a candidate’s shoes will give them even more appreciation for our leaders and the responsibilities they hold by.

So whatever your kids’ goals or dreams, have fun learning alongside them, as they share their ideas, from the silly to the serious. Then enjoy witnessing how those ideas change (or don’t!) from election year to election year, as they mature in mind and grow in spirit.


A.J. Grey is a lawyer, mother, and leader in several civic organizations. Her favorite American value is equality, of people and of opportunity.


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