Story Time & Political Science
I’d rather not dwell on the disaster that is the American political system and the appalling drag of our current electorate, so I have to channel my rage, disgust, and fear into something productive. I think that’s all any of us can actually do in the face of dangerous ignorance: foster truth.
There’s not better way to encourage facts over fictions than to instill the importance of civic duties and political science acumen into the future generations. So I produced a Story Time for ages 3-5 about our democratic voting system. Politics is a little heavy for littles, but they can easily understand what it means to have a preference and make a selection. This story time is more or less about developing a tendency toward compromise, building awareness of others and respecting their choices, and hopefully building a platform for future civic and political interests.
Voting Counts Story Time Plan
Kids.gov is THE BEST resource in the world for teaching children about government. I used the 3 Branches of Government below to do a quick, speedy overview of our government layout. This is the type of activity for a K-5 education, so this representation was only to reiterate that the constitution grants power to different agencies, not to memorize facts.
How I taught it: Mommies, Daddies, Grandparents and Caregivers run the household. They’re in charge and they make the rules, right? The government does the same thing for our country, where we live. They’re in charge and make the rules.
The government is a BIG TREE that protects us and it has THREE BIG BRANCHES that reach out (have the children stand up and become a big tree, then reach out with their arms and straighten their necks to make the three branches.)
One branch is Legislative and makes the laws! (wiggle fingers on right arm)
One branch is Judicial and makes sure the laws are good laws (wiggle fingers on left arm)
And one branch is Executive and makes sure the laws are carried out (wiggle head back and forth)
BOOKS TO READ: Explaining Voting & Holding Office
Duck for President by Doreen Cronin
- Duck wants to take over for the farm because he just thinks he can do it better.
- Duck rallies his constituents with promises and works his way up the political ladder.
- Does a great job of outlining some of the tasks a government official has, whilst showing how little Duck actually wants to have all this responsibility.
President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett
- Unashamedly my favorite children’s author, alongside Jon Klassen.
- The children loved this historical mythic tale, from the fantastic visuals to the long-winded plans each character comes up with to get President Taft out of the bath.
- Insidiously provides job titles of important government positions that assist the President.
Grace for President by Kelly S. DiPucchio
- Grace learns in class that no female has ever been president and has the same reaction every girl has when discovering this: Wait, what? For real?
- Grace petitions for class presidency, which is a great process for kids to see.
- A beautiful book about a little girl becoming aware that change comes when we create it.
Nonfiction: Vote, a DK Eyewitness Book
- DK Eyewitness books are full of big, bright photographs that attract the busy eye.
- I leave DK Eyewitness books out for parents to peruse with their young ones, or do story walks and cherrypick facts throughout the book if I’m using them for a story time.
- The littlest of the littles will still be fascinated by the photographs.
Songs, Rhymes & Activities
Here’s a great transition song for after Duck for President: President’s have to work hard and get their hands dirty, especially when they’re working on the farm.
Icky Sticky Bubblegum by the OoeyGooeyLady (who is an actual treasure, watch all her videos on repeat, you won’t regret it.)
Icky Icky Sticky Sticky Bubble Gum
Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum
Icky Icky Sticky Sticky Bubble Gum
Make my hands stick to my LEGS! (Arms, Hair, Feet, Tongue!)
So I pull this way, I pull that way, and I pull them away!
Let the kids call out body parts and you’ll come up with some really fun movements. Make sure to mimic washing your hands at the end, going through the motions, to add some additional hygiene education.
Kid President is a wonderful YouTube personality that kids can relate to–because he’s a kid. In the video below, Kid President teaches us the simple steps to changing the world. All of his videos are wonderful classroom and children’s room additions.
Craft: Fingerprint Flag
The story time kids had fun with this one. We have washable ink pads in red and blue. Let the kids press their fingers into a flag pattern and make their own patriotic American flag. It’s a touch of fine motor skills with a dash of getting messy for fun. Just don’t forget the wet wipes!
Step by step guide with pictures from All Kids Network.
Voting Activity: Best Pet Ever
So here is where we get participatory in the kids room. I created sets of flyers and hung them around the room before the Story Time had started. Each flyer had a picture of an animal and a slogan, for example: “Vote for Puppy, I’m the fluffiest!” or “Vote for Kitty, I’m the cutest!”, or my personal favorite “Vote for Fish, I swim!”
The kids and parents each received a little voter’s ballot with a small icon picture of a puppy, a kitty, and a fish. The kids and parents each got to vote which was their favorite animal. Then they put their vote in the voter box (a makeshift shoe box I decorated with red and blue construction paper stars).
We tallied the votes together on a white board, making sure to count together out loud (bonus counting and classifying activity). Once we tallied all the votes, we announced the winner.
To my complete and total shock, Fish won.
Some of the kids huffed about their puppy or kitty not winning, but more children started talking all at once about their votes, why they had decided on which animal, and asking others what animal they had voted for. There was a healthy amount of noise, but it was all about why we voted how we voted: music to my ears.
As always, have fun and keep kids curious!
Leave comments below with any civics ideas for littles.