A 3-year-old is observant and blunt, and has no problem pointing out people’s differences, even if you are in the middle of the grocery store with a Saturday-size audience listening. Before those innocent observations develop into biases, teach toddlers to embrace differences. It’ll go a long way in helping her appreciate her own identity, too.
Point it Out!
Don’t try to hide the differences among people. Have the group sit in a circle and take turns pointing out factors that are the same and different among them. For example, have Sally look at Tommy and point out one element that is different about him such as the color of his shirts, and one element that is the same such as they both have brown hair. Keep going until everyone has pointed out something. When toddlers learn that everyone has the same and different traits, how can bias develop? Skin color, nationality, gender and religion just become some of those everyday differences and similarities.
A few pairs of knee-highs in different shades can go a long way in helping with anti-bias education. Get each child to slip a pair over her arms and then give them a moment to take a good look. Ask aloud, “Are you the same person now?” “Does the color on your skin make you any different?” “Do you still like cupcakes and cookies and French fries? Of course, because it doesn’t matter what color is on your skin, right? You’re still the same person!” While it sounds like a very simple activity, you’re giving the toddlers something to see along with what you’re saying. The multi-sensory activity can really help to enforce the message.
What toddler can resist twisting and wiggling when the music starts? Introduce anti-bias education with some music from around the world. Play songs from different countries and try to find a few instruments from the different songs that they’re not familiar with. Turn the activity into a multicultural freeze dance to make it more fun for the kids. They’re still exposed to different music from different cultures and they get used to enjoying it through play at the same time.
Cultural Craft Time
Bring out the glue, paints and everything else in your craft box for some artistic anti-bias activities. Deciding on which craft activities to use is probably going to be the tricky part because there are so many to choose. You can introduce American Indian culture with a construction paper headdress craft, or introduce African culture with an African wall mask. Other cultural crafts include a Chinese dragon dance puppet, an Egyptian Pharaoh mask, a Jewish menorah and a Japanese fan. To symbolize unity and equality, celebrate the anti-bias learning with a unity wreath, made from construction paper cutouts of hands in different skin shades.