Raising Curious and Inclusive Children
We have been shocked and saddened at recent events in the US and the killing of a
black man by a white policeman, which has brought to the forefront of our minds
the complex topic that is racism and white privilege.
Although we are by no means experts in this field and are very much still learning
like any other parents of white children, as The Enchanted Nanny and The Parent
and Baby Coach, we feel like we have helpful knowledge about the way that
children learn, that might be useful to help reassure and guide other parents as to
how to gradually introduce these topics to your children, and to look at how best
they learn. Giving you the confidence to approach these topics with your children
in an age appropriate way.
You see, although studies have shown that racial biases do develop (visit
theconsiouskid.org for more on this), your children are not born identifying people
just by race or gender, so it is their experiences that slowly start to shape the way
that they think.
We know that as parents, you will have a massive impact on your littles ones
morals, values and perception of the world, so we think some of the ways that you
can help your little one include;
Diversifying your book shelf: and we mean exactly this. Look at any number of books on your toddlers book shelves and you will likely notice a pattern – most of the superheros and main characters are white. Now is the time to change this. Children learn a huge amount from the books that they read, including the vocabulary and from the visuals too. If books make things normal, then those things become normal in real life.
In the last week, we have seen some excellent book recommendations and some of our favourites include;
- Kind – Alison Green
- How to Say I Love You in 5 Languages – Kenard Pak
- Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History – Vashti Harrison
- The Girls – Lauren Ace
- Say Something! – Peter H Reynolds
- The Day You Begin – Jacqueline Woodson
- The Sneeches – Dr Seuss
Include a range of multicultural toys in your little person’s toy box (welcome diversity into your toybox): anything that your little person grows up around, becomes “normal” to them. If your child grows up relating to just white dolls and white play figurines, this sets a precedent for their future’s too.
One of the most excellent ways of helping your toddler grow up to celebrate and truly value all races and cultures equally, would be to include a representative sample of the world in their little world. Look for dolls, puppets and small world toys with different physical features and skin tones.
We love the Tiny Dinkum Doll collection
Talk to your child about the world that they live in: when you are playing with your child’s toys, or reading books to them, don’t be shy to engage in conversation with them about what it is that you are seeing. You can have discussions with children as young as 2-3 years of age about skin colour and what makes us all different, but also using positive language to, to let them know that everyone brings something different to the table and that it is best to be kind to everyone, even with all of their difference.
Add games, props, play food and instruments to represent different cultures.
In the playground it is so easy not to chat to other parents, if you’re anything like Danielle, you’ll often be rushing to the next thing, or running late. But just like for our little ones, the playground is an amazing place to make friends. Try to chat to and befriend parents from all cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Plan play dates and park visits. As well as making a new friend, you may be introduced to a new culture, an awareness of their experiences and a much deeper understanding of something that maybe you didn’t yet know.
Watch television shows with diverse characters. Chat through the storylines together, even in the sense of narrating whatever is happening on screen. Chat about everything you see, ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask questions that you aren’t necessarily comfortable asking – model this and they will soon do the same.
You’ll often notice that your child sticks to one set colour crayon when they colour faces and skin. Make sure to add a variation of different tones in your paint, pencil, paper, play dough and crayon boxes.
Draw alongside your child, perhaps asking them to draw a hero, character or somebody they look up to. Do the same alongside your child, making sure to use a different skin tone. Ask your child who they have drawn and model talking about and celebrating the differences in each character, be they physical differences, personality traits or things they have done. In this way we can compare differences in skin tone, while also highlighting and celebrating other things that make them similar or different – maybe they are both very clever, funny, brave, strong, kind. Chat about what good friends they would make.
Remember that they are ALWAYS watching. The way that we behave, the way that we speak up, engage, play, read, learn, interact – they watch it all. The most important thing is to always remember to model exactly what you want to see in them – something which we don’t expect to be perfect, but instead ever evolving, ever learning, ever growing.
And finally, be brave… as they get older and are exposed to the news, social media and see and hear things in the playground , it is likely that your children will be seeing and hearing about racial injustice. Talk about those events with them, even if it doesn’t feel fully comfortable to you. Rather than worrying about saying the wrong thing, just the act of talking to your child will help them realise that you are trying too and that everyone has to learn.
Our children need to know that we aren’t perfect, but that we are always doing all that we can to be better people in the world.
They need to see us identifying the things we do not yet know, and accepting the challenge to learn and grow, however scary and uncomfortable it may feel. Always modelling and always learning.
‘It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.’ – Maya Anelou