11 Fun And Empowering Ways Kids Can Get Involved in Political Change in 2021
Toddlers, kiddos, pre-teens, lend me your ears! It’s time to get excited and get involved!
Daniel Fernandez · 8 months ago
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Few things are less enjoyable than politics: listening to nails on a chalkboard, long visits to the dentist, and someone eating the last piece of cake that clearly had your name written on the label (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, MATT), but it doesn’t have to be this way!
It was my man Thomas Mann who said “everything is political,” and if you think about it, he’s pretty spot on. From voting on what movie the family will watch tonight (sorry Dad, it’s Frozen 2 again) to kids asking their parents for a little extra “stimulus” each month, just about everything we do is political. Now that we’ve established that, how can we empower our families to get involved in politics this year?
1. Get to Talking!
Lisa5201 / Getty Images
Discussing politics as a family may seem like an obvious first step, but think about it for a second. Nothing gets a kid less excited to learn about politics than hearing, “you just wouldn’t understand,” or “this is just for grown-ups.” Next thing you know, your kid is saying, “whatever, I didn’t want to learn about politics anyway,” as they wipe the tears from their eyes and throw away their powdered wig.
Taking time to answer their questions, define unfamiliar terms, and research new topics as a family can make the whole subject feel way more accessible and way less intimidating.
By starting the dialogue early in their lives, you may just be paving the way for a future president!
If you thought I was above using shiny things as an easy way of getting someone's attention, then I want to let you know that YOU THOUGHT WRONG, MY FRIEND. Whether it’s a doll of Ruth Bader Ginsberg action figure or a Lego White House, toys are not only physical conversation starters about politics, they’re also great fun!
Reading about politics can feel like a chore if all you have to work with are dusty Encyclopedia Britannica volumes and history textbooks filled with big words you can’t define. Luckily, some pretty great authors have made it a point to make learning about politics way more fun.
Whether you’re learning about the voting process from start to finish with Vote!, following the story of a rambunctious cat running for office in Bad Kitty for President, or learning just what “anti-racism” means with Anti-Racist Baby, reading is a surefire way to help your kids expand their knowledge and nurture their involvement in politics!
4. Play Games!
Games put kids in the driver's seat when it comes to strategy, understanding what’s going through the heads of other players, and carefully making decisions with goals in mind. Sounds a lot like politics, doesn’t it?
Your family can get involved in performing their civic duties with icivics, you can host your very own in-home political debate with The Contender, or you show up for Election Night! all the comfort of your living room!
5. Movie Night!
Movies are an entertaining way to understand our country’s history and learn about the issues that are still important to this day.
Besides movies based on significant political figures and moments in history like Gandhi, Selma, or Lincoln, you’d be surprised at just how many political themes can be found in animated films. Take the movie Zootopia and how it addresses living in a multiracial society, or The Iron Giant addressing the Second Amendment, or Happy Feet, and how it addresses climate change and global warming.
From informative to sensational to inspirational, movies are a fantastic way for your family to engage with politics and understand just how human it is!
Andrewgenn / Getty Images
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then political cartoons are probably worth ten thousand!
Political cartoons are cartoons that point to a specific topic or current event from an angle that you may not have considered before. If your child enjoys learning with the help of a visual aid, looking at political cartoons together on Cartoons for the Classroom, The Week, or as you read the morning paper can be way more impactful and fun than reading a book or hearing a lecture.
As an engaging activity, pick an issue or politician that your family cares about and work together to make your own political cartoon.
7. Write a Speech!
From Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream,” to J.F.K.’s “ask not what your country can do for you,” to Charlie Chaplin’s “we think too much and feel too little” (The Great Dictator is a must watch!), a powerful speech can get pretty close to pure magic.
Speeches have a way of inspiring, calling to action, and empowering us to make a better future for ourselves and others. Share your favorite speeches with your child, or better yet, challenge your child to write their very own speech about an issue or topic that is important to them!
When we find a cause or candidate that we care about, our first instinct is to help spread the word and offer our support, which is precisely where fundraising comes in!
From walking dogs to shoveling snow or cracking open that piggy bank, help your kids brainstorm different ways they can raise money to donate to a candidate or cause they support. Though the days of lemonade stands may be long in the past, a kombucha stand doesn’t sound too bad right now.
9. Student Government!
If your child is passionate about causes and wants to make change happen, it can be a little frustrating for them to learn that a career in politics comes with some pretty steep age restrictions. If your child’s school has a student government, encourage them to get involved! Help your kids craft their platform and slogan, then help them make buttons, stickers, and campaign posters.
Student governments are a great springboard into learning more about the political arena and process. Remember, just because you’ve gotta be at least 25 to run for congress doesn’t mean you can’t get a headstart.
10. Go Out and Vote!
Democratic National Convention on Giphy
You can watch movies, read books, have discussions, and explain just how important voting is to your kids until the cows come home (BESSIE, PLEASE COME BACK, I MISS YOU), but there’s no substitute for leading by example.
Even though your kids may not be old enough to fill out their own ballot, taking your kids to the polls to vote with you shows them just what it means to exercise their civic duty and be a model citizen!
PLUS, if you go voting together, you can get ice cream afterward and take a trip to Camp, and frankly, there’s no better way of getting kids excited about political change than with Rocky Road and toys!
11. Continuing Education!
SoulPancake on Giphy
Politics can be kinda like Groundhog day. Everybody cares A LOT for a brief period and then forgets about politics until the next election rolls around. The only solution to this loss of interest is continuing education!
I don’t mean watching endless hours of black-and-white History Channel documentaries or letting your child charge an annual subscription of the Atlantic to your credit card. Along with your local public library, there are tons of free online resources out there like: Time For Kids, Rock The Vote, or the Zinn Education Project to help you and your kids stay engaged.
Before you know it, you may just see your kid on the campaign trail!