In some ways we are different. And in so many ways we are the same. - Daniel Tiger
By 4 or 5 years of age, children already notice differences of gender, race, and physical disabilities in other children.
They differentiate between boys and girls. They differentiate those around them based on appearance, sound, mannerisms – even abilities or disabilities.
They’re curious about the differences of skin color and hair texture among themselves.
They’re curious about differences in dress and cultural and religious beliefs and celebrations.
And they’re curious about children who may have disabilities.
This curiosity is an excellent opportunity for teachers and parents to explore and discuss these differences in a meaningful way and to celebrate what makes each child unique in his or her own way.
Although children notice and are curious about these differences, they still find common ground in which to interact and play together.
If you notice children in a playground or schoolyard setting, their main focus is usually the same – a desire to be included and an eagerness to participate in whatever activity interests them at the time.
Children play ball together, ride their bikes, climb on the playground equipment or just run around with whomever wants to engage in the same activity. They smile and laugh when they’re having fun and are sad and cry when they are left out or get hurt.
And, on a more basic level, children are also all the same.
- They all get hungry and want to eat.
- They all get tired and want to sleep.
- They all want shelter when they’re cold or wet.
- They all want to be comforted when they’re sad or afraid.
- They all want to be loved and cared for when they’re lonely.
Children of all genders, races, religions, or physical ability want to experience the joys of being kids – and hopefully parents and teachers will encourage their active participation to do just that.
Thankfully, the innocence of childhood sees no negative barriers in the differences in children, but rather accepts diversity as an opportunity to be curious and learn.
The similar things connect us and the different things help us appreciate what makes our world so fascinating and exciting. Teaching our children to understand this can help us relearn it ourselves if we have forgotten.
This is the fact of life we need to be teaching our children from the very beginning – we are the same, but different.
How can you help your child appreciate the differences in others?
Here are a few ideas:
- One day, your sweet little one will ask why another child in your neighborhood has dark skin, or curly dark hair, or beautiful slanted eyes. This is an opportunity for you to share with them that there are different groups of people in the world, all of whom look different, but never-the-less make the world a more beautiful place to live in.
- Take advantage of cultural events in your community. Civic centers and local groups all over the US have days during which various cultural, ethnic and religious groups celebrate their uniqueness. You can typically find these in your local newspaper or online, and they are usually free or fairly inexpensive. Find ways to take your children to these types of events and give them the opportunity to see clothing, dances, and ways of life that maybe are unfamiliar to them.
- There are different foods in the world. Visit local restaurants that serve foods from around the world and have your child try something new!
- Languages are fascinating. The younger a child is, the easier it is for them to pick up a language. Pick up some language books from your local library or use apps like Duolingo to learn a few phrases in other languages.
Teaching children to appreciate the similarities and differences that are all around us is as important as ever. I am passionate about this message, and you can expect Lily and her friends to communicate this message throughout the Superheroes series.