To young children, simply uttering the word “government” in conversation can raise more questions than answers: who is the President? What is Congress, and what do they do? Why do we hold elections? While they may learn about many of these topics in school, it’s important to ensure that teaching children civic responsibility doesn’t stop in a history classroom. Help your kids understand how the government works across all levels with these simple tips:
Discuss Current Events
Parents often shy away from discussing complicated issues with their kids for fear of upsetting them, but keeping children in the dark can be counterproductive to their emotional development. By having an open dialogue with your kids about what’s happening in the news, you can teach them how to think critically and avoid misinformation — especially when it comes to civics. Invite them to form their own opinions on certain topics by asking them how an event or issue makes them feel, and provide them with reassurance if they start showing signs of distress.
Watch and Learn
Remember learning about the Constitution with Schoolhouse Rock? From books to webcasts, kids today have a breadth of educational resources at their fingertips. Here are just a few recommendations to help them get started:
- Crash Course Government and Politics
- “Liberty’s Kids”
- “This is America, Charlie Brown”
- Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
- D Is for Democracy: A Citizen’s Alphabet by Elissa Grodin
- For Which We Stand by Jeff Foster
Make Learning Fun
If you’ve ever participated in a mock election at school, you know how exciting it is for children to feel involved in the political process. Recreate some of that fun at home with hands-on learning activities designed to teach kids about civic engagement. For example, have your kids create a ballot box out of an old tissue box to “vote” on different civic issues, and then discuss what their choices mean afterwards. On election years, bring them with you to witness the real deal.
Volunteer with Them
The best way for kids to see the impact civic participation has on the world around them is to volunteer. Volunteering not only teaches children essential life skills like teamwork, empathy, and self-efficacy; it also shows them how rewarding it is to be an active member of their community. Check out our list of volunteer ideas for some ways you and your kids can give back.
At Lake Forrest Prep, a leading private school in Orlando, we believe that fostering good citizenship and character education doesn’t stop in the classroom. For more resources and fun ideas for at-home learning with your child, check out our blog.