Now more than ever, it is important that we nurture young children to be accepting of those who are different from them.
The world is becoming more connected each day, and raising the next generation to be kind, open-minded and compassionate toward others, regardless of background, will help lead to a bright future.
Race and culture are abstract concepts and can be difficult for young children to comprehend. Although teaching preschoolers to embrace differences may appear to be a lofty task, it is possible. Children as early as 6 months old begin to recognize differences in skin color and hair textures. Having open conversations with your child can help him understand, respect, and value not only the differences between people, but also the similarities that we all share.
Children are naturally curious. They will likely innocently point out a person who is different from them and ask questions about them. One of the best ways to help young children understand and embrace differences is to speak openly and honestly about the differences between people, and then follow up with a statement about how people are the same. Perhaps they have similar interests or traditions. All people have feelings like happiness and sadness, frustration and joy. With your modeling and a little encouragement, your child will be able to recognize and celebrate what makes others special.
Helping Your Child Understand Self
Children begin to notice identifying physical features when they are very young. They will often closely examine one of their features — such as hair length, color, or texture — and then compare it to others around them. At Primrose, we use a variety of curriculum activities and lessons to help children better understand their unique traits.
Because most children experience and learn their culture through family, at Primrose, our exclusive Balanced Learning® approach provides a blend of classroom and at-home activities to support and engage families in getting to know one another. For example, through our Celebrating Cultures experiences, the children examine their own customs and traditions and compare them to those practiced by other families in the classroom. We encourage parents to discuss with their little ones how the customs and traditions in their own families may be similar to and different from those of their friends, neighbors, and classmates. These discussions can nurture confidence and compassion in the children.
Helping Your Child Celebrate Others
Once your child becomes aware of your family’s culture and physical attributes, take time to look in a mirror together and ask your child questions such as those following to encourage understanding and appreciation for others:
- What color of eyes do you have? What color of eyes do I have? Which of our friends or family members have the same color of eyes? Who has different color of eyes? Does the color of our eyes affect the way we see?
- What is the color of your hair? What is the color of my hair? Who in our family has the same color of hair? Who has a different hair color? Who in our family has curly hair? straight hair? short hair? long hair? Does the color, length, or texture of our hair make us like different things?
- Which of our friends or family members are short? tall? medium height?
- Isn’t it special that we all have some interests, appearances and skills that are the same and some that are different?
As you ask your child questions, remind her that while everyone has different features, we all have similar feelings inside. Here are a few related books to enjoy with your little one:
- “It’s Okay to Be Different” by Todd Parr
- “Eyes, Nose, Fingers, and Toes: A First Book All About You” by Judy Hindley
- “The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz
- “Whoever You Are” by Mem Fox
- “What I Like About Me!” by Allia Zobel Nolan
Having open, positive conversations about similarities and differences with young children helps lay the foundation for lifelong confidence, acceptance, and respect for others. With a little encouragement, your child will develop an appreciation for the differences that makes the world a better, more interesting place.
At Primrose Schools, we are committed to fostering a welcoming environment for all.