In today's global culture, it is becoming increasingly imperative to expose children to diversity at an early age. Diversity, to put it simply, teaches children that their experience of the world is not the only experience. Diversity can be taught from many angles: race, age, religion, family structure, country of origin, language, and ability. And a culturally diverse preschool class will incorporate all of these.
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Incorporate world languages. You don't have to be fluent in another language to teach your students "Frere Jaques" or "Feliz Navidad." Learn some songs, poems or phrases in American Sign Language to teach to your students.
Host guest speakers. The best way for children to understand new information and appreciate diversity is for them to see it with their own eyes. Invite speakers to your classroom who can talk about the culture, religion, race or country that they represent. Open the discussion to questions from students.
Teach geography. Decorate your room with maps and globes and get your students excited about their world. Daily exercises should include pinpointing the country, state and town where the class is located.
Play music from other cultures. The preschool child's brain is a sponge, ready to absorb all kinds of new information. While children are busy doing crafts, eating snacks or napping, play music with diverse cultural origins. Before you know it, they will be reciting French nursery rhymes or African jams by heart.
Celebrate global holidays, not just those celebrated in your country or community. Children love parties, so give them an excuse to celebrate by introducing a wide variety of world holidays. Play games, eat food and sing songs typical of the holiday.
Play dress-up. Provide a variety of traditional costumes from all over the world. Children are going to dress up anyway, so you might as well make it a learning experience.
Cook a variety of foods from all over the world. During snack time, why not experiment with culturally diverse foods? Children love to cook, and this is a hands-on way for them to appreciate a new culture's cuisine.
Explore different family structures. During a "family" theme week, have the children draw pictures of their families and then share their drawings with the class. Students will see that families come in all sorts: single moms, single dads, same-sex couples, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and foster and adoptive parents.
Experience different disabilities. Blindfold children and have them attempt to conduct a simple activity. Bring in a child-sized wheelchair and have them experience first-hand what it is like to not have use of their legs. Teach basic signs to orient them to the deaf experience.
Decorate your room with diversity in mind. Letters of the alphabet should have a corresponding American Sign Language version. Dolls and action figures should represent a variety of races, ages and abilities.
Keep a diverse library. Books should reflect a wide variety of experiences, featuring themes and people of different races, religions, countries, ages, abilities and family structures. Foreign-language or bilingual books are especially fun as children are learning to read.
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