Because of society’s interest and media coverage of local, state and national elections, children may be exposed to political campaigns and conversations about political candidates and parties in the U.S. The curiosity of children about how our political system works is only natural considering the barrage of campaign talk, especially during national elections. It can be difficult, however, to keep the political conversation from going over a child’s comprehension level so it is important to discuss who the Republicans and Democrats are in a way that children can understand.
Number party hats 1 to 5 with the crayons. For parents, just give one hat to each child.
Explain to the children that their hat represents the political party they are in.
Gather the children into the group corresponding to the number on their hat. Parents should have each child work independently.
Tell the children what a political party is. Political parties, according to The Democracy Project, are “groups of people who share the same political opinions and want their government to make decisions in a certain way.”
Show children the pictures of the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant and explain how these animals represent the characteristics of each party. The donkey represents “humility, courage, and stubbornness” according to Kevin Markey of "Wondertime" magazine. Markey explains the elephant represents “strength, intelligence, dignity.”
Ask the children to create their own political party. Have the groups discuss what common beliefs they share and have them incorporate those beliefs into their party. Individuals should write down their beliefs and name their party as well.
Have the groups, or individual children, pick an animal to represent what their political party means to them.
Invite the class or children to design a poster that uses their party name and their animal and have the children explain their political party to the rest of the class, or to the rest of the family if the project is being done at home.
Visit the official websites of each political party, if necessary, to help you discuss the differences between the two major parties. The Republican Party website can be found at gop.com, while the Democratic Party's site is at democrats.org. Explain to the children in simple terms what the Republican and Democratic parties stand for. Discuss how the views of Republicans and Democrats differ. Try to keep the topic unbiased so that each child is able to make up his or her own mind about which views he or she agrees most strongly with.
Bryan Clark has been a freelance writer since 2002. His work has appeared in "The New York Times," "USA Today" and the U.K.'s biggest paper—"The Guardian," amongst other, smaller publications.