Raising your children to embrace cultural diversity, and have an appreciation and knowledge of people who are culturally and linguistically different helps them grow into adults who are accepting of all people.
But how can parents play a part in making sure their children are aware of and have an understanding of diversity?
Dr Alice Chik from the School of Education at Macquarie University says the five years and under age group is a good time for parents to start educating their children about cultural differences.
“With that age group there are several great starting points; food, music, celebrations, picture books, library story time and television/movies. The important thing is to let your children experience and enjoy diversity as part of their everyday experience,” Dr Chik says.
Food – We can do this at home or (when COVID-19 is over) in restaurants. For one or two days a week, we can have dinner from around the world. It could be noodle, dumplings, sushi, pizza, kebab, bratwurst etc. Many of these foods are readily available from supermarkets, with some or no additional cooking. With world cuisine, new vocabulary in languages other than English (LOTE) can be introduced. And this does not require parents and guardians to speak the languages.
Music – Choose a children’s song, sung in a language other than English, or watch a music video together. For example, ‘Baby Shark Dance’ is made by a Korean company with a video featuring sharks and children of Asian heritage. It is amazing how children can pick up a song in different languages. For example, if your child has a favourite Disney song, it frequently comes in multiple languages. There are countless YouTube videos available.
Celebrations – The Australian Government publishes a cultural celebration calendar, so choose your celebrations! And there are also a lot of cultural events happening at district level. Check your council website for more details.
Picture books – all local public libraries have really great collections of picture books on diversity. And all public libraries will also have LOTE children’s books. If you talk to the librarians, they’ll happily guide you. During shared reading time with your children, try fairy tales and folklore from around the world. There are also a lot of fantastic picture books on Aboriginal culture and Dreamtime (e.g. How the Kangaroo got its Tail; Molly the Pig / Moli det Bigibigi; No Way Yirrikipayi!)
Library storytime – (post COVID-19) Many local libraries run bilingual storytime and rhyming time sessions for free, and they are great opportunities for toddlers and young children to enjoy group reading and rhyming activities. And these are also great opportunities to meet other children.
TV/Movies – Many children’s television programs and movies include characters of diverse backgrounds (e.g. Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, Moana, Totoro My Neighbour).