How to Make Civics Fun

By Crystal Ladwig, Ph. D.
Child touching a globe

As we enter a new election season (which seems to last for years these days), civics education is at the is at the forefront of our conversations. Homeschoolers stereotypically (but truly) love to take advantage of real-world situations and turn those into learning opportunities. So, how do we make civics fun for our kids?

Make it a project

All kids have things they wish they could control in the family. Perhaps they want more gaming time, more allowance, or more visits to their favorite restaurant. Turn their wants into a project that even younger children can participate in. Your children become the legislature, where they pass laws for the family. They must work together to write the “law” and vote on it. Then, it’s up to the president (a parent) to sign or veto the law. After a law has been passed, pretend it has been challenged. Children may advocate for or against the law, ultimately ruled upon by the judge (another parent or person). The judge rules on the law’s constitutionality (i.e., whether it fits with family rules and values).

This project helps make civics fun and allows kids to have a voice in the family, possibly get some things they want and learn about the three branches of government.

Make it real

Civics is boring for many kids when it’s abstract. Make it real by watching the news together. When there’s an issue that your kids feel strongly about, work with them to write a letter to their legislators advocating for their position. Legislators often reply to those letters when kids handwrite them.

Learning civics in real-time through real situations helps to make it more concrete and more easily understood. In addition, as kids see the process unfolding the same way for different issues, they begin to learn how our civic process works without a long lesson.

Make it a challenge

Don’t be afraid to talk about complex or polarizing topics as appropriate. For example, you may discuss immigration policy with your kids and debate border policies, citizenship requirements, or legal issues you see discussed in the news. Discuss the moral, ethical, and political implications of different policies.

Challenge your kids to debate topics. The catch: they must advocate for and against each position. C-SPAN’s Classroom Deliberations can help you get started.

Make it current

During election seasons like the one we’re entering now, watch news segments, speeches, or debates (depending on the age/maturity level) or read news articles. Then, at several points throughout the election, have each family member vote for the candidate of their choice. Then, talk about why they picked that person and how their opinions change over time.

When an election occurs in your community, take your kids with you to watch you vote. Perhaps your kids can fill out their own ballots that you bring at the same time. Polling locations typically give kids “I voted” stickers to wear, too. This will make civics more fun for them.

Follow your kids’ lead

Learning opportunities abound if you keep your eyes and ears open. When your kids show an interest in a topic, slow down and follow their lead. They’ll learn much more, they’ll have fun, and you’ll have valuable time with your kids while teaching them how to be contributing citizens.

Related articles

How to Pack a Low-Sugar Lunch for Your Child

The Dating Game: Is Your Teen Ready?

Featured Teacher