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Teach children about U.S. presidents

David LaRochelle

It's not every day that a 5-year-old gets to take her 101-year-old great-grandmother to school. Honored guest Vi Martinson was welcomed and seated in front of a circle of exuberant kindergartners to chat informally about her horse-and-buggy childhood.

When one boy eagerly asked if she had ever met George Washington, without missing a beat and with a trademark twinkle in her eye, she responded: "Well, dear, he lived on the East Coast of the United States, and I lived here in California, so we never had the opportunity to meet! But I understand he was a very fine man."

While most of us have never met a president, past or present, our top elected leader commands a great deal of our attention and thought, especially as we count down to Election Day. Take this window of opportunity to teach your children about our presidents, our government and the coming presidential election. Turn off the nonstop election chatter and tune in to your own family conversations, and you'll find opportunities to talk about our presidential candidates and the issues that affect your family and community.

All about presidents

Find books on your own shelves or at the library and read biographies of past presidents. Contact grandparents and ask them to talk about the presidents who were in office when they were young. Talk about the issues those presidents faced, then compare them with life today.

Learn about the candidates

Making lists is fun for kids. Cut out pictures of the presidential candidates from a magazine or this newspaper and glue them across the top of a large sheet of poster board you can hang on the wall. Write their names next to the photos. Under each name jot down information about them in list format. Start with some easy facts: What's the name of each candidate's wife? Who are his children? What state is he from?

As Nov. 2 draws near, keep the "Top 10 List" handy and jot down new things your family learns as you follow along their campaign trails.

Parenting tip: Tell your children when and where you voted for the first time. Calculate the year when they will be old enough to vote in a presidential election.

Write Donna with your questions and ideas at Donna's latest book, "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families," is available in bookstores nationwide. © Donna Erickson Dist. by King Features Syndicate