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Families come in all shapes and sizes, races and ethnicities. Because families are so varied, it’s important to start focusing on teaching diversity to children at a young age in easy ways that help them understand and respect the individual differences of their peers. Chances are your classroom has students who are a mix of races. You probably have students that speak another language at home. Maybe someone sitting in your classroom has a foster sibling or adopted sibling of a different race than their own.
A few decades ago, these students were the exception. As a result, they often felt invisible. Their voices and experiences were not heard. Thankfully, much has changed in society, in schools, and even in the toys kids play with.
Life is a beautiful mosaic and so are the kids in your class. Let’s celebrate them using these three core values to make this lesson come alive in your classroom:
1. Acceptance: Decorate your classroom with images that show children of all races and abilities. Everyone’s home life is different. There may be a child in your classroom that has a family member who uses a wheel chair. There may be a child whose family recently immigrated to the U.S. Including a variety of images in the classroom shows the child that their situation is embraced by everyone.
2. Diversity: Stock your classroom with multicultural resources such as markers, paper and games like Miniland’s Family Diversity Blocks that accurately portray the many nuanced shades and hues of your students and can be used to also showcase the diverse composition of families that exist in their lives. Fill areas with books that depict children across many cultures and religions, in a variety of living situations, and of varying abilities. It is especially important to seek out authors of color who offer different viewpoints. These books can be shared during story time. The more stories you can share, the more comfortable and accepting the students in your room will feel.
3. Self-Esteem: Curate a classroom with a variety of toys that celebrate inclusion. Dolls are an extraordinary way to show diversity and inclusion. Who knew such a simple toy could add such incredible value and education? Children love roleplay and many kids in preschool and early grade school love to play “family”. Keep a variety of dolls of different sizes and skin tones on-hand. Kids will love nurturing and playing with all the babies. Miniland has a line of dolls featuring Caucasian, African-American, Latino, and Asian skin tones and features, each with a different face and shape. These beautiful, soft vinyl dolls are articulated at the arms, legs, and neck. This line of dolls is also anatomically correct and very easy to clean once play time is over. For even younger children, there are the huggable soft body dolls in a variety of skin tones.
“Diversity” should not be part of a lesson plan that is taught for one day, week, or month. It’s making everyone feel included, welcome, and accepted each day. It’s about pointing out that we are all the same on the inside while taking the time to learn about each child’s cultural celebrations, holidays, special meals, living situation, and anything else that highlights the colorful pieces of their beautiful mosaic.