In our ever-evolving world, it is important that we help young children understand that each person is unique in their abilities, beliefs and traditions, and they are important as individuals. Raising the next generation to be kind, respectful and compassionate toward others, regardless of background or appearance, will help create a positive environment for all.
Children are naturally curious and are remarkably good at observing differences around them. This is an important learning strategy. As early as 6 months old, children begin to recognize differences in skin color and hair textures. Around age 2 or 3, they may innocently point out a person who has different characteristics and ask questions about them. What can we say when this happens?
We can support our children as they make sense of differences by talking to them about what they observe. Your child might notice that their friend’s skin is lighter or darker than their skin. You can explain that everyone’s skin is a different color, just like our hair and eye color are unique to us. We are all human, each with a unique set of characteristics.
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 modeling and a little encouragement, your child will be able to recognize and celebrate what makes everyone special.
Be open to your child’s questions and curiosity about differences they notice. You don’t need to have all of the answers, but it is most important to be willing to have a conversation.
Celebrating Similarities and Differences at Primrose
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, families are invited to come into the classroom to share their own customs and traditions. 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 Similarities and Differences
Affirm your child’s observational skills by encouraging them to notice and reflect on what they see. You may want to take time to look in a mirror together and ask your child questions such as those following:
- What color eyes do you have? What color eyes do I have? Which of our friends or family members have the same color eyes? Who has eyes of a different color? 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?
- What do you like to do? What do other family members like to do? Isn’t it special that we all have some interests, appearances and skills that are the same and some that are different?
As you talk with your child, remind them that while everyone has different features, interests or traditions, 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
- “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 make the world a better, more interesting place.
At Primrose Schools, we are committed to fostering a welcoming environment for all.
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