Now more than ever, it is important that we nurture young children to be accepting of those who are different than them. The world is becoming more connected each day, and raising the next generation to be kind, open-minded and compassionate toward others will help lead to a bright future. At the same time, teaching preschoolers to approach differences in this way can seem like a lofty task.
One of the best ways to help young children understand and embrace all forms of diversity is to speak openly and honestly about the differences between people. Children are naturally curious – observing and investigating everything around them. They will likely point out a person who is different from them in some way and ask questions about it. In fact, children as early as 6 months old begin to recognize differences in skin color and hair textures.
Race and culture are more complex concepts and can be difficult for children to comprehend. But no matter what the difference is, having open conversations with your child can help him or her understand, respect and value not only the differences between people, but also the similarities that we all share. Click here for a few helpful tips when talking to your child about differences.
There are other ways to help children learn about differences as well, particularly with physical traits and cultures. It is a two-step process: first, children must learn to recognize the traits and customs that make them unique; then, with a little encouragement, they will be able to recognize and celebrate what makes others special.
Helping Children Understand Themselves
Children begin to notice identifying physical features when they are very young. They will often closely examine one of their features, such as hair color, texture or length, and then compare it to those around them. At Primrose, we use a variety of curriculum activities and lessons to help children better understand their unique traits:
Because 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. For example, our Celebrating Cultures activities ask children to examine their own customs and rituals. Parents can then discuss with their little ones how the customs and rituals in their own families may be similar and/or different from those of their friends, neighbors and classmates.
Helping Children Celebrate Others
Once children become aware of their own culture and physical attributes, they will likely ask more questions about the appearances and customs of others. As your child begins to notice these differences, you can ask questions to help him or her appreciate diversity. Following are examples of questions to encourage understanding and appreciation:
- Can you name different eye colors? Which of our friends or family members have blue eyes, brown eyes, etc.?
- Can you name different hair textures, lengths and styles? Who in our family has curly hair, straight hair, short hair, etc.?
- Which of our friends or family members are short, tall or medium-height?
- Isn’t it great that we all have some likes, appearances and skills that are the same and some that are different? How nice that we each have something that makes us special and unique!
As you ask your child questions, remind him or her that everyone has different features, but we are all the same inside. Here are a few related books to enjoy with your little one:
- It’s Okay to Be Different – Todd Parr
- Eyes, Nose, Fingers and Toes: A First Book All About You – Judy Hindley
- The Colors of Us – Karen Katz
- Whoever You Are – Mem Fox
- What I Like About Me! – Allia Zobel Nolan
Having open, positive conversations about differences with young children helps lay the foundation for lifelong confidence, acceptance and respect for others. With a little encouragement, your little one will develop an appreciation for the diversity that makes the world a better, more interesting place.