Teaching children about diversity and the value in our differences from a young age can benefit them as they learn and grow.Children are constantly learning about their world and these interactions will shape their view of those around them.
A child in your care is likely going to point out a difference at some point in a way that is seen as disrespectful, such as “That man is big” or “Why can't she walk?”. It is completely natural for a child to find differences while they are observing their world and to be curious about them. It is not a time to get angry with the child, it should be seen as a learning opportunity. Keep calm and pull them aside to talk to them about why some people may look different from others. It is also a great time to gently remind them of other people’s feelings when they hear someone talking about them.
When the opportunity to talk about stigma or bias comes up in the classroom, it should be used as a teaching opportunity. Provide the students with some developmentally appropriate information about diversity and allow them to ask questions openly.
As an educator, it is important to remember that you are a role model for the children in your care. Children learn from observing others and may pick up on jokes at the expense of someone else, remarks that are subtle or obvious, bias, or stigma. These negative behaviors can have a lasting impact on children. Being a successful role model should entail an appreciation for diversity and positive talk about others.
Press Play on the video below to view some suggestions for adding diversity to the classroom environment.
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