How to Talk to Kids About Voting

by Emily T.

The first (and only) song I’ve ever heard to rhyme both Trump and Clinton into the same chorus was sung to me during the 2016 election – by a five-year-old in my son’s Kindergarten class. 

In 2020, election talk is even more ubiquitous. Grownups aren’t the only ones figuring out voting. Many children are hearing about the election and wondering what it all means. Some may be asking their questions, while others may be unsure where to start. It’s never too early to welcome young ones into the voting process and help them understand how important it is. We may be shocked to find what they’ve heard already – and what critical gaps likely are in their understanding. 

Children can understand the value of having a say, and we all know they put a lot of stock in fairness. Such basics of democracy are very accessible. Even preschoolers can use a simple form of voting to make a group decision. Pizza or sushi for dinner? Ride scooters to the park or walk? We grownups can give our little future voters lots of practice with making a choice, counting up votes, and making peace with the outcomes. Of course, the story of American democracy doesn’t end with the idea of one person, one vote, but it is a great way to start talking about it. Reading books about voting can further spark children’s interest and open up fun, informative, invaluable conversations. Encourage your kids to ask questions, then find answers together.  

The President of the Jungle by André Rodrigues, et al. is a playful introduction to voting as a fair way to decide things as a group. In the story, the animals are not too happy with Lion, King of the Jungle, and they want a change. Key election concepts are explained with clever illustrations and a glossary. It’s great for big-picture questions about what’s fair and what makes a good leader. Bonus, it’s also great for character voices if you like that kind of outlet. 

Vote for Our Future!, by Margaret McNamara shows the many ways kids can get involved during election season, even before they are voting on their own. The story follows an elementary class learning and doing all they can about voting as their school becomes a polling place. Vibrant drawing of people in action let kids make observations and ask logistical questions. 

Voting is an important way that families act on their values and help determine what it’s like to grow up in this country. Children of all ages are paying attention. Will they see just how valuable each vote is?  

For additional books, DVDs, and eResources about voting for children and adults, check out the collection curated by our HCLS team here

Be sure to visit our HCLS Voter Smarts Guide 2020 for this year’s essential election information. 

Recommended Articles, Videos, & Games about Voting for Families HCLS “Let’s Vote!” On-Demand Class (K-Grade 2) & “Let’s Vote!” On-Demand Class (Grades 3-5)

Daniel Tiger: Stop, Think and Choose 

PBSKids: Let’s Vote

Common Sense Media: 17 Tips to Steer Kids Through the Political Season 

iCivics: Cast Your Vote 

Ben’s Guide to the US Government 

Emily is a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at HCLS Elkridge Branch.. Her family voted on how to celebrate their ballot drop-off this year. “I Voted” S’mores won in a landslide over the “I Vote” Rootbeer Float, and “I Voted” stickers.  

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