Friday, October 26, 2018

Political Canvassing with Kids: Free Physical, Intellectual, Social, and Civic Education!

Kids are better canvassers than adults, but Google only came up with two results when I looked up "canvassing with kids."  Canvassing for a candidate is when you knock on doors on behalf of a political campaign to talk to potential voters about your candidate.  Going door-to-door is the best way for a candidate to gain voters.  Why are kids better canvassers?  Potential voters would rather talk to them than adults!

Kids can have fun canvassing.  For my 5-year old kid, canvassing for New York State Senate candidate Andrew Gounardes through StreetsPAC was one big game, and my 7-year old enjoys it, too.  The objective of the game is to talk to potential voters and to do that, you have to find the home, run up the steps, ring the doorbell, speak to people or leave campaign literature.  You tally the homes you visited to find out you won the game no matter what.

Kids enjoy the game, but there are also hidden benefits in canvassing:  Family bonding, getting exercise, working as a member of a team, practicing numbers, increasing social interaction with all types of people, learning about civic engagement, and feeling connected to the political process, which many people find abstract.

There is a lot of walking up lots of stairs, skipping along the sidewalks, strolling blocks, jumping to reach the buzzers.  It doesn't seem like work because there's a surprise at each door.  Will they be home?  Will they have a dog?  What will they say?

My daughter was thrilled to find the next residence, open the gates, knock on the doors and figure out the best way to leave the campaign literature behind (but don't put it in the mailbox because it's illegal).

I want my kids to be comfortable starting up conversation and talking to a variety of people of all ages.  I don't want my kids to fear people who don't look like them.  When we connect face-to-face and start a conversation, magic happens.  We have fewer opportunities to talk to people today and I look for opportunities like this to connect IRL.

Showing my kids how to be a part of a team is important to me.  When canvassing with a group, there is a leader, a team, instructions and splitting up the work.  It's a cooperative experience and a supportive environment.  During the process, my daughter asked questions and felt her voice was as important as those of the grownups'.

I hope my kids grow up feeling that being involved in community is just second nature.  I hope it's not a chore to vote, but that it's just what they do.  I want them to feel their voice and participation matters and that it's fun.

I had a lot of fun with my daughter and our canvassing buddy.  After the couple of hours, which went by really fast, we ended the experience with a treat at the bakery to celebrate our participation.  We are working on setting up a canvassing playdate with other families, which will make the experience even more fun.

Here are my tips if you are thinking about canvassing with your kids:

-Make sure that the group you canvass with gets and appreciates the idea of kids canvassing and is accommodating.  (For example, you might need to canvass closer to the headquarters, so you're not trekking far away.)  If they don't give a family-friendly vibe, I'd work with a different group, because canvassing should be a positive experience for all.  StreetsPAC bought lunch for its volunteers, which was a very nice gesture.  Make sure whoever you may canvass with appreciates volunteers and families.  It's not usually going to be lunch, but you should feel good after the experience.

-Take snacks, water and layers (and sun protection when needed)

-Make it a game.  Do the thing that works for your kid's personality, so if they're shy, they don't have to talk to the potential voters.

-Go on a nice day, if possible.  Why make it taxing.

-Make canvassing even more fun and memorable by taking a friend, ending the canvassing at a playground and/or treat.

-Frame and debrief.  The volunteer leader at StreetsPAC was great because she framed why canvassing was important and encouraged us to share what was positive about the experience, ensuring that we reflected on the experience and also knew that the work we did was meaningful.

-Pass it on.  Encourage others to participate by sharing your experience online and in person.

No comments:

Post a Comment