4 simple ways to teach young kids about diversity

Cute little boy, eating spaghetti at home for lunchtime, tasty food

Today is Harmony Day. In schools and kindergartens across Australia, teachers and children will dedicate the day to exploring and celebrating cultural differences.

Obviously, teaching kids about diversity can’t be knocked over in one day – we live in an increasingly diverse world every single day.

So how can we help our boys learn about, appreciate, and importantly, respect differences?

1. Embrace his natural curiosity

Young children are curious and your son will naturally have questions about physical and cultural differences. Some of these questions may not be phrased in a way that’s ‘politically correct’ from an adult point of view. Some may even make you feel uncomfortable.

However, by attempting to answer your son’s questions, you’re teaching him that it’s ok to notice differences, and to talk about them. By being willing to help explain what seems strange or different to him, you are teaching him to understand, appreciate and respect diversity.

2. Put the world in front of him

Having a large and colourful globe or a world map in your home gives you a physical resource to help you discuss global news items or significant cultural events. This opens up opportunities for questions and discussion, and allows the whole family to learn together.

3. Use fun family activities to explore differences together

Movies, books and even mealtimes are a fun way to start conversations about cultural differences.

Many of us eat from a smorgasbord of cultures and countries. My family’s dinner favourites include sushi, tacos, falafel and pizza. Food makes a delicious conversation starter and helps kids make connections to another culture in a fun way.

For your next family movie night, try Moana, which follows the adventures of a Hawaiian girl and a demigod named Maui as they embark on a quest to find a legendary Pacific island. Up is another beautiful movie that centres on an unlikely friendship between a young Korean-American boy and an older white man. Big Hero 6 is set in an urban mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo called San Fransokyo, and features a fun, feisty and culturally diverse cast.

There are also some wonderful picture books that explore differences, including Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, The Sneetches by Dr Seuss, and It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr.

4. Be an upstander, not a bystander

Kids need to learn that racism, prejudice and cultural insensitivity are not acceptable, which means that, as their most significant role model, parents cannot show tolerance for racism or cultural insensitivity.

If you hear someone make a rude comment or inappropriate joke, speak up. This teaches kids that everyone deserves respect, no matter where they come from, what they look like, or what language they speak. Make respect non-negotiable and you’ll help your son grow into a thoughtful, open-minded adult.

Let’s make it Harmony Day every day.

Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

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