Diversity has become a rather hot topic these days, especially in the workplace and society. However, the understanding and acceptance that people are different should be emphasised early on in our lives.
This is especially important in childhood, and research cited by The Wallstreet Journal has shown that children learn better than adults do.
Therefore, teaching children about the power of diversity early on can make them more respectful and accepting members of society in adulthood.
Whether you’re teaching them about how people look and dress or about practices and traditions from different cultures, there are many ways to show children why diversity is important.
Ways to Teach Diversity To Children
1. Use Kind Language
Using kind language is one of the most effective ways to teach children the power of diversity.
The words we use in daily life are powerful, and when used the wrong way, they can inflict pain and divide us. It is important to teach children how to do the opposite.
For instance, you can refrain from using words and remarks that categorise people. Even common sayings that children use to tease each other like “girls rule, boys drool” can be harmful, even if they seem harmless at first.
This statement instils the idea in children that boys are inferior to girls, which can eventually lead to mild and underhanded forms of segregation and sexism.
As parents and teachers, it’s more beneficial to be affirming of and neutral towards different groups through the language we use in daily life.
It is important to be very aware of the words that are spoken. Even nicely worded statements can end up being harsh in their meaning.
Carefully modulate your way of speaking to avoid this, and children are much more likely to give a positive response to you and their peers.
Making words more gentle can make your communication with children more positive, and this will teach them that communicating effectively can be done without using harsh language.
2. Read Books About Diversity
Reading is an essential activity for children to learn about the world, and the topic of diversity is no exception. There are many books today about diversity that are geared towards children.
They explore how diverse communities encourage being more welcoming and accepting. This includes using inclusive language, accepting differences in beliefs and culture, and even creating physical spaces that are easier for people of all abilities to navigate.
In the book All Are Welcome, author Alexandra Penfold imagines a school where baseball caps, patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side by side.
In following a group of children through a day in a school where everybody is welcome, children are reminded that, no matter what, they have a space and are welcome.
It is also at this age when powerful stories can truly impress life lessons upon them. Author Derrick Barne was inspired by the death of student Michael Brown in 2014 to write I Am Every Good Thing.
Barne wrote a powerful book for young black boys, with a protagonist that remained confident no matter how others saw him.
Apart from learning acceptance, all individuals should also be confident and proud of who they are to create a powerful, more diverse community.
Related: Check out Biographies for Kids for a generous dose of inspiration and how diversity brings us together.
3. Celebrate Similarities & Differences Through Artwork
Another important aspect of teaching the power of diversity to children is by celebrating similarities and differences. A great way to do this is through art.
It allows children to observe where they are the same and different from their peers and find ways to celebrate both. Arts, in general, is beneficial for children because it engages many different areas of the brain.
Furthermore, it also helps them increase concentration and motivation, which is part of fostering a healthy learning environment for all where diversity can thrive.
Creating art that reflects the power of diversity can be done in the classroom or at home. At school, teachers can facilitate figure drawing to represent a variety of students from different backgrounds.
They can also focus on traits and features that make each child unique. Together, children can create a chart of everybody’s eye colours, hair colours, skin colours, outfits, family and cultural traditions, favourite foods, and even favourite stories.
They can even make figurative works such as a hand tree painting with different colours to celebrate unity.
And as discussed in our post, Independence Day Activities, Books & Songs, you can encourage the class to create flags of different countries on their national days to pay homage to their cultural roots.
Keep a bulletin board on display to showcase different aspects of diversity. All these activities will allow children to value it more and will encourage them to practice it outside the classroom.
Related: Also explore How to blend Art with Maths to make learning fun!
4. Welcome Emotions
Diversity does not only include acceptance based on race, gender, and ability but also on emotions.
Welcoming emotions is important because emotional intelligence (EI) is at the very heart of diversity.
Having a high level of EI means that an individual can understand their own emotions in different situations and regulate them in a healthy way.
Teaching children this emotional self-awareness allows them to better tune into the emotional needs of others, which in turn reduces conflict and stress.
Welcoming emotions and teaching children how to respond in a healthy way allows them to build relationship management skills that are necessary for an inclusive cultural environment.
Given that, it is also important to avoid using negative language surrounding emotions. Saying things like “don’t be upset” or “don’t cry” may actually be detrimental when teaching children about emotional intelligence.
It is vital for children to have space for negative emotions for holistic emotional development.
Rather than framing feelings as a bad thing, let them know it’s okay and welcome how they feel. This will allow them to do the same with other children as well as adults.
5. Teach Them To Ask Questions and Do so Politely
For children, asking questions is a natural part of the learning process. Use their curiosity as an opportunity to encourage learning by asking more questions.
Sometimes, adults teach children that asking questions is rude and intrusive. Yet, it is actually an excellent way to teach and learn about differences that should be accepted and celebrated.
However, it is important to teach children how to ask questions that aren’t stigmatising. Show them how to ask sensitively and appropriately.
For instance, if a student asks about their classmate’s glasses, you can guide the conversation by prompting them with something like, “Grace was wondering why you wear glasses, Julio. Can you please tell us more about your glasses?”
Creating a diverse environment through proper question and answer can improve mindfulness and constructive thinking.
Thus, leading to more positive social situations. By teaching your kids that it’s okay to ask questions, as long as they’re well-meaning and polite, you’re encouraging them to practice how they respond to various social situations.
The power of diversity is evident in these interactions because children are taught how to think constructively rather than in a divisive manner.
These skills will eventually teach children how to generate more creative ideas to settle disagreements, and go for win-win situations.
6. Have Conversations on Stereotypes and Biases
No child is born a bigot. Stereotypes and biases are adopted by every human being to one degree or another through social influences, but this also means they can be unlearned.
Study shows that these biases and prejudices can be learned as early as pre-school. This means that countering these stereotypes should also begin at an early age, highlighting the importance of learning about diversity.
Teaching children how to be aware and accepting of differences can prevent attitudes and behaviours that avoid, ridicule, and fear those differences.
Since children learn these biases from adults in their life, it’s important to set a good example by teaching them the value and importance of diversity.
It’s best to tackle biases and stereotypes found in the classroom and home first. Class portraits are a great example of this.
When doing such an activity, point out how great it is that there are so many personalities in the class; this means that there’s much to learn from and enjoy with each other.
Also talk about how people can get treated badly because of how they look, whether it’s the colour of their skin or the clothes that they wear.
Share with children why this is unfair and talk about how people ought to treat one another despite their differences.
Having conversations like these early on can teach children that differences are a natural part of life, and it will discourage them from adopting biassed, stereotypical viewpoints later on.
Article written by Rina Joseph
Rina is a content writer and editor. When she isn’t at her laptop, she runs a digital art course for eager students. She also loves to decorate and bake with her daughter Holly.