Teaching Diversity and Inclusion to Preschoolers

Now that the world is opening up again, I joyfully watch my grandchildren play at the park.  Even though they haven’t interacted with other kids in a year, they are quick to welcome them in the sandbox or on the playground. 

Their innocence during the pandemic got me to thinking about how children view life, and people in general.  They don’t see kids as a health threat, that they could catch something to make them sick.  If they notice a child’s skin color is different than theirs, to them it’s the same as one having dark vs. light hair.  And if the child they are playing with shares their toys, kids could care less if their new friend has a mom and dad, two dads, two moms, or a single parent.  As we all know, babies don’t come into this world with prejudice as part of their DNA. 

So, the inevitable question is, “How do we keep our little ones looking at others through their innocent eyes, and not let discrimination creep into their thinking?”

  1. The first answer is obvious.  Set a good example!!!  Be a role model.  Kids are very smart and pick up on everything you say, even when you’re having a private conversation. 
  2. Teach them to recognize differences and celebrate them.  Don’t force it.  Take the opportunity when the conversation seems appropriate and speak in a relatable way.  Pizza and pasta are their yummy foods. Tall and short kids are their playmates.  Each example is positive, yet different.  If you pretend distinctions don’t exist, then the child will feel there is something wrong.  Different doesn’t mean one thing is good and the other is bad– just different!  It’s a simple concept they can grasp.
  3. Children, because they are so innocent, sometimes ask hard questions.  Their inquisitiveness might make you uncomfortable.  Or you might not have an answer.  Don’t panic!  Just do some research, find a book or two to help.  Perhaps someone in your family or community has the knowledge you need.  Don’t be afraid to ask.
  4. You can begin to introduce the concept when buying toys.  Don’t just buy dolls that looks like them.  Buy ones that are different, too.  There are a lot of playthings on the market that embrace the difference in all of us.

Our lives would be filled with a lot more smiles and joy if we remember to view life through the eyes of a child.

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