Today is Election Day and for better or worse, I will be hitting the voting booth in a couple of hours. You don't need to bring much with you to vote, just some sort of identification, so I'll be sure to grab that before I head out the door. Oh, and I'll also be sure to grab my kids, because even though it would be so much easier to stand in the line and navigate the polling place without them, I know it is important for them to see this democracy thing that I keep talking about — in action.
Have you ever tried to explain the whole government/politics/laws thing to your kids? They look at you with glazed-over expressions as you try to explain a process that seems rather arbitrary and abstract (probably because it is.) But this is the one day of the year that your kids can actually see democracy happening. They can walk through the polling center, see the actual booths that are used to cast votes, and catch a glimpse of their fellow citizens (both young and old) who are getting out to vote. If you're really lucky, the kindly volunteer at the door will even give your kids an "I Voted" sticker to wear for the remainder of the day.
And the lesson doesn't have to end at the voting booth. If you have a particularly interesting election going on in your community, you can have an election party at home, camping out in front of the TV, computer, or radio to listen to the results as they come in.
Want to go even further? Kids Voting USA provides curricular activities for schoolteachers that fit into standards for social studies classes. The group's mission is “to secure the future of democracy by preparing young people to be educated, engaged citizens,” according to the website. Kids can also cast their own votes at The Democracy Project from PBS Kids!
So don't forget to get out and vote today and if possible, don't forget to bring your kids along. There's no better way to teach them how important it is to vote than watching you make the effort to do it.