Teaching children to become well-rounded members of society is a big responsibility. Regardless of whether you are a parent or educator, it takes a careful and considerate approach to do this, as we all want to live in a world where we feel accepted and safe. Regardless of their age, there are many fun and simple ways to help foster attitudes of equality and tolerance that will help children become balanced individuals as they grow up.
Losing yourself in a story is a beautiful way to discover this and other worlds, and the same goes for children. Giving your children access to various books and stories with a whole range of characters is a terrific way to help them realize that the world is full of many different people capable of doing many incredible things. And it’s not just fiction books that can help young children as there is an increasing wealth of factual books aimed at young children covering topics such as women who have done amazing things throughout history and African Americans who have played essential roles in science. Reading together will help reinforce that adults see the value in learning about various people in the child’s mind.
Children love learning by playing and pretending, and it is effortless to incorporate games that normalize different people as a part of everyday life. Some games, such as Guess Who, have long had characters of different ethnicities, making the game work much better; however, many games have not been so good at variety. By choosing to include games such as a diversity matching game into your games cupboard, no matter your family’s background, it will feel normal to your children that there is a vast range of people in the world who are all equal to each other. Playing like this will also encourage children to mix up their imaginative play by having a range of characters in their heads that they can draw on when creating games, either alone or with friends.
Food of the world
Introduce children to foods from other parts of the world to help them understand that what they eat at home isn’t what children from different cultures necessarily eat daily. Doing so has the added benefit of widening a child’s diet as trying a variety of foods is recommended for good health. The foods you try don’t need to be complicated and fancy, and it can be as simple as trying different fruits with your lunch or ordering a new dish from your favorite Indian restaurant. Use it as a conversation starter, and when you’re unsure of the answer, look it up together. Learning about why certain herbs are used in Thai food can teach a lot about the country.
Put on some popcorn and get cozy with a good movie together. More and more movie makers are trying to cast a diverse range of people in films and write characters with a broader range of lifestyles. Talk together about how a female lead has an empowering storyline and why this is important for equality, and recognizing that females should have equal rights and opportunities to men. Just enjoying the movie exposes children to casts that have people of different colors and religions in them and will unconsciously reinforce that it is normal for there to be all manner of people in the world doing all kinds of things. Old movies now often have a disclaimer about outdated attitudes that are depicted in them; this is another good conversation starter for discussing how attitudes have changed.
Respect starts at home.
Children need to feel respected and secure to give respect back to others, so be sure to invest time in building your children’s confidence in themselves and earning their respect. Teaching and reinforcing this will happen in the way that you speak and act to them, such as listening when they talk to you, giving praise when it’s due, and letting them make decisions where appropriate. Putting boundaries in place and using relevant discipline is also important here because a child who has free reign and never has boundaries enforced will not respect the adults letting this happen. But when a child is shown that balance of love and guidance, they learn respect for themselves and others and can better understand how to treat all people from all walks of life in the same way they like being treated.