Election 2012 has been a wonderful time to have an 11-year-old. Thanks to the biting political ads, my son has been asking questions like, "Dad, why does Candidate X want to kill jobs?" Then we discuss the purpose of the political ad that prompted his question, and the opposing candidates' views on economic policy and job growth. Same goes for the car rides home after he hangs out with a friend whose dad is ultra-political. The whole ride this weekend was a discussion about the arguments for and against the voter ID amendment.
Election Night, by comparison, might be a buzzkill for kids. Like a World Series game 7, the presidential election probably won't be concluded until well after my kids' usual bed times. Here are some ideas for how to make the evening fun, even if you don't plan to let your kids stay up until a winner has been declared.
1) Check out KidsPost at the Washington Post. Ed Henry, the chief White House correspondent for Fox News Channel, recommended this one. The page will feature stories and activities all Tuesday to help make the election interesting and relevent for kids.
2) See who the kids would really vote for in the presidential race. Your kids might be surprised to know there are candidates other than "Bronco Bamma" and Mitt Romney. Go to the Project Vote Smart VoteEasy feature with your kids and see who they would support based on their views on issues.
3) As the TV commentators talk on and on, stage your own debates with your kids. If they're really young, ask fun questions like whether they support dogs or cats, and why! If they're older, challenge them with actual campaign issues and see if they can put up arguments for their beliefs.
4) Track the Electoral votes in visual ways. Print out blank U.S. state maps for younger kids and have them color in states red or blue when their results are declared. Or, buy a big bag of M&Ms (or use those Halloween leftovers) and put out two glasses for your kids. When a state is declared for a candidate, have your kid put the appropriate amount of M&Ms into either the Romney jar or the Obama jar.
5) This blog had the fun idea of Election Night bingo. Create cards for you and your kids with words on them that are likely to be said during the election TV coverage (Obama, Romney, electoral, Ohio, etc.)
By the time the networks are calling Minnesota, I'll probably be urging my kids to go to bed. Henry, who has two kids about the same age as my kids, said he'll be a little more lenient.