Kids are curious, and questions like "Why is her hair lighter than mine?" are likely to occur in the classroom at some point. In fact, children as young as six months of age begin to notice differences in how people look. As preschoolers explore and make sense of the world around them, it's completely natural for them to inquire about their observations regarding appearances of classmates, teachers and parents.
As a teacher or center director, it can fall on you to instill the appreciation for diversity. Rather than shying away from these questions, approach them with a thoughtful discussion that leads to understanding and acceptance. Every student you teach is special, and it's important to celebrate that uniqueness.
Here are some tips for introducing diversity into preschool classrooms. These age-appropriate ideas and methods will help kids develop a better understanding of each other:
Take a trip around the world: Develop curriculum for different regions or countries. Use weekly/monthly themes to talk about culture and customs from across the globe.
Create self-portraits: Have kids create self-portraits and then display them proudly in the classroom. Then talk about the differences and why each child is unique. Encourage questions and conversation about diversity.
Get to know parents: Teachers who get to know their students' families are able to connect on a deeper level. What's more, invite parents who are interested to come in and talk about their cultural heritage!
Try different snacks: Preschoolers love snack time. Once a week try a new snack from a different country.
Celebrate holidays: Go beyond the traditional American holidays and celebrate different ethnic holidays throughout the year. Kids adore a celebration, and it's a natural way to talk about diversity.
Celebrate diversity months: Although it is Diversity Awareness Month now, there are specific months throughout the year that correlate with different heritages and diversity considerations. Click here for a guide.
Learn a new language: Learning basic phrases of a foreign language can help kids gain a deeper cultural understanding. Learn to say hello in Mandarin Chinese. Count to 10 in Spanish. Ask "how are you?" in Arabic.
Lead by example: Kids are little sponges soaking up everything they see and hear. Adults must be role models by demonstrating cultural understanding and appreciation for diversity. Preschoolers will follow suit.
Always answer questions: Even seasoned teachers can be thrown off guard by a student's difficult question about diversity. If you're not sure how to answer immediately, say you need to think about that question and will get back to them.
Keep in mind, a lack of response can make a child think it's not OK to talk about differences. Of course you want them to always feel comfortable talking to you and acknowledging diversity, so this response is appropriate and helpful. Just remember to follow through and respond in a timely manner.
Want to introduce diversity into your preschool classroom? These smart tips to teach diversity to children will guide you to success.