How to Explain Primary Elections to Children: 6 Steps
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A quick lesson about elections may interest a young child, especially if the whole country is talking about them.

Candidates duking it out in the election arena usually captivate the attention of the entire nation. Your kids aren’t immune to this excitement, especially if you’re glued to the television watching the debates and polling returns. Get your kids on board by explaining how primary elections work. You may need to brush up on your own civics knowledge before you can educate your kids, but that’s a good thing.


  1. 1
    Give a simple overview of the election process. People who have ideas and plans for fixing problems and running the government have to run for election and persuade people to vote for them. If they get enough votes, they can win the election and get the job they want.
  2. 2
    Hit on the two major political groups — the Democrats and Republicans. No need to get too complicated, but explain that each group has a different way of approaching issues and solving problems. A summary of the political parties in a nutshell might be, “Republicans usually want less government interference and Democrats usually want more government involvement.”
  3. 3
    Explain that sometimes lots of people want the same government position. Use the presidency as an example to help kids understand. You can say, “Often, a bunch of people think they have the solutions to the country’s problems and they all want to be president. When this happens, Americans need a way to choose only the two most popular people — one from each political party — for people to choose between.”
  4. 4
    Tell kids that primaries happen early in an election race to eliminate the candidates who aren’t popular with the people. On a special day, voters go to polling places to vote for the candidate they want to win.
  5. 5
    Explore the results of the primary election. After the voters vote and the officials count all the votes, the most popular Republican and the most popular Democrat will get the go-ahead to keep campaigning. The fancy term for this is “receiving the nomination” from the political party. This is a special celebration where each party gets fired up and celebrates their candidate.
  6. 6
    Talk about what happens after the candidates win the primary. Explain that after the primaries finish and the votes choose the two most popular candidates, these candidates work hard to get as many votes as they can in the general election. Tell kids that the general election is the big one where one of the two remaining candidates will win the race and get the job.


  • You might want to touch on the differences between primaries in local and national races. In a local race, the primary would decide which two candidates move on to the general election. In a national race, there would be a number of primaries and the most popular candidates from all of the primaries would move on to the general election.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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