Politics is much broader than just which party to vote for. We can include political ideas of free speech, due process, fairness, equality, voting and participation in all sorts of ways in an early childhood education setting.

Here are some ideas to get you started. We’d love to hear what else you get up to in a comment below, or on our Facebook page.

Hold a vote!

Teachers might not be up for re-election, but I bet there’s something you could hold a referendum on.

Are you thinking of rearranging the furniture? Ordering some new books or learning resources? Planning to paint a fence? You can turn these proposals into a democratic process the children can participate in.

Explain the idea of voting: everyone gets to have their say, and whichever option has the most people wanting it is what we’re going to do.

Have a discussion of the issues together. What are the pros and cons of these books or paint colours or furniture changes? Encourage every child to share their ideas.

Make a voting booth that creates a confidential ballot – confidentiality is important for people to be able to make free decisions without anyone else’s influence, and without worrying that there will be bad consequences if other people find out.

You could print up ballot papers with words and pictures, and boxes for the children to tick or colour in to indicate their vote – make sure you do some practising together first. Or you could use a stamp-pad for people to vote with their fingerprints, as happens in some parts of the world.

If you’d like to avoid paper altogether, you could vote with blocks or marbles and different buckets representing the different options. Each child gets one block and goes behind a screen to put it in the bucket they prefer.

Whatever method you choose, let everyone be involved in counting the votes. What excitement!

Two children writing

Make your voices heard!

What do the children in your community care about? Are they champion recyclers, or worried about climate change? Do they care about local wildlife or the state of playgrounds near you?

They don’t need to be able to write a ten-page submission to Parliament to make their voices heard. Depending on what’s appropriate in your community, how about trying something like one of these ideas?

  • Hold a rally for something your children care about – either an important local issue, or just something non-controversial, like careful driving, access to clean water, or looking after beaches.

    Make signs or pictures, practise a simple chant or two, and get your march on! You could stay inside your own fence and do it as a play activity or even get out into the community and be visible.

    Of course, be sure to consult families carefully if you want to do something that could be controversial, public, or aligned with a specific political party.

 

  • Invite children to make artworks showing how much they love their local beach, forest, or some native animals. Deliver either their paintings (or whatever they’ve created) or photos of them to your mayor, or other political representatives, or to a relevant department of government. You don’t have to be protesting or submitting on any particular piece of law or policy, you could just be reminding adults in power that children care about these things.  
  • Invite a local politician or civil servant to come to your centre and talk briefly about what they do – and perhaps read some stories! Make sure there’s time for children to share their opinions and say what they care about. You could also make thank you cards for a local politician, for serving the public.

Group of children sitting on a porch

 

Bring democracy to the playground

You can help children incorporate grown-up ideas of democracy even in their imaginary play.

Are there children playing ‘police’ a lot at the moment? You can suggest expanding their play to include due process! Let them know that real police officers don’t send people to jail, they have to bring people to a judge. Practise some restorative justice – give the ‘baddie’ the chance to apologise and make things right.

Of course, you’ll need to make sure you’re playing by these rules yourselves as teachers and parents. Do you make sure children are heard before they’re sentenced? Does everyone get to have their say about decisions that will affect them?

Democracy is for everyone!

Two children dressed as Spiderman and Captain America

We’d love to hear what you think about all of this. Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Thalia Kehoe RowdenThalia Kehoe Rowden was a Playcentre kid before attending St John’s Hill Kindergarten in Whanganui, New Zealand. Some time later, she became a Baptist church minister, then a mother and a writer. She now lives with her husband and two small children in Wellington, New Zealand, and knows more about dinosaurs and astronomy than ever before. You can follow her on TwitterFacebook, and her parenting, spirituality and social justice website, Sacraparental.

Posted by Sonya McIntyre

Sonya went to Rata Street Kindergarten and Petone kindergarten. She gained her Bachelor of Education at Victoria University in Wellington and has worked as an educator and manager in home based care, community based and kindergarten services.


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