Our society is more diverse than when we were kids. I don’t need to rattle off statistics or dissect sociological theories to make the point that, with each new generation, our schools and communities in which we raise our children are becoming less homogenous and more inclusive.
Personally, as the mother of two biracial children, this makes me very happy.
I want my kids to grow up embracing multiculturalism, with a hunger to learn about the people that inhabit our world. I want them to learn how to form opinions and ask questions, not from generalizations that mass media provides, but from thoughtful exchanges and authentic experiences.
I would raise my children trotting around the globe if I could. Especially during their formidable years. Alas, we’re just regular parents, trying to change the world, one cool kid at a time.
Here are 6 ways to teach kids about culture from the comforts of your own home:
Use children’s books to explore cultural traditions and holidays: Children’s books can help broaden your child’s understanding of how things are done in other parts of the world. It might take some digging on your part, but you can usually find authentic cultural stories in your local library’s children’s section.
Play with printables and coloring sheets: My preschooler loves to color and I’ve found that while she’s busy with her hands, she is more apt to listen to the cultural lessons I’m telling. Look for coloring sheets on historical figures, cultural holidays or significant events to enjoy while chatting with your little one(s) about the topic at hand. Simple questions like, “What do you think Chinese kids eat for dinner on a Sunday night?” will help keep the lesson personal.
Experiment with culinary explorations!: Many cultures rest heavily on their food traditions. So why not bring culture into your kitchen? Try new recipes. Experiment with different spices. Make simple comments like, “Tumeric is used a lot in Morocco! Isn’t it yummy?”.
Host at-home travel/culture parties: At my house, we do once a month culture parties where we play dress up, study a map and talk about how kids live in other countries. I call them our Passport to Culture parties and it’s so much fun to have a day concentrated to learning about others. My daughter has learned to used chop sticks, bake Irish soda bread and that French kids will eat anything – at least once!
Embrace language: Language is an integral part of culture. When we learn about a new culture, I try my best to teach a few simple phrases to the kids. You don’t have to be multilingual to appreciate the language of other cultures. Simple phrases – such as please and thank you – can be used on a day to day basis, reinforcing to your children that multiculturalism is all around them.
Make it personal: Differing cultures and languages can present challenges in connecting with our neighbors or school mates. And that’s okay. Modeling to your child a genuine appreciative and inquisitive sentiment towards those you don’t understand is what matters. Though not technically at home, take them to cultural festivals in your community. Shop at ethic supermarkets. Support the cultural fine arts.
How we invest in our kids now will impact how our society flourishes later on. We’re a global community, and while they don’t have to like or agree with everything, I hope my children learn to appreciate the many cultures that make up this world.