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Friday, January 6, 2017

9 Ways to Teach Kids to Embrace and Respect Diversity

Photo by The Irish Labour Party (Flickr)

Kids as young as four can exhibit racial prejudice. What a shocking statistic! It makes me even more determined to teach my girls to embrace, appreciate, respect, and celebrate diversity. Here are nine ways we as parents, teachers, and caregivers can encourage our kids to value the races, cultures, traditions, languages, religions, and behaviors that make the people in our world unique.

Read Books

While my girls and I enjoy reading for entertainment, I also appreciate books because they're educational. Several children's books help kids understand differences, learn about other cultures, and embrace their identity.

  • All Kinds of Families by Mary Ann Hoberman
  • I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr.
  • I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes
  • It's OK to Be Different by Todd Parr
  • Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer
  • The Color of Us by Karen Katz
  • The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
  • Why Am I Different? by Norma Simon
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Explore the Globe

I'd love to pack a suitcase and travel the world with my kids someday, but for now, we spin a globe and choose a random country to explore each week. We also discuss current events and talk to our friends, family members, and neighbors who have lived or traveled internationally. Exploring the globe in these ways gives my kids exposure to different cultures, practices, and traditions.

Sample International Cuisine

Last weekend, one of our neighbors taught my girls and me how to prepare falafel. Yum! Cooking and eating international cuisine together is a fun way to bond. It also helps kids appreciate other cultures. The next time you make a new dish, choose a restaurant, or visit a festival, sample international cuisine.

Introduce a Variety of Toys and Games

Maximize your child's play time with diverse toys and games. I suggest disability dolls, non-gendered toys, and games from other cultures. These activities help kids learn about and appreciate other people, behaviors, and lifestyles all while having fun!

Participate in Local Cultural Activities

My girls know that if there's a cultural festival, parade, or event in town, we'll attend. I love meeting new people, observing other cultural traditions, and showing my girls diversity in action. If you can't find cultural activities in your area, create your own celebration complete with international foods, costumes, and games.

Listen to Music

Around the world, music plays an integral role in daily life, religious ceremonies, and cultural celebrations. Increase appreciation and understanding of other cultures when you download, listen to, and discuss a variety of music. We often use Pandora or YouTube to expand our family's music playlist.

Dress Up

My younger daughter recently saw a woman wearing a burka, and she asked me a dozen questions about it. That experience prompted me to use dress-up and dramatic play to help my girls understand how and why people wear burkas, yarmulkes, saris, and other diverse clothing. Add these items, wigs, accessories, and other cultural clothing to your dress-up bin as you promote cultural awareness and appreciation.

Visit Museums

Art, history, and cultural museums offer educational and entertaining opportunities to learn more about others. My parents invited us to explore an African textile exhibit at their local museum, and it's absolutely stunning. Make a date today to visit a museum in your town or participate in virtual museum tours as you discover the ways other people create, think, and live.

Model Diversity

Kids will imitate their parents, teachers, and caregivers. Let's consider our attitudes and prejudices and examine our friendships, reactions to current events, and jokes. We may need to make changes or step out of our comfort zones as we embrace and model diversity and teach our kids to do the same.

It's our responsibility as adults to teach our children to embrace, respect, and celebrate diversity, and we can do that while having fun. In addition to these nine suggestions, what other activities can you use to teach your kids about diversity?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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