Election Day: 50 ways to teach your children about Civics and Democracy

Parents, use today to start planning ways to teach your children the importance of voting, democracy and being civically-minded. Here are 50 ideas to get you started. Photo: WASHINGTON, DC, October 14, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC, November 6, 2012 —Today is Election Day in the United States. Many public school students do not have school today, because the schools are being used as polling places. Today also represents an excellent time to consider teaching your children about civics, democracy, the importance of voting and their duty as a citizen, and their responsibility as a member of civilized society and to others around them.

Here are 50 ways to teach children about the importance and value of having their voice heard:

Take children to the polls with you. Actually schlepping the kids down to the voting booth is a real way to show them the value and importance of voting. Have them vote on what to eat for dinner.

Let your child wear your “I voted” sticker to school the next day.

Organize a family field trip to the State House or the mayor’s office

Let the little ones decide what outfit to wear one day.

Get out a globe, give it a spin, then look up a random place on it online or at the library

Check out a civics book from the library and go through it with your middle school kid

Turn on CNN and let them watch poll results come in, at least briefly.

Involve them in your civic activity or volunteer effort, find a way to include your children. It helps them realize their role in society

Show them images of your local candidates from one of the many mailers they send

Talk to them about Women Suffrage or the Civil Rights Era and other groups battle to get the right to vote.

Do some online or library research and talk to them about other forms of government in other nations.

Find and download a mobile or iPad app that does a great job at teaching civics and democracy.

Nurture your budding leader. Whenever there is an opportunity for your child who may have shown to you s/he is a budding leader, encourage him or her to run for office, on the very local level. Your kid would appreciate that the same type of work it takes to get classmates to vote for him/her as a candidate is a micro-version of what goes on in elections for higher offices.

Get a trivia board game or cards that includes a section about government and politics and play it with them.

Visit historical landmarks.

Help them register to vote when they turn 18 years old.

Teach by example and let them know you are going to research issues and candidates before you vote so they can learn not to rely on others but to do the work to learn more on their own.

Take them to a homeless shelter so they can learn that their actions make a difference.

Order pizza and count the toppings and determine which toppings has the most and use t hat example to teach about voting.

Let them volunteer. If there is a civic issue that impacts your community, talk to your child about it and about different ways to help. If you realize your child is inclined to or is interested, encourage him to lead an effort to hold a canned food drive or some other fundraising effort for the cause. It’s a great way to stoke an early interest in being a leader.

Let them watch the old School House Rock shorts from the 70s and 80s that teach about how a Bill becomes a law.

Take them to a School Board meeting so they can see the importance of getting involved with those who make decisions about the schools.

Let them pick a topic that matters to them and encourage them to write a letter to the editor of the local paper about that issue.

Talk about age-appropriate issues that are in the newspaper each day.

Encourage them to write their local representative.

Design Civics Jeopardy! Game or find one online to play with them.

Look up info about and plan a trip to visit the oldest landmark in your town.

Find a charity that you and your family care about and volunteer at an event it plans to teach kids about awareness and responsibility to others.

Help them draft up rules for play, chores, and civility in the home. Post them up on a poster board in the kitchen so all can see.

Buy or make puzzles of the United States and play with them so they learn about all the different states that make up the union.

Parents with children off from schools took them to vote on Election Day 2012. - J.Ghatt

Talk about the differences in people, culture and topography of the different states so they appreciate the differences in different areas of their country.

Talk to them about different people and cultures of the world so they realize the world is a very big place.

Pull fun political cartoons from different papers only to look at and try to decode the message in them.

Create a survey and have them poll their friends and family so they learn about the importance of gauging other people’s interests and learn how polling works.

For the next election, encourage them to volunteer to register voters

For the next election campaign cycle, take them to a political rally.

Encourage them to use their Social Media activities for good. Let the young people in your household know that even though they may not be eligible to vote yet, they could certainly encourage friends and family members they interact with who can use social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Take a tour of the city council offices.

Take your child to a town hall meeting.

Download fun facts about government, the White House, Congress and local governments from online resources.

Talk to them about what the different parties stand for.

Talk to them about third party candidates and their role in elections over the years.

Participate in a live chat or another meet and greet opportunity with your local elected officials.

Talk to them about local issues that are of concern to your town, city, community or state.

Help them make a collage of state symbols.

Have them write a letter to the President.

Have them write a letter to a soldier.

Get your middle or high schooler to organize a donation drive for the soldiers.

Get them to memorize the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

Play a game that helps them memorize the capitals of the different states.

Hopefully, one or a few of these activities will help you grow strong, independent thinking, civically- and socially- conscious children.


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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
 
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
 
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
 
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

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