Teaching Cultural Understanding in Preschool
By Gabriella Diesendorf
Due to today’s technology migration has become more or less an easy process when people are trying to find a better life for themselves. There isn’t a country in the world where nations aren’t mixed and Australia is no different. Since we are likely to encounter people from other countries and other cultures on a daily basis, it is only logical that our children will also be in close contact with different cultures. Just because a child is young, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t notice differences such as gender or race, in fact, a child starts noticing these things around the age of two. So in order to raise a conscientious person who will value other cultures, it’s important to introduce the child to diversity from an early age.
Preschool plays an important role
Kids, especially young ones, are very impressionable, so it’s crucial to teach them about good values in life early on. We want them to be compassionate, tolerant, open-minded, and accepting. But this is not a lesson they learn by heart but something they learn from their parents and people from their surroundings simply by watching them and their actions. And when it comes to preschoolers, aside from parents and other family members, teachers and their peers in the classroom are the biggest influence. This is why it’s important that the preschool itself is open to multiculturalism and that the curriculum actually includes diversity activities.
As mentioned, Australia is a multicultural country, seeing as 26% of the population was born overseas and at least 20% of them have at least one parent who was born elsewhere. Brisbane, for example, has several suburbs where over half the residents who came from overseas. That’s why it’s important for parents to find suitable day care centers in Brisbane which are actively engaged when it comes to teaching diversity and cultural understanding. And if there aren’t multicultural students in the classroom it doesn’t mean your child can’t or shouldn’t be introduced to different cultures, races or religions. In fact, it might be even more important to teach multiculturalism to a homogenous classroom since it might be the only way the children learn about other cultures through different activities that the teacher provides them.
How is cultural understanding introduced in the classroom
There are many different ways teachers can introduce different cultures and races in the classroom. For one, having posters or artwork on the walls will give children clear picture about the diversity of skin tones people around the world have. Books are part of daily activities in preschools, so it’s easy to include books that feature characters of different races into the curriculum. It’s also important that the teacher speaks with the students openly about other cultures, aside from discussing what the differences are, it’s also good to stress the similarities too. When the time comes for the holidays, aside from only making Christmas cards, children should also learn about holidays in other cultures like Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.
There are also a lot of games that help children understand about different skin colors or hair types. The teacher can always play different kinds of music from different countries and organize a dress up day in order to introduce the children to different cultures. A lot of teachers also like to have a world map on the wall and this way the classroom can ‘visit’ different countries. This way, as the children ‘travel’ they can learn about new traditions, customs, foods, music and language. Showing the children the similarities and the differences, but always coming back to the fact that we are all people and that we are equal, is what will help them grow into culturally aware grown-ups.
Aside from the parents, teachers are the ones who help prepare children for the real world. And today, the real world is full of diversities so a child has to be aware of those diversities and it’s never too early to teach them about other cultures, races, religions and nations. Your child, and the world, will be grateful once you have raised an open-minded and good-hearted person.
Gabriella Diesendorf is a freelance writer from Australia and a devoted mother of two kids, two cats and a dog. She loves badgering about beauty, green lifestyle choices and parenting techniques, and if you mention attachment parenting or natural makeup she will bore you to death.