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The Election for Kids

11 Ways to Teach Your Kids About the Election Process

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From the president to your city councilwoman, every election is an opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of voting and the political process. Make the election fun for your kids while teaching them a valuable lesson they'll carry with them to the polls when they become voters themselves.

1. Read Kid-Friendly Political Books

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A simple way to introduce your children to how elections work is to read kid-friendly political books together. There are so many titles on the market that explain how politics work based on the reader's age. Colorful story books, nonfiction books written for a younger audience and humorous books are just a few types of books that make the election easy to understand for kids.

2. Use Printables

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Election printables really get your kids thinking about the election and how politics work. An election word search, election vocabulary worksheet or an election crossword puzzle are perfect learning tools for older kids. Younger children can learn through election coloring sheets.

3. Teach Your Kids About Political Parties

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We know about the politics of politics but you've got the chance to teach your kids about the foundation of all political parties. From Republicans to Democrats as well as third parties, each political party has its own importance in the political system. Even if you're strongly for one side, think of yourself as a nonpartisan leader and explain each party's core beliefs and practices so your kids can make their own decisions about the political parties.

4. Introduce Your Kids to the Candidates

A picture of Romney and Obama
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Whether it's a mayoral race, state election or presidential election, introduce your kids to the candidates who are running for office. Attend a political rally. Look for political commercials on TV. Read about the candidates online. Visit their websites. Let your kids become familiar with who the candidates are and what their mission will be if they are elected or re-elected.

5. Explain How Candidates are Chosen

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While practically anyone can decide she wants to run for office, as time goes on, campaigns flop and money runs out, we start to get a good look at the true contenders. But when you're talking presidential elections, the rules are somewhat different.

Primaries. Caucuses. Delegates. Conventions. How candidates are chosen can be confusing to us adults. Break down each step of the journey to the White House from wanting to be president to actually walking into the Oval Office and putting your nameplate on the desk.

6. Hold a Mock Election

A picture of kids voting
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Kids get to step into the voting booth and make their own important choices through mock elections. Ask your children's school if you can help organize a mock election for the students. Invite your kids' friends over and hold a mock election at your house. Let younger children hold a mock election with their teddy bears.

Everything you've taught them so far is put into action in a mock election. Tally up the votes and announce the winner to make it official.

7. Watch the Debates Together

A picture from the 2012 presidential debates
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Fill the popcorn bowl and gather around the TV to watch the political debates with your older children. Make notes during the debate about the issues, points/counterpoints and ask your kids which candidate they think won the debate.

8. Discuss the Electoral College Vs. Popular Vote

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The Electoral College System is always criticized during presidential elections. Popular vote doesn't win elections for a president. It's the Electoral College that actually decides who will be the next person moving into the White House.

While most presidents do win the presidential election with both the Electoral College votes and the popular vote, there are a handful of presidents who won the election while losing the popular vote. Most everyone remembers the 2000 election between candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore because of the hanging chads but many people were outraged that Gore won the popular vote while losing the election because of the Electoral College system.

9. Register to Vote

A picture of a voter registration office
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Have you registered to vote? Show your kids how easy it is to register and why it's important to vote. If you're already registered to vote, hold your own voter registration for your kids. Let them fill out forms you make up and when they're done hand them toy voter registration cards you've created on your computer.

10. Take The Kids with You to Vote

A picture of a mom holding her child while voting
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Polls open early and close late. Fit some time into your schedule to take the kids with you to vote before or after school. Prepare them for what to expect. The volunteers will ask for your ID, check your name off the list, hand you a ballot or ask you to step over to a voting machine and when you're finished voting, you'll get an "I Voted" sticker.

Most polling centers will let you take your kids into the voting booth with you. Your children will get an up close view of you casting your vote in the election -- a great lesson no one else but you can show them.

11. Watch Election Night Coverage Together

A pitcure of a family watching tv together
Photo © David Buffington / Getty Images
Time to tally the votes and see who's going to win. Curl up on the couch and settle in to watch election night coverage together.

Explain how votes are counted, watch the returns come across your screen and point out that some of the people you've voted for may not win. It's also a great time to let your kids know that, while not everyone will win, the ones who do lose will be gracious in their speeches congratulating the other candidates.

Politics can get ugly and someone's going to be disappointed she didn't win. But at the end of the day, no one puts on a sour face during the concession speech. It's another invaluable lesson for your kids to experience.
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