Cultivating Cultural Competence In Children

Culturally diverse childrenIf civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships-the ability of all people, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace. –Franklin D. Roosevelt

The first step to cultivate human relationships starts in the home. Children tend to exhibit the behaviors and attitudes that they observe. If parents want children to value diversity, it’s imperative that parents model respect for all people. In addition, parents must make a conscious effort to provide their children with the skills and tools necessary to grow up to become culturally competent adults.

Research Tells Us…

  • Parents are the primary influence on children’s attitudes toward other cultural groups.
  • Between ages 2 and 5, children become aware of gender, race, ethnicity, and disabilities. They are aware of both the positive and negative bias.
  • Biases based on gender, race, disability, or social class creates obstacles and a false sense of superiority for children.
  • Racism attacks the self-esteem of children of color.

Make Diversity Part Of Your Daily Life

  • Create an environment that reflects diversity. Include toys, literature, artwork, etc. that represents all groups of people.
  • Interact with others that are different. Provide opportunities for your child at school,Different hands together daycare, play-dates, or try attending cultural events together.
  • Talk about diversity. Listen to and answer your child’s questions about what they are experiencing in the world. Talking about their experiences helps them learn from different perspectives.
  • As your child gets older teach him/her how to challenge stereotypes appropriately and what to do when witnessing a bias.
  • Most importantly, parents must model acceptance and open-mindedness about diversity.
  • Make certain that the school your child attends as well as community and religious organizations you belong to promote respect for diversity.

Family Activities

  • Research your own family’s heritage. This will help build a sense of pride and understanding of your cultural heritage in your child.
  • Discuss issues you may hear. Children are going to hear things about diversity and other issues in the media or in the classroom. This brings up a great opportunity to talk to your child about how to respond in an appropriate manner.
  • Learn a second language. Children can start learning another language with simple words like numbers, colors, and naming objects around your home. Our blog post Culturally Responsive Teaching And Environments has great tips on how to introduce other languages in the classroom which can also be used in the home!
  • Explore foods. The cuisine of other cultures introduces children to something different. Try preparing ethnic recipes together at home or dine at an ethnic restaurant.
  • Attend cultural events. Museums, concerts, plays, dances, and attending festivals or celebrations of other cultures are great ways to introduce children to diversity. If you’re a bit apprehensive about attending a cultural celebration/festival for the first time, you might want invite a friend from that community to accompany you and your family to the event.

What are your tips for encouraging cultural competency within your children at home or in the classroom? Leave us a comment!

Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Culturally Responsive Teaching And Environments

Teacher with culturally diverse children

Every day is an opportunity make your classroom environment more culturally responsive! Culturally responsive teaching starts with having an affirming relationship with students and their families. This teaching respects the languages, cultures, and life experiences of your culturally and linguistically diverse children and incorporates them into your teaching. Having a positive attitude toward the cultural experiences that each child brings to the classroom can enrich a child’s learning experience and that of other students.

Personal Inventory

So how can you take your classroom to the next level to instill a greater value and understanding for various ethnic groups every day? It starts with an inventory of your attitudes and beliefs towards students that differ from you and recognizing how that can impact teaching. Some questions to consider might be:

  • What is my definition of diversity?
  • What are my perceptions of students from different racial or ethnic groups? With language or dialects different from mine? With special needs?
  • What are the sources of these perceptions (e.g., friends, relatives, television, movies)?
  • How do I respond to my students, based on these perceptions?

Engage Students and Families

Another way to start culturally responsive teaching is to get parents involved. Getting to know your culturally diverse children’s family can help you incorporate their cultural/ethnic heritage. This can be done through a parent inventory/interview to gain greater insight into the cultural heritage of your students. You might ask parents to describe the following:

  • Customs that are important to your family
  • Special foods your family eats
  • Eating and cooking utensils you use that are unique to your culture
  • Special or traditional clothing you wear
  • Which language(s) is spoken in your home?
  • Which holidays specific to your cultural heritage do you celebrate?

After taking a closer look at each child’s unique cultural experiences, you can begin to incorporate these into your classroom! This can add to your classroom and impact learning for all students.

Creating a Culturally Responsive Classroom

How can you create a culturallyshutterstock_161741426.jpg responsive environment? Start with the way you see your classroom. Here are some tips:

  • Take a look at the bulletin boards, centers, and other materials where you teach. Are they reflective of the diversity that exists in your classroom?
  • Check out the photos you use. Do they reflect diversity? Make sure they include a balance of various cultures, males and females, and people with special needs. Be certain to include people in non-traditional roles for example, you might have a photo of a female fire fighter.
  • Do your play centers reflect different cultures? In a kitchen play center you want to incorporate eating utensils and foods that reflect the cultures you have in your classroom. For example: chopsticks, tortillas, nan, etc. In your dress-up area, include clothing from other cultures for children to try on.
  • Music from different cultures is also a nice addition to the classroom. Have children be exposed to music they may not hear at home from different countries around the world. In a music center, adding musical instruments like rain sticks, chimes, and bongo drums let children express themselves.
  • Try labeling everything in two languages or make your classroom reflect the languages of all the children you teach. Labeling things in English and Spanish for Hispanic Heritage Month is a great place to start. You might want to get parent volunteers to assist you in this task which is a great way to engage parents in your classroom.

Do you have any great tips to make your classroom more culturally responsive? If so, we would love to know in the comments below!

Author:  Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Children’s Books For Hispanic Heritage Month

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National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated September 15th to October 15th! This month celebrates the cultures and contributions of Latino Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. September 15th is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. While Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month try reading these great children’s books:

The Barking Mouse book

The Barking Mouse by Antonio Sacre. This is a Cuban folktale retold by Antonio Sacre is about the value of being bilingual.

I Love Saturdays Y Domingos

I Love Saturdays y Domingos by Alma Flor Ada. Sat­ur­days and Sun­days are very spe­cial days for the child in this story. On Sat­ur­days, she vis­its Grandma and Grandpa, who come from a European-American back­ground, and on Sundays (los domingos) she visits Abuelito y Abuelita, who are Mexican-American. While the two sets of grand­par­ents are dif­fer­ent in many ways, they also have a great deal in common–in par­tic­u­lar, their love for their granddaughter.

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Round is a Tortilla by Roseanne Greenfield Thong.  A little girl discovers that shapes are all around her. They are part of her culture and the food she eats, games she plays, and objects in her room and around her town. Everywhere she looks, she sees shapes!

Green Is a Chile Pepper book

Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Greenfield Thong.  A little girl discovers all the bright colors in her Hispanic American neighborhood.

AUTHOR:  JACKIE GUZMAN, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

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Cultural Diversity Tips For Teachers

10986943_895728893796197_7564530064451823380_o.jpgEarly learning environments that are culturally and developmentally appropriate enhances the educational achievement and success of young children and encourages them to become citizens of the world who respect and affirm the many ways individuals are diverse.

Children, who become citizens of the world, are empathetic to others. They seek to understand and value the diversity of our community and world while maintaining their own sense of cultural pride and values. Children who become citizens of the world learn to think and act with an anti-bias lens. This means a child will

  • demonstrate awareness, confidence, family pride and develop positive social identities
  • express comfort and joy with human diversity
  • develop deep, caring connections with others
  • recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts
  • demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions

Creating an environment that helps children become citizens of the world starts with creating culturally responsive educational experiences that promote cultural diversity and inclusion. For example, if a visitor was to walk into your early childhood program would they find materials such as books, crayons, and play items that are non-stereotypical and represent affirming and positive images of diverse cultural groups (i.e. a book about a woman firefighter or an educator in a wheel chair)? Would children be speaking their native language and also listening to music or learning another language as well?

As you think about ways you are helping children to become citizens of the world and creating culturally responsive learning visit our website and explore the Cultural Diversity topic area for additional topics and resources. 

Dr. Tonia Durden, Extension Specialist | The Learning Child

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Cultural Diversity Tips For Parents

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“Dad! My skin matches your skin”, four-year-old Mitchell grabs his father’s hand as they wait in line at the local supermarket. “But look, dad!” Mitchell shouts, “His skin is like chocolate milk!”

If you are the parent of a preschooler, like the dad in the scenario above, you may have experienced your child’s natural observations and curiosity about cultural diversity. Although children’s observations and questions about the ways in which we are diverse maybe embarrassing or uncomfortable for you as a parent, know that children’s curiosity is developmentally appropriate and should be welcomed with open conversations and opportunities to explore together their interest and questions.

Children today live in communities that reflect the diversity of our American society. They interact with other families and children who are from different cultures, speak different languages, or may have a special need. Children also see images of diversity each day in books, toys, and cartoon characters. When you consider how diversity in gender, ability, language, culture, and ethnicity is all around us, it is not unexpected that young children, are very curious and excited about learning from the diverse world and people around them.

For this reason, parents have the opportunity to support children’s natural interests and curiosity by exploring with them their own unique culture as well as those represented in the local community.

Cultural Diversity In The Family

Start first with your own cultural diversity within your family. Create or share a family photo album with your child, discussing your heritage and places around the country or where members of your family are from or have traveled to.

Cultural Diversity In The Home

Complete a visual scan of your home environment. Does your home reflect the diversity of the community and country in which you live? Try a new recipe from another culture, listen to a different musical genre, or expose your child to books, toys, and puzzles that are non-sterotypical and represent affirming and positive images of the cultural group.

For more information on ways you can enhance or spark your child’s curiosity about cultural diversity visit our website and explore the Cultural Diversity topic area.

LISA POPPE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

This article was previously published for Nebraska Extension by Lisa as a PDF. It is re-published here with her permission.

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