Are children born prejudiced? Of course not. Children learn prejudice from adults. If you want to observe a group of children free from prejudice, go to a nursery school and observe 3-year-olds interacting. They don’t know what it means to be biased.
This past week we discussed how to raise unbiased children for Black History Month. First we discussed how to prevent prejudice by valuing differences, we learned that nannies and au pairs should never allow children to tease or insult others, we discussed how to talk to kids about stereotypes, how to reduce gender role stereotypes, how to help children that are victims of prejudice, and we listed some of the books we referenced over the past week for Black History Month.
Below are some activities to do with youngsters to promote racial and cultural awareness.
Say Hello in Different Languages
This is a fun cross-cultural activity. Help the children to come up the words for "hello" in as many different languages as possible. Of course you can also learn how to say “Hello my name is…” or other phrases such as “please” and “thank you” as well. Click here to learn how to say “Hello” in different languages. Click here for several words and phrases of different languages.
The Story of My Name
Where does your name come from? Share the story of where your name comes from and what your name means. Everyone's name has a surprisingly interesting origin. This helps children to build intercultural respect and understanding. Google the children’s names and the names of their family members, friends, pets, and nicknames. Most people are surprised about the amount of interesting information about where their name comes from and what it means.
Set out a number of nylon knee-high stockings in various shades, tan, black, white, pink, yellow, and red. Encourage children to try them on their hands and arms or their legs and feet. Ask questions to help the children increase their awareness of skin color. For example, "Can you find a stocking that is the same color as your skin?" Or "What color is that stocking you have on your arm?" Ask the children to "Try the _________ stocking. Is it lighter or darker than your own skin?" Tell the children no one's skin color is really white, pink, yellow, or red. Emphasize that skin-color differences are interesting and desirable.
Use photographs of different hairstyles and hair-care products from magazines for the children to use, explore, and talk about. Paste the hair from each photo on a 3" x 5" index card, put them in a box, and ask the children to identify each bit of hair. Talk about how hair has texture and curl. For instance, some people have fine hair while others have coarse hair. Some people have straight hair, and others have curly hair. Talk about how people have different hair colors and lengths. Take a photo of each child's face and make a collage of different hairstyles.
Music and Dance
Ask parents to lend you recordings of music that their family enjoys. Teach the children songs and dances from different nations of the world. Children will begin to see that all people like to sing and dance, but every group has its own special ways of doing it. Talk with the children about how different music sounds: loud, soft, fast, or slow. Listen for the different instruments. Again, ask parents if they have any instruments children could listen to or try.
Alike and Different (Thumbprints)
Set out white 3" x 5" cards, a black ink pad, a pen, and a magnifying glass. Ask the children to make prints of their thumbs by pressing them on the ink pad and then on the cards. Label each print with the child's name. Let children use the magnifying glass to see how the prints are alike and different. Point out that everyone has patterns on the skin of their fingers and each person's fingerprints are different from anyone else's.
Aboud, F. 1988. *Children and Prejudice*. New York: Basil Blackwill.
Clark, K. 1963. *Prejudice and Your Child*. Boston: Beacon.
Derman-Sparks, L., and the ABC Task Force. 1989. *Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children*. Washington, DC: National Association for Education of Young Children.
McCracken-Brown, J. 1990. *Helping Children Love Themselves and Others: A Professional Handbook for Family Day Care*. Washington, DC: The Children's Foundation.
Williams, L. R. 1989. "Issues in Education: Diverse Gifts, Multicultural Education in the Kindergarten." *Childhood Education*, vol. 66, no. 1, pp. 2-3.
McCracken-Brown, J. 1993. *Valuing Diversity: The Primary Years*. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
York, S. 1991. *Roots and Wings: Affirming Culture in Early Childhood Programs*. Minnesota: Redleaf Press.
Reprinted with permission from Fox Valley AEYC newsletter, Elgin, Illinois. Document Use/Copyright National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the National Extension Service Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission is granted to reproduce these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only (not for profit beyond the cost of reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment and this notice is included: Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Biles, B. (1994). Activities that promote racial and cultural awareness. In Todd, C.M. (Ed.), *Family child care connections*, 4(3), pp. 1p;4. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.