Cultural diversity is an important concept to grasp during childhood. Understanding that people are not all the same will enable your children to embrace and value the things that make each person or group of people different. Children notice differences, and taking time to teach what is important to each culture can help foster acceptance and understanding, writes Richard Greggory Johnson, author of "A Twenty-First Century Approach to Teaching Social Justice: Educating for Both Advocacy and Action."
Make a list of goals that you want to achieve while teaching culture and cultural diversity to your children. Work together with your spouse to consider what lessons you want your kids to learn. Focus on one value at a time, such as compassion or respect.
Tell your children that your family will be learning about different cultures. Tillman and Belgrave suggest completing a visualization exercise with kids to determine what they already know and what remains to be learned. Encourage your family to think about what a peaceful world would look like. After they have been given time to think, ask your kids to share while you take notes. Your children can be a powerful influence on how to teach culture.
Use celebrations in your teachings. Mary Mayesky, author of "Creative Activities for Young Children," suggests incorporating important elements of cultural celebrations into lessons to provide a hands-on way to show your kids what is important to other cultures. Celebrations are one way to teach children about the different foods, music, art and songs that have value in different cultures. Kids are able to learn why cultures behave in certain ways and believe certain things, because they have a chance to actively participate in the celebration.
Incorporate the arts into your teachings. The arts can teach a wealth of understanding about what is important to people of different cultures, writes Tillman and Belgrave. Teach your children songs from different cultures and explain to them the meaning behind the songs. Allow your kids to use techniques from other cultures to create pieces of art. You can also read stories from different cultures, learn cultural dances or play games from other countries to expand your families' understanding of people from different cultures.
Include personal reflection sessions. Tillman and Belgrave say that it is important for children to discuss what they have learned by talking about how they felt and what they experienced. In order for cultural diversity lessons to have meaning, your family must be able to work together to make sense of the differences between groups of people. Understanding what they are learning will ensure that they are able to apply it to their relationships with others.
Use books and videos to help make different cultures come alive for your children. Geneva Gay, author of "Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice," writes that if kids can visualize how other people live, they are more likely to understand more about different cultures. Seeing pictures in books or watching documentaries about other groups of people will enable your family to experience what is important to cultures other than their own. Gay goes on to state that increased awareness of different groups of people can help eliminate ethnic stereotypes and lead to greater acceptance. Check you local library for books and videos for specific age groups as well as guidebooks to help you teach various cultural concepts.
If any of your family friends are from different cultures, you may consider asking them to share information about family, celebrations and important beliefs.
Do not call attention to the stereotypical differences between groups of people. Present an unbiased introduction to different cultural groups so your children learn true acceptance rather than just tolerance.