Teaching Your Children about Politics and Government

Children and politics talk
During an election year, politics are bound to be a topic in your home. Children learn a lot about the subject simply by listening to our conversations, but have you ever wondered how to teach your children about politics with more intention? Children need to understand the privileges and responsibilities that come with democracy so they’re ready to become active participants in the political process as adults. In this article, we explore engaging, age-appropriate ways to introduce your child to the world of politics.

Teaching Preschoolers about Politics

Concepts to Explore

Young children might not have the cognitive ability to understand our complex political system, but they’re very aware of issues of justice and fairness. Talk with your young child about the role of the president: to lead our country and help make decisions. Discuss the idea that we vote for leaders who we think will do the best job. Try creating voting opportunities for your children and the whole family by holding votes on where to go out to eat, what family game to play, etc.

Civic Activities to Try

Young children readily absorb our views on democracy, political activism, and social justice, mostly through what we do and say. Take your child with you to the voting booth or political rallies. Visit historical museums and state buildings. Get involved in local issues that matter to you, such as improving schools, working on conservation efforts, or feeding the homeless. While not directly tied to politics, children learn a great deal about what you value from what you spend your time on.

Books to Read

Books about the government are a wonderful vehicle for introducing children to politics. Read these books together to start the conversation:
  • "Duck for President" by Doreen Cronin, illustrations by Betsy Lewin
  • "F is for Flag" by Wendy Cheyette Lewison, illustrated by Barbara Duke

Teaching Elementary-Age Children about Politics

Concepts to Explore

Elementary-age children can begin to understand political parties and their platforms. They can also learn about democracy, patriotism, and American history. At this age, children often become aware of political messaging. Talk with your children about negative political advertisements on television and social media. Share your own views and help them understand how to research the issues to separate fact from fiction.

Civic Activities to Try

Elementary-age children enjoy visiting the voting booth, historical museums, and state buildings, just as preschoolers do. At this age, though, children can begin to understand abstract concepts. Learning is deepened as they read and explore concepts independently. Children may begin to develop their own passions and interests around activism and volunteerism. They may be interested in attending political debates or other events.

Political Books to Read

Longer books help elementary-age children understand the political process and how the U.S. government works. We also think it’s important for children to be familiar with U.S. history and the principles of democracy. Here are a few books about politics for kids to try:
  • "Bad Kitty for President" by Nick Bruel
  • "Grace for President" by Kelly S. DiPucchio, illustrations by LeUyen Pham
  • "Vote" by Eileen Christelow
  • "A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution" by Betsy and Giulio Maestro
  • "The Fourth of July Story" by Alice Dalgiesh

Visit Time for Kids or Scholastic News Kids Press Corp for current events and news presented from a positive, age-appropriate perspective.

Learning about U.S. history and politics doesn’t have to be dry or dull. Include your child in thoughtful conversations and get involved in community events. Read high-quality children’s literature together and visit historical sites that interest you. These simple steps can help your children become civic-minded adults who embrace the political process.

More on Politics and Government:

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Children and politics talk