Helping Young Children Understand Differences
By: Dr. Pratiksha Rigley
Franchise Owner, Primrose Schools of Frisco West, Klyde Warren Park, Park Cities, Plano at Preston Meadow, Prestonwood, Waco at Woodway, and Temple
Does it ever seem like “why?” is your child’s favorite word? It’s completely natural for children to ask a lot of questions, and young children are particularly curious about differences - why another child’s skin is lighter or darker than their own or why some people speak another language. As children begin to notice these differences, talking openly about them and encouraging acceptance will help children develop an appreciation and respect for others.
Young children learn about differences through a two-step process. First, they must learn to recognize the traits and customs that make them unique. Then, with a little guidance, children will be able to recognize and embrace what makes others special. Following are five at-home activities to help children understand and appreciate differences.
• Share Your Family History. Show pictures of family members and talk about each person. Children love and remember stories, so share a favorite story or something you remember about each person. This builds your child’s awareness of family history and culture.
• Create a Self-Portrait. An art project is a fun way to help children understand their unique traits. As you point out different physical features, like hair length and eye color, ask your child to draw him or herself accordingly. Afterward, ask your child to draw his or her best friend or a family member, asking similar questions about the person’s appearance. Have your child name a few similarities and differences between the two drawings.
• Listen to Music. Play music from your family’s country of origin or your region of the United States and share favorite songs you sang as a child. Then play music from other cultures or parts of the country and ask your child to identify the similarities and differences.
• Read a Book. Reading to children is one of the best ways to introduce them to people of different origins from all over the world. Characters and storylines are great starting points for discussions on diversity, so look for books that have characters that your child can identify with, even though they may have different appearances or customs. Some suggestions include “It’s Okay to Be Different” by Todd Parr (ages 4-7) and “The Crayon Box That Talked” by Shane Derolf (ages 4-7).
• Think Outside the Box. Look for opportunities for your child to interact with children from different countries and cultures. Visit museums, festivals, ethnic restaurants and other places that will help your child learn about various customs and cultures firsthand.
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. When your child points out someone who is different or as you’re doing the above activities together, don’t shy away from the topic and remind him or her that appearances have nothing to do with what’s on the inside. With a little guidance, your preschooler will grow into a kind, accepting person who understands that diversity makes the world a
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