Multicultural art lessons give preschool children a unique opportunity to learn empathy for other human beings. Regardless of race, nationality, color, or culture people are the same. Children are in a world where they are learning about differences and similarities and classifying objects. Often quite by accident they may learn that people are also classified in unintentional ways. The more children are exposed to learning about different cultures the more they will understand the differences in meaningful ways.
Multicultural art helps develop empathy in children by:
Teaching children that people are different in some ways and the same in others.
Giving children the foundation for respect for different people. This often comes in the form of understanding differences first.
Making connections between values and traditions in different cultures.
Providing the opportunity for self-awareness and the awareness of feelings in others.
When developing a multicultural art experience for children there are multiple options to support the development of empathy. As previously discussed, you may wish to begin formally or informally. Likewise, you may wish to begin the experience with a lesson in empathy. This can be profound for even young children as it creates an opportunity for the child to understand another culture on a totally different level.
For example, reading a book about Native American children that explains a traditional game they may play will immediately create a connection in the preschool child’s mind. They will consider the games and toys that they play with and compare them to the ones in the story.
Chances are that the preschool children will prefer the toys that they are most familiar with, but they will be able to imagine themselves playing the games from the story and consider the experience of the Native American children. After this empathetic foundation is created, children will be open to learning about the art of the culture having already learned so much.
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