The California Primary: Politics for Kids

by Jeff Camp | May 31, 2016 | 0 Comments
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Helping Kids Understand This Election

Whatever your political persuasion, California’s primary next week is a great chance to engage kids in a real life civics lesson. From discussing the pros and cons of candidates, to analyzing media messages, to simply learning what a primary election is all about, this is a great week for kids to learn more about our democracy. What can parents do?

Talk about elections.

Start with the basics — especially with younger children. Discuss how we make choices by voting and why it is important to have your voice heard.

  • Ask: Would you rather have a choice or just be told what to do? Having a choice is one of the basic rights and ideas of our democracy.
  • Give examples: Kids help make some decisions in school about rules and conduct. Adults do the same thing in our communities.

Need some more help with the discussion? PBS has a Parent's Guide to talking about the presidential election.

Talk about issues

Not only will we be voting to select candidates for Senate, House of Representatives (oh yes, and President), but we will also vote on races for city councils, school boards, commissions and judicial positions. Children may take particular interest in ballot measures related to schools and environmental issues.

Visit (a nonpartisan site supported by the League of Women Voters) to view your ballot online. Ask your children what THEY think. Help them talk through an issue. Even if they come to a different conclusion than you, this is good preparation for decisions they will have to make in school and life.

Talk about media and message

Kids are getting many messages — from “A Future to Believe In” to “Stronger Together” to “Make America Great Again”. Your mailbox is now filled with political fliers. Talk about how slogans and the media are crafted to influence decisions. Select some age-appropriate political mailers. Review them with your kids. Does this make you happy? Afraid? Confident? Does this picture make you like this person? Do you really believe what they are saying? Check out these Tips from Common Sense Media to help you and your kids sort through the political messages.

Take your kids with you to vote and to other election activities

Kids are more involved if you are involved. Volunteer for a campaign. Bring the kids to a rally. Walk a precinct and hit your 10,000 step goal! If you are eligible to vote, take the kids to the polling booth and model great civic engagement. Your older kids can help you prepare that sample ballot. (Let them know that voting is not a pop quiz – you really do need to study ahead of time). Younger kids love the “I voted” sticker…and so do I!

Read more about the importance of civic education in Ed100 Lesson 6.15

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