Raising Culturally Sensitive Children | Prince William Living
By Jennifer Haller
We are very fortunate to live in a region where cultural diversity is visible in all of our communities. From an early age, our children are more likely to be introduced to other children who may look different, speak other languages and have traditions outside of what they may know at home. As your child grows, they may notice these differences and it can open the door to questions, which can turn into amazing learning opportunities, not just for your child, but for your whole family.
Here are some ways to help your child in their quest to become a culturally aware citizen.
In the games room
This is often the first opportunity for your child to be introduced to cultural diversity. Include dolls with
different skin tones, hair types and clothing styles. Play music in languages other than your own. Fill your shelves with books that celebrate differences. Some great books to add include:
jack and jim by Kitty Crowther – A blackbird and a seagull become friends even when the others can’t stand each other
this strange (for them) friendship. Diversity is the theme of the story’s innocent friendship plot
whatever the breed.
Kids Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the world by Anabel Kindersley – Real interviews with young children offer an educational and revealing look at different cultural backgrounds and diverse lives. You and your children will discover the differences, but also discover and celebrate our similarities.
The skin you live in by Michael Tyler – This story contains a simple rhyme, a vivid story and an important lesson: social acceptance, whatever your color. Accepting others for what’s inside is simple.
The same but different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw – Pen pals around the world – one living in India and the other in the United States – learn that although their worlds seem different, they actually have a lot in common.
In the kitchen
A big part of any culture is food! Allow your child to explore different ethnic foods at local restaurants or
even better, at home! It is easy to find traditional recipes from other countries on the Internet or through friends.
Create a complete, hands-on learning experience for your child by including them every step of the way, from choosing the menu to tasting your meal. Ask your child to accompany you while you buy ingredients. There are many specialty grocery stores in our area where you can purchase your items. Take the time to explore while you’re there. Let your child enjoy the sights, sounds and smells. When shopping, be sure to use proper item names and explain where the items come from. Google if needed! It’s good to show children that adults can also continue to learn.
At home, ask your child to help you prepare your meal. For more complex recipes, you may need to seek help from YouTube or other online resources during the process. When you’re ready to eat, try to do it the way it’s done in its native country. For example, use chopsticks instead of forks or forego utensils altogether if that’s how it’s traditionally done. This will make the experience more authentic and educational.
Connect to groups
There are many local opportunities to join groups where your child will be exposed to cultural diversity. Try a mommy and me playgroup for very young children. If your child is of school age, see if there are any specialized groups within the school community that your child can join or even just visit to learn more. Check out sites like Meetup or Nextdoor for more groups that might interest you.
Attend local events
There are no shortage of events in our community to recognize and honor other cultures. In addition to large
annual festivals, one of the best and most convenient ways to learn about the celebrations is to go through the
library system. There are often specialized story times, crafts and larger events offered throughout the year.
The plus… these activities are often offered free of charge. In addition, local churches frequently host
events are open to the public and most are free.
With the adoption of more school holidays to celebrate other cultures and religions, there may be questions about what these holidays celebrate. Instead of just saying there’s no school today, take the time to share information with your child about what the holidays are like. Explain that they may have classmates who recognize different holidays than your family and explain why they are just as important.
Be open and honest
One of the most effective ways to teach your child about the differences they may notice in their world is to have open and honest communication. As questions arise about skin color, languages and cultures, share what you know and let your child’s curiosity lead the conversation. The more comfortable you are with sharing, the more comfortable they’ll be asking questions, and ultimately those “differences” won’t seem so different after all.
Jennifer Halter is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Woodbridge and Macaroni Kid Gainesville/Manassas,
free online calendars and resources to help you have family fun all year round.