Current research indicates that children as young as 6 months old are able to recognize the differences between different people. Qualities that distinguish one group of people from another are immediately apparent to children, even before they can speak. Young children, however, may not understand how exactly we should treat people belonging to different groups and cultures, which can lead to some embarrassing situations when they’re able to speak.
Instead of telling them to be quiet and keep their thoughts to themselves, it’s better to teach them how to handle diversity in a healthy and productive way. These differences, after all, are quite unavoidable in this highly interconnected world that we live in today.
Whether you’re traveling with your child, want them to better understand their heritage, or simply want them to be better equipped to deal with the diverse world we live in. Here are some ways to introduce other cultures to your child in a positive manner.
1.) Expose them to different languages
If you already know a second language, you should try to speak it as much as possible around your child and teach them how to use it whenever possible. Research and the experience of millions of multicultural families from all over the world strongly indicates that children will be able to easily pick up a second or third language as easily as their first one provided that they have a good exposure to it at a young age, with their ability to pick a new language up at its peak around 6 or 7 years of age. It becomes significantly more difficult for them to develop fluency past the age of 10.
However, regardless of the age of your child, there are still benefits to them learning different languages. Not only will they have more opportunities available for them in different cultures, but they will also be able to express themselves and understand experiences in ways that simply would not be possible to them in their first language.
If you don’t already know another language, you can enroll them in age-appropriate language classes or have them watch videos that expose them to other languages. You’ll be surprised at how well they can keep up!
2.) Participate in cultural events
Whether you participate in these events in your neighborhood or in the course of a visit abroad, you will be giving your child a good exposure to many aspects of a culture that you might not have thought to discuss. Weddings, funerals, outdoor markets, festivals, and museums are all incredible learning opportunities that can teach your children that the world is, in fact, much bigger than their home or immediate surroundings.
3.) Give them coloring books that teach them about other cultures
Coloring books are a favorite of child development experts for a number of reasons. They help stimulate creativity in young children while allowing them to practice fine movements with their hands – both of which will be extremely important later on in their lives. The hands-on nature of coloring different objects also serves to reinforce any knowledge a child absorbs from a coloring book, making them an incredible tool for teaching young children about different cultures.
A number of coloring books and sheets are also free to download and print, such as these educational flags of Africa printables by Carrot Ink. These printable coloring sheets are available for several African countries, each featuring landmarks, national costumes, flags, and fun facts that your children can color in.
4.) Introduce them to different cuisines from around the world
Food is an especially powerful way for a culture to leave an impression on a child. If you’re confident in your cooking skills, you and your child can make meals together, giving them a hands-on way of learning about ingredients and flavors that might be typical in some cultures. If you’re in a multicultural neighborhood, you can also take your kids out to eat in different restaurants that showcase different kinds of cuisines from all over the world.
One thing to note is that while you should at least ensure that they try a dish at least once, you should not force your children to finish foods that they don’t like. Children’s palates are rather different from adults, and they may not always be able to handle foods with extremely complex flavors.