Politics may seem like a foreign concept to children, and discussing politics with yours might feel daunting at first, but it’s never too early to begin encouraging their curiosity in how our democracy operates.
Preschoolers can gain insight into the political world with books that explore basic concepts like fairness and justice.
An engaging discussion about current events that are in the news is an effective way to introduce politics to your kids, while at the same time helping them understand that people may feel passionately about certain issues and make decisions based on these passions. Explaining how political decisions can create conflict and passion often turns to hatred is also useful; teaching children not to take things at face value while showing that other people may hold different beliefs than you and that not all politicians are evil is also key in developing political literacy in children.
Your children can learn a great deal by helping them decode political ads and understand how music and visuals can persuade voters. Ask open-ended questions. Additionally, take them on a trip to see government buildings or attend political rallies for hands-on experiences that may spark their curiosity further.
Talk About Current Events
As children grow, they may gain a deeper understanding of politics, including gaining an appreciation of various political parties and platforms. If your child is learning about democracy or patriotism at school, now would be an excellent time to discuss wider concepts such as these with them too.
Young children can discuss how policies impact things they see around them, like schools, roads and parks. They might want to explore ways they can make an impactful contribution – perhaps planting trees in their local park or recycling at home are potential ways for young ones to do something positive!
Students can also inquire into political advertising, for instance how ads use music and visuals to influence voting decisions, which will enable them to think critically about what they hear in the media and form healthy skepticism.
Make the Law Come Alive
Children can exhibit vastly differing political understanding, according to experts, who note that while a 5-year-old may not know how to vote, an 8-year-old could likely explain the electoral college. Children’s ability to move beyond simplistic ideas into nuanced concepts relies heavily upon how adults facilitate this development process.
Teaching kids that politics involves more than simply voting is also essential; it entails how we govern ourselves and create laws, so nonfiction and fiction books exploring concepts like fairness and justice can come in handy here.
Use books to help your child understand how a law starts as a document called a bill and then goes before small groups of representatives or senators known as committees for approval by more than half the members in both houses of Congress. Once passed and signed into law by these bodies, it becomes law.
Keep It Positive
Politics may feel like an adult issue to children, and discussions of current events or party platforms can quickly lose their impact. Even though children may not yet be old enough to vote, understanding politics is still vitally important.
As children age, they will develop more of an interest in how the law works and how different parties make decisions. Furthermore, they will start understanding more complex concepts such as the division of power between executive and legislative branches of government.
Teach kids that politicians are just people like themselves with both strengths and weaknesses. Too often the negative aspects of political events draw all the attention, so it is crucial that children recognize there are many positive things happening as well.
Make Voting Fun
Voting can help even young children understand that voting is a means of sharing opinions on crucial matters, helping them appreciate that life isn’t black-and-white and there are people with opposing points of views who coexist within society.
Children can learn about voting through books like “V is for Voting” and Sesame Street’s “I Want to Be President,” as well as picture books written specifically for younger readers, such as Madam President or School House Rock which offer children an introduction to democracy and how elections work.
Take your children voting if possible and show them the process by which votes are counted – this will show them that voting is accessible to everyone regardless of job, connections or money issues.