We are living in a very diverse world, and children begin noticing differences in people (and physical features) as young as 2-years-old. It’s important to teach your kids diversity so that they can appreciate similarities and differences. Teaching them through play is vital because at a young age, children learn best through model behavior and play. Here are 5 ways you can teach your kids diversity through play:
1. Steer clear of (stereotypical) gender roles
Teach your girls to have a love for math and science. For those of you that have toddlers, you must be wondering, how can I do this? Well, it’s as simple as purchasing a toddler-friendly microscope, or introducing your children to STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) through television shows (Magic School Bus, Oomi Zoomi, Wild Kratts, Blaze, etc), museum visits and home science experiments. Teach your boys how to cook and clean.
2. Language Exposure or Immersion
It’s okay if you aren’t bilingual. I’m not either! Do you remember a few words in Spanish (or another language) that you learned in high school or college? Interchange those words for English in your home. When my first daughter was a few months old, we made a practice of naming her body parts in Spanish. As she grew older and could identify the parts for herself, some of the words came out in Spanish! What a proud moment for me! If you have family members that speak another language, have your children spend time with them. The best time for a child to learn a language is under the age of 4. Not only are they increasing their vocabularies, but they are learning speech patterns and pronunciations.
3. Teach sign language
Teaching your child sign language introduces them to another area of diversity. Often times, people associate diversity with racial or cultural differences. At some point, your child is bound to encounter someone with a disability. Teaching them sign language opens the door to conversation about those who are hearing impaired. You could also turn the conversation into a history lesson and introduce Helen Keller.
4. Find books & toys that represent a variety of ethnicities/cultures
As far as toys are concerned, it’s an easier task for parents of girls because you can find dolls in a variety of shades in most places. It may pose a challenge for parents of boys to find toys that represent a variety of ethnicities or cultures. However, you can find a plethora of diverse books in your local bookstore or online.
5. Arrange playdates with people who are different from you
For those who live in a large city, on or near a military base or a university, this will be a piece of cake. For those of you in a smaller town, this may pose a challenge. However, it’s not enough that you visit cultural festivals, eat ethnic foods and discuss world events. Arranging playdates with other families who are different from your own show your children that you are making conscious and deliberate efforts to embrace the world around you. Children are not born discriminating, but often develop feelings of dislike from biases that are portrayed in media.
About The Author: Diedre Anthony
Diedre Anthony is a full time school counselor, mother and wife. In her blog Are Those Your Kids?, she focuses on her experiences raising her biracial girls in an interracial marriage. Her posts are filled with helpful tips about raising children, diversity, curly hair as well as entertaining stories and anecdotes. Several of her posts have been published by the Huffington Post.
Great tips and so important points! We’re a trilingual family so automatically do that which I think makes it already a bit easier to think outside “your own box” but we’re also big travel fans so that’s also our way of showing and meeting different people from other cultures.
This is a great post because I do believe that if children are raised with no hate in their heart it will stay that way. I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood and I’m thankful for that every day! Great post!
My cousin, who has a child, taught her sign language and I thought it was brilliant! These are great tips to make sure everything is set as a foundation!
Karen | GlamKaren.com
YES! This is SO. IMPORTANT. Great tips!
Great tips. It is important to start teaching children we are all different.
These are such great tips! As a parent of two bi-racial kids, this is something that I try to incorporate daily and in play dates with their friends!
Fantastic tips. I always like to include diverse literature in my classroom. I know kids like to see people like themselves in a book.
Thank you for sharing these tips! I think they are very helpful and important to help raise well rounded children.
Great tips. It is so good to be diverse, just in life in general. I’m going to share this.
Teaching acceptance of diversity through play is so important. Even down to the toys and the books that everyone reads. Well done you.
This is foremost in my mind as well. I always teach my kids love and patience and kindness towards others. But, we also are Christians and follow along with the teachings of the Bible.
Oh I love this!! My daughter is the girliest of girls on face value, but she is in love with all things science and math – I like to thank wild kratts for the introduction to the science side of things 🙂 My son loves his sisters ariel doll so much we are going to have to get him his own!! We try to be very conscious of incorporating diversity in our everyday life
These are great tips for parents to keep in mind. I love how free childhood seems to be from judgement, I hope that it continues for my kids as they grow.
I grew up playing with both black and white American Girl dolls. I love these tips for new Moms. It’s so vital.
I love that you’re teaching this to your kids, the world needs parents like you right now especially with what’s happening today. These are amazing ideas and it would be nice if parents everywhere applied this kind of play style.
What great tips you have given! My son recently received a baby doll from my mother and his father and I haven’t even batted an eye. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be allowed to have one just because he is a boy.
My girls have trains, dolls, Cars, Doctor Kits, and Barbies. I want them to know they aren’t limited by the gender, that everyone has possibilities.
I have actually been wanting to teach my daughter sign language for a while now. She wears hearing aids and can hear without them, but this is another language she’ll be able to speak and put on her applications.
I love that you steer clear from gender segregated roles and stereotypes. For me there is nothing wrong with a boy playing with barbies nor is it bad for girls to want to climb trees.
This is so important to teach children! I had no idea it would be so hard either to talk to the kids about this, so doing it through play is a great idea!
This is such an amazing and thoughtful post. I love this! I think it’s so important to start instilling those values and exposing children to differences early on. Thanks for sharing!
These are such great ideas and such an important topic. It’s not a topic I have ever had difficulty talking to my kids about but I know many do.
Gender roles can really put a stigma on free play. I love to see children using their imaginations wherever it may take them.