Inaugurations are historic occasions. Occasions that often change the course of history in America and around the world. But they are also wonderful opportunities to expose your youngsters to American history and good old-fashioned American democracy. After all, there is perhaps no stronger testament to our democracy than the image of the former president and the next president standing side-by-side, peaceably and respectfully, during this incredible moment of transition. With a little help, even preschoolers can begin to appreciate the importance of the moment. There is so much that they can learn from it -- sportsmanship; what it means to pledge to work your best for the best interests of the whole country; the roles of the different branches of government, and more. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Wow!
Whether you live close enough to witness the swearing-in first hand or thousands of miles away, we have assembled a few activities and ideas to help you make the most of this teachable moment with your family.
Children's Inaugural Ball
As it turns out, balls are not just for grown-ups. If you are fortunate enough to live near Washington, D.C., or hearty enough to travel there in the middle of winter, you and your kids might have attended an inauguration ball designed especially for kids! Organized by The Every Child Matters Education Fund (ECMEF), the Children's Ball took place last Sunday afternoon at the Historical Society of Washington. The Ball had live music and entertainment, games, interactive exhibits, play areas, story-time and puppet stage, children's mini-classes, and recorded history activities, including banners and displays of how earlier presidents helped improve the well-being of children and families over the last century. Your kids will surely be sad to have missed it, but we bet they'll still be pretty proud that it happened!
Visit Union Station. President-elect Obama and Vice-president elect Biden will kick off inaugural festivities with a train ride to Washington, D.C. Security will undoubtedly be tight at their arrival, but Union Station will be decked out for the occasion and adults and kids will be able to see the train that the President traveled in as well as take in some of the other presidential history of the train station.
Watch the inauguration on television
The inaugural will be covered live by all of the major networks, but for the first time ever, Nickelodeon will broadcast a "kid-perspective" coverage of the inauguration. It just might be the right speed for your kids.
Check out the White House Kids website. It is chock-full of kid-accessible information about the White House and the presidency, and features funny webcams from current White House pet Barney the Dog. Watch Barney's tour of the White House all decked out for the holidays. It is a kick!
Read about presidents and the White House
And, of course, there are books that can help you introduce your children to the Presidency. Woodrow, the White House Mouse offers a fun "insight' into life at the White House.
President Adams' Alligator and Other White House Pets walks your kids through presidential history through the lives of the pets who have lived in the White House pets.
Originally published in 2009.
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