Toddlers learn to appreciate personal differences when parents focus on human similarities.

How to Teach Diversity to Preschoolers

by Lee Grayson

Your child is discovering the concepts of "same" and "different" and you can help by having your child visit with other preschoolers and explore their cultures. The highest quality learning experience for preschoolers has diversity as a core, but teaching diversity also means making a major effort to expose your child to a variety of experiences in your community. Encourage your young one to taste a variety of foods and explore music and picture books about diverse cultures.

1 Attend a variety of cultural and religious celebrations with your child. If your community doesn't celebrate large events, think small. A festival featuring a small array of food from Mexico offers your preschooler a way to explore new flavor experiences. You might need to start making flan, however, if your child enjoys the sweet south-of-the-border dessert.

2 Promote the similarities of people -- both adults and children. Point out things your child has in common with other children. Say, "Look! That boy is eating the same food you like," or "That little girl is reading your favorite book." Avoid pointing out physical differences between your child and others. As your preschooler sees children enjoying similar things, she learns to look beyond physical traits.

3 Discuss similarities and differences with your preschooler -- but in a language that your young child understands. Visit an ethnic foods market and talk with your child about the different types of food. Talk with the grocers about the various offerings. Use generic terms for the new foods, such as bread or fish, to help your child see the differences and similarities using the vocabulary your child already knows. When your child asks about the food, explain, "It's a new kind of fish for us to try!"

4 Buy picture books about diversity for your child's personal library. Look for books with images showing all types of people and book titles exploring different cultures.

5 Read picture books showing diversity aloud to your preschooler. Take time to look at the images in detail and discuss the content to explore the similarities and differences with your own ethnic background and culture.

6 Play music incorporating diversity in your home and car. Tell your child, "This music comes from South America!" while listening to the music. Your preschooler will soon be able to identify musical similarities after playing a variety of music from different cultures. Play the music you've heard at local festivals and talk to your child about how the music makes you feel. Ask your little one, "What do you feel when you hear this music?" Reinforce your child's feelings with positive comments and be ready to join in when your child feels the urge to move with the music.

Warning

  • Help your child identify cultural elements by pointing out similarities, but avoid using stereotypes to describe groups of people or cultures. Your young child will develop a sophistication to identify more subtle cultural traits as she meets children from diverse cultures at school and at different community events.

About the Author

*I have written chapters and articles for Oxford and Harvard University Presses, ABC-CLIO, and others. Arcadia Press published two of my local history texts and I have also written for numerous "article sites," including Pagewise in 2002. My "How to become a...real estate agent" is available as an online text from a Canadian publisher. *I taught writing courses at a branch campus of Indiana University. *I held a California real estate license and have remodeled four of my own homes and advised others on financing homes, repairing credit to qualify for loans, and managing construction (including meeting local, state, and federal regulations for restoration and development grants). *I served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer and wrote nearly $75,000 in small education grants (under $1,000). *My travels include frequent road trips in Canada, Mexico, U.S., and Europe. I attended school at Cambridge University and used this as a base to explore the UK and Europe.

Photo Credits

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