What does a Culturally Aware Child Look Like?

About a month ago my 4 year old daughter started to tear up out of the blue. So I asked her what was going on and was surprised at her response. “I’m sad I’m not Indian and can’t dance Bollywood!” she said. (I’ve talked about her slight obsession with Indian dance before) I immediately hugged her and smiled saying, “I have great news for you! You can learn Indian dance even though you are Chinese and Dutch and American! Everyone can learn things about other countries. We all get to share!” Thankfully, that answer satisfied her and she started dancing!

This got me thinking about how I talk to my kids about other cultures and countries. One of our family goals is for our children to be culturally aware, but what does a Culturally Aware child look like?

Here’s my first take at an outline:

  1. Culturally Aware children know and celebrate their own HERITAGE: We talk a lot about how Baba is Chinese and our family is from Taiwan. I’ve started to introduce my own Euro American heritage and experience living in Germany and the Netherlands for elementary and high school. ways. I want my children to know both sides of their heritage (more to come soon in an upcoming post on creating a Family Heritage Treasure Hunt!)
  2. Culturally Aware children are CURIOUS: Encouraging your children’s curiosity is as easy as asking questions and seeing where they lead! Are any of your friends from other countries? What country would you like to visit? For more specific examples for the younger crowd, check out a previous post “4 Ways to Encourage Culturally Aware Preschoolers.”
  3. Culturally Aware children EXPERIENCE other cultures. Ideally this exposure is in person in your own neighborhoods, schools and communities. We specifically chose our neighborhood based on the diverse demographics of the neighborhood elementary school even before we had children. However in places where diversity and multicultural experiences are hard to find in person, never underestimate the power of travel even for very young children! You can also explore with your kids from the comfort of your own home through diverse media (check out our 4 Favorite Multicultural Kids showsimg_1243
  4. Culturally Aware children have a vocabulary to talk about DIVERSITY. Honestly I need to think, research and talk with other parents more about this last one. I read a great article dismissing the ‘diverse environment theory’ (ie if we just put kids in diverse places, they will be tolerant. No! We need to discuss and appreciate differences with our kids!) The article has some great suggestions at the end. Growing Character: Raising Culturally Aware Children by Serina Behar Natkin

What about you? What do you think should be added? What have you found useful? These days I am mostly on Instagram so come over and let me know your thoughts!

Our 4 Favorite Multicultural Kids Shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime

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After writing three kinda serious posts, I wanted to share a fun list of our family’s favorite multicultural kids shows. All are on either Netflix or Amazon Prime Video and I would assume to purchase on iTunes as well. One quick note: I never realized before compiling this list, how many children’s shows are “token diverse” with a white-lead. Shows like Little Einsteins, Ready Jet Go, Super Why, and Strawberry Shortcake all have some diverse characters but the leads are all white!

I would LOVE to hear your child’s favorite multicultural and diverse TV shows in the comments! What do you like? What shows do your kids enjoy?

#1  Justin Time – Netflix (2 seasons plus a 3rd Netflix original version “Justin Time Go!”)  This show is just a gem! It follows a Canadian bountitleday named Justin as he travels back in time with his shape changing pal Squidgy and his imaginary friend Olive. They solve real life problems (like teamwork or sharing) in a different historical setting and then return back home “just in time!” The settings range from Ancient Mexico to 17th century India to the Swiss Alps in the 50s and Ancient China in the 8th century! You might even find yourself watching an episode or two. And at 11 minutes an episode, I don’t even feel bad about agreeing to one more adventure!

#2   Go, Diego, Go! – Amazon Prime & Nickelodeon (8 seasons free with prime) My daughter loves Diego more than Dora; and for a pgo-diego-go-go-diego-go-34420627-1024-768reschooler who loves princesses and pink, I couldn’t understand why. Until I watched it! Go, Diego, Go is a wonderful show that not only talks about different animals around the world, but also their habitats. Diego meets friends all over the world in his job as an ‘animal rescuer’ and they teach a word or two in each language of the country they visit. Also introduces concepts like conservation and protection

#3   Sesame Street – Amazon Prime & PBS (12 seasons available, 5 free with prime) Classic show that’s been a delight to find streamisesame_street_wallpaper_1278413620ng on Amazon Prime and introduce to my children. All episodes reflect a diverse cast (of humans and monsters alike!) and encourage kindness and acceptance. Some fun celebrity guest appearances in the current free seasons include: Season 36, episode 1: Lang Lang, Season 36, episode 9: Maya Angelou, Season 36, episode 12: Alicia Keys, Season 37, episode 12: Trying a new food day

#4   Sid the Science Kid – Netflix (1 season and a movie) While not specifically multicultural or international in theme, I could not pasid-the-science-kidss up sharing with you a wonderful show on Netflix about a very inquisitive multicultural cartoon character. I cannot think of another mixed lead character (although his hair is purple!). According to the wiki about the show, Sid’s mother is of African descent and his father grew up Jewish. Sid’s mixed heritage is not a focus of the show but #representationmatters. Episodes cover basic scientific principles while Sid and his =friends ask questions and solve problems.

**Honorable mention: Ni Hao Kai-Lan (Nickelodeon & Amazon to purchase) Great show very similar to Dora the Explorer but takes place with the Chinese userimagecharacter of Kai-Lan. I would have put it in the above section but it is not a part of a subscription streaming service.

 

The Weight and Gift of Raising Multicultural Kids – #RaisingMCKids blog series

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The photos for this blog series are from a beautiful centuries old mountain road in Yanmingshan National Park 陽明山國家公園 just outside of Taipei.  My husband’s Taiwanese relatives planned a wonderful weekend on the mountain during the Mid-Autumn Festival. We packed into two vans and hiked and smelled the sulphur of the dormant volcano and ate and ate some more. This well worn road was used for hundreds of years by Taiwanese fisherman. They would walk from the coast at the very north of the island (seen in this photo in the distance), and over the mountains to trade their fish with neighboring towns.

Standing on that mountain, sweating profusely with my toddler on my back, I felt the weight of my husband’s cultural heritage stretching back generations. His family has a dozen red hardback books in their dining room china cabinet that includes their family’s genealogy going back centuries! My own family is not as close to their cultural heritage. I know my great grandparents names but that’s about it.

I continue to feel this responsibility to pass down, along with my husband, the language, history and culture to the next generation. It sometimes feels like a burden and I can get anxious that we aren’t doing enough or doing it right as a non-Asian mom (especially in the language department!)

But then I realize that the parts of our cultures that I love most and want to pass down the most are all GIFTS. They are not burdensome at all! It is a joy to teach my daughter Mandarin and have her face light up when she connects a new word with its meaning. I am so proud when my daughter tells a stranger, “did you know I’m Chinese?” and then proceeds to tell them about how she lived in a skyscraper in Taipei (It was not. We lived on the 12th floor!) I am delighted to see her offer anyone older than her a snack first and then eat it herself last (when she remembers!)

Being a multicultural family has always been a gift. Keeping this perspective helps me temper any feelings of being overwhelmed and encourages me to continue to CELEBRATE our family’s cultural heritage any chance we can get.

 

Practical Application Idea:

Consider planning a play date with a friend or two that is centered around one of the family’s cultural heritage. Make it simple and low key! We just joined another family for a play date around the Lunar New Year. The kids colored Year of the Rooster coloring pages and helped us wrap dumplings.

  • If you are hosting, its a great way to show your child the gift of their heritage. They can take pride in sharing a part of themselves with their friends. And what child doesn’t love Show and Tell?!  Invovle them in planning a simple craft or preparing a simple snack that want to share with their friends.
  • If you are participating, this is a wonderful opportunity for your child to learn from their friends about other countries and cultures and increase their curiosity in the world!

 

Would love to hear from you in the comments or on Instagram about your own experiences with the gifts that come with being in a multicultural family! 

 

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