As parents, we should raise our kids to respect all cultures. Here are 5 simple and fun activities to Teach Kids about Diversity and Cultural Awareness.
Children often begin to notice differences at a young age, which can sometimes land parents in some very awkward situations. Questions like “Mommy why does she look like that?” are relatively common and often a parent’s natural reaction is to silence their child and change the subject as soon as possible. As adults, we have learnt that asking these types of questions in public can potentially cause offence, yet children have not yet been socially conditioned to understand this.
When your child does ask these questions, you should seize the opportunity to help your child understand and respect cultural and ethnic differences. For instance, if your child asks why someone has white skin, simply provide your child with the objective facts that will help them understand why these differences exist.
So in this case, you would explain that because their parents had white skin, they do too. If they ask why a person sounds funny or is speaking another language, explain that they may have a shared heritage and family from another country.
Through the process of teaching your child to understand other people’s cultures, they will, in turn learn about their own. In the long term this will help them learn about a wide range of other important subjects including history, ethnicity, religion and geography.
5 Activities to Teach Kids about Diversity
1. Celebrate Holidays from Different Cultures
One of the easiest and most fun ways to engage with people from others in a multicultural society is to share each other’s holiday celebrations. For Hindus, these are Diwali, Dussehra and Sankranti, for Christians, this obviously includes the likes of Easter and Christmas, while for Muslims this includes Eid Celebrations that occur shortly after the month of Ramadan.
During these periods your child may have friends that celebrate these traditions, so it’s the perfect time to teach your child about them. Where did the holiday originate? Why do people celebrate it? These are the type of questions that will really help your child gain a deeper understanding of other traditions and cultures.
2. Learning a Second Language
Teaching your child a second language is a great way to open your child up to other cultures and traditions. Kids who can speak another language are able to understand and relate to other communities at a more personal level.
As Mom Bible describes, “Being able to interact with others in their native language also means that children can actually interact with other communities at an individual level.” This certainly beats second hand accounts seen and shown on TV and other forms of mass media.
Even better is the fact that learning a second language has more than cultural benefits, there are a range of other emotional and cognitive benefits too. Besides in a global world, having a second language under their belt is bound to be an advantage in their potential academic or professional endeavors.
3. Celebrate Diversity through Reading
Reading books to kids at bedtime is an activity often enjoyed by parents and children alike. Storytelling is also a great way to introduce important concepts about identity, different cultures and traditions.
There are many fun and thoroughly enjoyable multicultural books available today that cover such topics. Some great examples include The Skin You Live In, which provides a great underlying message about accepting others, as well as Don’t Call Me Special that has a disability theme and delivers a very powerful message.
4. Learn about Cultural Etiquette
Learning about the etiquette of different cultures can really help kids gain a deeper understanding and awareness of differences. This will also help them realize that what is normal to them, may not necessarily be perceived as normal to others and vice versa.
For example, in India the left hand is considered unclean and so food is passed to others using the right hand. On the other hand, finger pointing is considered rude in Thailand, so is a big no-no.
Familiarizing children with these cultural differences can be a very enlightening experience. Key questions to ask is why they exist in the first place? And how do people respond if they are ignored?
5. Be a Positive Role Model
In order to raise a culturally sensitive and understanding child, being a positive role model is perhaps the most important factor of all. Children look up to their parents for guidance and advice, so by taking a stand against all forms of bigotry and by being culturally aware and sensitive you can really have an impact on your child’s worldview and attitude.
Remember to focus on the strengths when talking about those that are different to your child. This view concentrates on the positive traits and attributes and what they are able to achieve, as opposed to what they cannot, helping to make our world a better place.