As the world becomes diverse and different countries become more and more interdependent on each other, it’s now clear that learning about other cultures is no longer just something you need to do when you travel abroad. As they grow up, your child will be directly exposed to different peoples, practices, and values systems. In order to help them become better, more conscientious citizens, it’s critical that they are exposed to this diversity in a healthy manner from a young age.
Here are a few ways to help teach your child about diversity.
1.) Serve them foods from different cultures
How is Japanese food different from Moroccan or Indonesian food? Why do certain cultures have foods that are not easily available where you live? Chances are you may not even know all the answers yourself! You can try preparing the different dishes from all over the world or take your child to a restaurant that serves different ethnic specialties. Eating food with origins in different cultures can be a fun way for both you and your child to develop an understanding of different cultures as well as a taste for learning.
2.) Give them toys that promote diversity
When possible give your child dolls or action figures that represent different hair types, genders, skin tones, eye color, and so on. This will help them understand early on that people are quite diverse and different from each other. This may, over time, help them understand that it’s OK to like different people as well.
4.) Give them fun educational materials that teach them about other cultures
Age-appropriate world atlases, maps, and storybooks are popular ways to teach kids about other cultures. However, parents may find coloring books a much better tool for this purpose, especially for younger children who may not yet be able to read at an advanced level. Coloring books can benefit young children in a number of ways, including honing their fine motor skills and creativity. The interactive experience of coloring can also help your child retain information better than just reading alone.
Coloring books that teach kids about different countries are widely available, and you can even find them online for free. This free flags of East and Southeast Asia coloring book by Carrot Ink, for example, is just one of many printable activity sheets on the site that features foods, national costumes, and fun facts about different countries.
5.) Travel if you can
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to travel with your child, you’ll have an incredible opportunity to expose them to a culture completely different from what they might be used to back home. Children are naturally curious and will quickly absorb a lot about the country they’re visiting, just from going around your host country. If they’re young and staying in the country for a while, they may even pick up the local languages in a fairly short amount of time.
6.) Expose them to a foreign language class
Charlemagne once famously said that “to have a second language is to have a second soul”. Knowing more than one language will give your child more than just an appreciation of other cultures – it will widen their opportunities and capacity for self-expression as well.
Your child doesn’t always need to travel in order to learn a new language. If you already speak a foreign language, you can expose to it early on, as the younger children under the age of 6 or 7 will typically find learning a second language or even a third just as easily as their first during this period. You can also enroll them in foreign language classes for children to help them get a head start on their second language.