It's never too early to start preparing your child for the diverse world she will move into. Toddlers can benefit from an anti-bias approach to learning, in which the goal is to give them a sense of justice and equality, respect for cultures, religions and races, and pride in their own heritage, notes the National Association for the Education of Young Children. To foster and encourage open-mindedness in your toddler, try engaging her in activities recommended by educator Patricia G. Ramsey and colleagues in their article, "Engaging Young Children in Activities and Conversations About Race and Social Class," published by the NAEYC.
Give your child skin-tone crayons, markers and paints, which can help to familiarize her with subtle differences in tone and hue, Ramsey and her colleagues suggest. "This exposure can potentially counteract the aversion to darker colors that is prevalent in our society (for example, the common use of black and dark to describe negative objects, people, and events) and that children frequently express," they note. Also recommended: Displaying realistic pictures of children and adults from various racial groups, and having your child make illustrations for a handmade book about differences.
Stories and Songs
When books grab a young child's attention, they can spark discussions that challenge stereotypes and misinformation, according to the NAEYC article. They advise exposing your child to books and songs that focus on similarities and differences among people and families, including "Dear Juno" by Soyung Park, "All the Colors of the Earth" by Sheila Hamanaka, and "Black, White, Just Right!" by Marguerite Davol.
Puzzles and Games
"Puzzles alone may not engage a child’s thinking about diversity, but they may stimulate conversations if the images are connected to other ongoing activities and themes," Ramsey and colleagues say. They suggest doing life-size floor puzzles with photographs of children from various races, or ones depicting a range of racial groups, families and jobs -- ideally some that challenge typical gender roles. Another of their suggestions is to play concentration-like matching games with photos of diverse faces on the cards.
Offer multiracial, multiage dolls, and play houses representing different levels of affluence, Ramsey and colleagues recommend. Encourage your child to have the black, Hispanic, white and Asian dolls interact and form friendships and families, they suggest. As the educators observed in one early childhood classroom, "Eva declared that a black baby doll and a white little girl doll were sisters and also said that the Asian woman was the grandmother. All the dolls sat down and ate dinner together."