Everywhere we look in life we are constantly faced with differences. Cultural differences, family differences, different appearances, different values and different physical, mental or emotional capabilities or needs. What is important to learn is that differences are what makes each person unique and special. Everyone belongs no matter what differences we may have! Plus, we all have plenty in common too!
Harmony Day is coming up on 21 March, with Harmony Week and its associated events taking place in the lead up starting from 15 March. The theme of Harmony Week is: Everyone Belongs. What better opportunity to explore and celebrate that message in early childhood education!
Children are inspiring in the way they accept differences, and fostering that is vital. Here are just a few ways we can make sure that children grow up believing that everyone belongs:
- Educate children on differences: Children ask questions to learn about the world, so it’s important to give them factual answers. It’s natural that a child might wonder why a person is using a wheelchair, why someone uses sign language, or why another child is non-verbal or their behaviour appears different to what the child is used to seeing. Help them to know why and to understand through facts and empathy. Books like ‘We’re All Wonders’ by R.J. Palacio is the perfect example for children as it talks about differences and being kind to others.
- Create a diverse environment: Dolls with various skin tones, shapes and sizes, books with families of all kinds… Children are always learning from what’s around them and normalising things that could be perceived as different can go a long way towards children naturally embracing differences long term.
- Explore food, art and music: Cultural diversity can be fun to explore through many senses, including taste, sight and hearing. Use these elements to create a multi-faceted cultural experience for children to appreciate the variety in multiculturalism.
- Talk about our similarities: While it’s great to celebrate differences, create space for the many other things everyone has in common. Regardless of skin colour, physical ability, family structure – you name it – our similarities with other people always outnumber our differences
- Celebrate diversity year-round: Try to foster an environment that continually celebrates diversity and invites sharing of differences or uniqueness. Show and tell, cultural-themed days, books about children who are living with certain conditions.
The Harmony Day/Week website has a bunch of resources to support your event or endeavours around promoting the message that everyone belongs. Take a look here.
We would love to see what you are doing or perhaps what you already do to encourage children’s understanding of differences and appreciation of diversity in all aspects of life. Tag us on social media or get in touch to share and inspire!