With the U.S. presidential election right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to introduce kids to the topic of voting. The good news: There’s no need to get political! You can let kids vote on what to have for snack, what to read at bedtime, and even whether to take the shortcut or the scenic route home. Even better, counting up votes is great for early math skills, and helps kids understand the idea of democracy, too.
Here are a couple of ways to let your kids get a taste of the democratic process with simple graphing and tracking activities. Start by picking a no-lose topic (or you may end up being outvoted and baking cookies for dinner!). Then count ‘em up with these three play-based learning activities:
OPTION 1: Stack them up
Give each child one wooden block (all of the same size). On a piece of construction paper, write (or draw) the options up for a vote. Then lay the paper flat and ask the kids to stack their blocks on the option of their choice. Tallest stack wins! (Mix it up: Give kids more than one block and allow them to split their vote between different “candidates.”)
Use an abacus–preferably one with brightly colored beads, such as Melissa & Doug’s Classic Abacus. Slide all the beads to one side, then label the different rows (however many you need) with the voting options. Ask the voters to slide across a bead on the row of their choice. (Mix it up: Ask the kids to slide across two beads for each vote, then analyze the results counting by twos.)
OPTION 3: Graph it
Make your own graph paper by drawing gridlines on an oversize piece of paper. (Melissa & Doug’s Easel Pad features 50 big sheets of white paper that’s perfect for this.) Write or draw one of the voting choices at the top of each column, then let the kids use crayons or markers to vote by filling in one of the boxes. (Mix it up: Transfer the results onto a pie graph to explore a different kind of graphing!)
All of these options can be adapted to suit your family–and your election. Try leaving voting open all day long, or rotating through the different setups to hold multiple flash-votes throughout the weekend. Whichever method you choose to elect your next pizza topping or the President of the Teddy Bears, we vote for playtime as the best way to learn together! (Go, playtime!)