Earlier this week, I took my 4 year old daughter to preschool and she asked me if I was half Chinese. I started to laugh and said “no, my family came from the Netherlands and Ireland a long time ago, why do you think I’m half Chinese?” She replied, “Because you don’t know all Chinese words like Daddy!” Well she is definitely right about that!
This conversation surprised me and got me thinking about the ways we talk about cultures and language and identity with preschoolers. My husband and I had a great conversation this week about ways we can encourage our daughter and I wanted to share them here. (Since 3 of the 4 started with the first letters of the alphabet, I cheated and made the second one a two word phrase to make a tidy A, B, C, and D list!)
Has your child surprised you with their comments about culture? How do you encourage your children to be culturally aware? I only have experience up to preschoolers so would love your ideas and suggestions for older children! Please comment or head over to Instagram @multiculturalmama
- A – Aware: As you know, preschoolers are sponges and are aware of the world around them in ways that astonish us! My daughter can differentiate customs from her time in Taiwan when she was 2 even now living in the US. Research shows that babies as young as 3 and 6 months old can distinguish faces based on race. Instead of being concerned that our children are not colorblind, we should be aware of their curiosity and invite questions. It’s a great opportunity to teach our children about the things that all humans have in common as well as the beautiful ways we are different!
- B – Be intentional about bringing up your family’s cultural heritage. Whether you are in a multicultural family or monocultural family, there are so many wonderful ways to celebrate your family’s cultural heritage. I plan to spend more time on this in future posts but for now one idea is to try to think about ways to celebrate throughout the year, not just at specific holidays.
- C – Connect your child’s interests to other cultures in fun ways. My daughter loves to dance so this summer we went to a wonderful event at our library with Rhythmaya, an Indian dance instruction and performance group. We learned all sorts of dances from South Indian classical dance (which I believe is called Bharatanatyam) and dramatic dance and of course Bollywood! Since then my daughter has been obsessed with “Indian princesses” which is her term for Bollywood dancers! We watch tons of youtube videos and dance with our friends from Bhutan and Afghanistan. My daughter started crying one day that she wasn’t Indian. I told her that the exciting thing about the world is that everyone can share special parts of their country with others!
- D – Diverse books and media. If you’re reading this blogpost, I don’t have to tell you much about the importance of diverse books. Representation matters. I highly recommend Pragmatic Mom’s vast collection of diverse children’s book lists including: