Election Day: How To Involve Kids in Voting

Can you believe it's almost time for the robocalls to stop? Soon dinnertime will proceed without interruptions from anonymous callers, your Facebook friends will go back to posting images of recently prepared meals, and politics can again be the domain of PTA meetings. But first, we have an important parenting moment; Election Day is a big opportunity to share a piece of history with kids, along with some lessons in social responsibility and how our government works (or at least how it's supposed to). We have a couple of suggestions for involving kids in Election Day activities, starting - of course - with going out to vote!

It may sound obvious, but the most important thing you can do with your kids to highlight the importance of the day is to vote - and vote with them. Some parents prefer to vote early, vote by mail, or vote when their kids are in school. If that's what you need to do make sure that your vote is cast, fair enough. But if you can vote with your kids, that's even better. Yes, it may mean standing in line with kids, but voting is a true neighborhood experience. Chances are you're voting at a local church, park, school, or other neighborhood landmark; you can walk there, and you'll probably see other people from the neighborhood as you go. It's a simple but wonderful thing to have our kids see the whole neighborhood pouring out to perform this civic duty together. Poll workers are usually happy to see kids; in fact, every time I've brought my son to vote with me, the poll workers have allowed him to fill out a sample ballot while I voted and gave him a sticker at the end. It's such a simple way to make our kids feel like they're part of the process, part of their community, and part of history. Voting together helps form a habit to last a lifetime.

If your kids are too young to have much sense of what or who our president is, you could bring them to Election Day activities at the Zimmer Children's Museum, where they can participate in an election with fewer repercussions. The Zimmer is hosting voting for the race between two popular fruits (Orange and Apple), and all children ages 18 months and up are invited to vote. As a special Election Day bonus, parents sporting "I voted" stickers get free admission!

Speaking of free, Pottery Barn Kids locations around the Southland are offering free Election Day activities that include information about how elections work and another opportunity to cast a vote for a favorite food item. Kids get "I voted" stickers here, too.

Also free is admission to the Skirball on Election Day. Although there isn't a voting activity planned, families can take the admission-free opportunity to check out the Creating the United States exhibit, which might answer several of the day's questions.

Have an older child who would benefit from a more in-depth look at our election process? If you can manage an after-school outing in Orange County, this could be a great day to check out the exhibit On the Campaign Trail at the Nixon Presidential Library. The exhibit has been extended until March, but what better day than Election Day to contemplate what's involved in getting voters' attention?

And finally, what about election night? Four years ago, we came up Kids' Activity for Election Nightwith a great family activity for election night that beats the heck out of news channel graphics, and we'll do it again for this election: We start with a puzzle of a map of the United States - the kind in which each state has its own piece. Then we write each candidate's names on a piece of paper - blue for President Obama and red for Governor Romney this year. As the news reports each state's results, we place the puzzle piece for that state on the appropriate sheet of paper. Wolf Blitzer, eat your heart out!

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