At Play Street, we believe that we have a duty to develop in children a sense of independence while simultaneously instilling in them the importance of community, team work, and tolerance. Helping children to explore diversity awareness at a young age is the first step in doing just that. Broaching the subjects of diversity and tolerance can seem like daunting tasks, but they don’t have to be. You can introduce your child to these concepts the way that they learn best…. through play!
Here are a few of Play Street’s picks for things that you can do to help your child explore cultural and physical diversity:
Add people to your construction toys
By adding pretend people to the building area, you allow children to think deeper about what they are constructing. You might see them build a fire station for a fireman figure or gather several pretend children and place them in a playground they build. When you add pretend people that represent varying physical abilities, you create an opportunity for dialogue, “How will the lady in the wheelchair get into your building? Will she be able to use the stairs? Do you think it would be helpful if we opened the door for someone in a wheelchair?” These types of conversations can help create an awareness of physical differences and allow you to discuss appropriate ways to interact with people of varying abilities while also instilling empathy and promoting kindness.
Have your dolls, puppets, or action figures represent a variety of cultures
Dolls, puppets, and action figures can become good tools for allowing children to act out their feelings, explore their ideas, and discover the world. As an adult engages with a child by using one of these items, they can have conversations with children about cultural diversity and other serious topics in a fun and unintimidating way. For example, when playing with a doll, puppet or action figure that represents a culture that is different from your own, you create an opportunity to observe the way the figure is dressed, discuss traditional food that someone of that culture might eat, and think about what it might be like to live where someone of that culture is from. Additionally, guided play with dolls, puppets, and action figures of different cultures can also help to teach children about their own family’s story: one doll might say to another, “Our family sailed across the ocean and moved to America. They had to learn how to grow plants and vegetables and hunt for food to eat. Where did your family come from?”
Help children learn about the world by first learning about themselves
For children, learning about diversity begins by first learning about themselves. You can start this with even the youngest child as you allow them time in front of the mirror looking at and labeling the parts of their own face. Additionally, toys that allow for facial construction like Mr. Potato Head dolls, Make a Face blocks, and Magnetic Silly Faces help children to think critically about the individual parts of a face. By giving each item that they are playing with a set of eyes, ears, a mouth and nose, children are learning that a variety of items can share similarities (all have faces) even though each one looks different. This allows children to focus on similarities and value differences, helping them to draw ties and relate to others.
You are unique! There is no one on earth exactly like you! Stop by Play Street McKinney this month to see just what makes you so special while exploring similarities and differences and learning more about your unique face. These activities are just the thing for little ones looking for fun!