Diversity shows up in a variety of ways among your students. It can take the form of race, religious affiliation, family structure and more. While it's important to celebrate this diversity in your classroom, in-depth lectures on racial equality, religious freedom and similar topics will likely go over their heads. But that doesn't mean that there's nothing you can do to help your students develop tolerant and loving attitudes toward others. At this age, the main thing to emphasize is that ALL people are different and that's OK.
If you work with preschool-age children, consider incorporating these activities into your curriculum to give your students opportunities to celebrate diversity.
1. Read together
As an early childhood educator, you likely spend time reading to the kids in your care. Books are a great opportunity to explore diversity in an age-appropriate way. There are a number of beautifully illustrated options that help kids appreciate their differences while recognizing the things that they share.
Even if you aren't reading books that specifically touch on diversity, make sure that your class library has options that feature a variety of main characters. This should also be true of dolls and other toys that you have in your room.
2. Infuse your curriculum
Teaching children about diversity doesn't need to be blatant. There are simple ways to incorporate these themes into your existing curriculum that don't require a separate unit. In fact, early childhood education teacher Vanessa Levin wrote that celebrating multiculturalism in a separate unit can limit the topic to a short period of time, which can lessen its long-term impact.
Instead, look for ways to incorporate diversity into your normal lessons. If you're learning about foods, for example, discuss dishes from other countries alongside those of your own. And while you should discuss the differences in these other culinary experiences, be sure to also stress the similarities.
Celebrating diversity in your classroom can help your students recognize that it's okay to be different.
3. Celebrate holidays
Children in preschool may be a bit young for long history lessons, but that doesn't mean that they can't be exposed to different cultures and traditions. A fun way to to do this is to celebrate holidays together. However, depending on the rules of your school, you may need to speak to the director, principal or your students' parents before moving forward with any activities, particularly if they are religious in nature. Be sure to familiarize yourself with any rules or guidelines before planning your curriculum.
Remember, at this age, children are trying to figure out how the world works. They may make inappropriate comments or ask uncomfortable questions, but these are typically born of simple curiosity. Engage with them on these topics gently and patiently when possible, but consider involving the parents if you feel there is a recurring problem or misunderstanding.
For more tips on working with your students on this topic, consider enrolling in the Prosolutions Training online course on appreciating and celebrating diversity.