Help preschoolers embrace diversity, develop empathy and foster a sense of inclusivity within the classroom, home and the wider world with these simple ideas.
Much like teaching tolerance and values to young children, learning about diversity is not really something that can be achieved in a lesson or a single week of planned activities. Rather, many of these types of activities can be ongoing or visited weekly, such as reading a diverse story or learning a new phrase in a different language each week.
Learning about diversity in early childhood involves more than just exposing kids to different cultures – it also includes appreciating and accepting differences in religion, age, gender, identity, sexual orientation, ability, education, ethnicity and origin.
Here are 22 basic diversity activities for preschoolers.
1. Dress-Up Play
A simple way to introduce diversity into children’s free play and dramatic play is to have a dress-up area in the home/classroom with clothing and props from different cultures. You could also include diverse dolls and toys.
2. Friendship Chain
Create a paper chain with each child’s name and a drawing representing themselves to illustrate that diversity makes a strong, interconnected community.
Or, make a chain of paper dolls, each one decorated by a different child to show their uniqueness.
3. Paper Plate Faces
For this craft activity about uniqueness, make faces with paper plates. Children can draw the faces and stick bits of coloured paper or other materials, such as ribbon or string, to make the features.
Have a conversation beforehand about what makes each person unique physically. Ask children to identify their own features such as different hair types (hair texture, hair colour, straight or curly hair, etc.), skin colour, eye colour, facial features, etc.
4. Art from Around the World
Use art activities as a hands-on way of exploring diversity while creating beautiful things. Teach children that different people around the world express themselves creatively in different ways and that certain types of art can be prevalent in certain cultures.
Explore art projects inspired by different cultures, such as attempting some Japanese paper folding (Origami), pottery from Morocco, or colourful beadwork from South Africa.
5. Food From Around the World
Cultural differences can also be seen in the food that is unique to certain countries/groups of people.
Make some basic cultural foods together, or invite children to bring in some food from home that is typical of their culture and have a day of sampling and chatting about foods from around the world.
Reading to children is an easy way to expose them to cultural diversity and to other topics of diversity that may be challenging to introduce in other ways, such as sexual orientation or gender stereotypes.
A home or classroom library should be filled with stories of all kinds of diverse characters. Books about diversity can include themes of disability, race, religion, identity, culture, language, gender, age, fitting in and feeling different, etc.
After reading the stories, discuss the themes involved and ask lots of open-ended questions.
7. Collage Flags
Pick a few country flags (perhaps that represent the history of children in your class or your own family) and teach kids the flags with an art activity.
Making collage flags is a great way to memorise the colours of certain flags and is far more effective than just showing a picture and expecting kids to remember the colours.
Kids will also build fine motor skills as they tear and stick down the pieces of paper in different colours. They can also work as a group decorating one large flag.
8. Multicultural Music and Dance
Have some fun with music from different cultures. You could:
- Teach some basic dance steps to traditional and cultural dances – such as Greek or Irish dancing.
- Explore traditional musical instruments, allowing kids to touch, feel and hear the sounds these instruments make.
- Listen to songs and different types of music from around the world.
While you can introduce these in a lesson, you could also make it part of the home/class culture to regularly play music from different places.
9. Traditional Games
Have fun playing some games from different countries.
10. Show and Tell
Have a cultural show and tell where everyone brings in an item or something special that they can share with the others. This will spread cultural awareness and help children see that their peers are all different and that these differences can be celebrated.
11. Exploring the World Map
This is a project best done over the long term, especially with younger kids. Keep a large world map up on the wall and add to it over time.
You could label certain countries as they come up in context (such as a place one of your kids went to on holiday), add interesting facts about certain places (such as animals that we find in parts of the world), or add images of famous landmarks.
Younger children will enjoy seeing pictures and symbols, more than words.
12. Handprint Mural
A unity mural is a fun diversity craft. Collaboratively create a mural with handprints from all the children in the class, celebrating diversity and unity.
13. Introduce New Languages
Teach children to appreciate different languages by exposing them to some new ones. Pick a few languages – these could be the home languages of children in your class, or just popular languages – and teach a few basic greetings.
Use them with the children every day so they get to practise them. Put the greeting words on bulletin boards so the staff learn them too.
14. Special Celebrations
Keep a large calendar up on the wall and make a point of talking about special cultural events as well as religious holidays as they come up.
15. Family Trees
Provide an outline of a family tree and parents can help their children to put it together, filling in details of family members as well as where they came from. This activity will show kids how many different nationalities are represented in their backgrounds.
They can paste photos of their family members or draw pictures of them.
16. Playdough People
For this activity, make a batch of homemade playdough, but separate it into batches and colour each batch different shades of peaches and browns, to represent shades of skin tones.
Get kids to create playdough people of different ethnic groups, with various skin tones.
17. Dress-Up Day
A fun way to celebrate diverse cultures is to have a multicultural dress-up day. This could coincide with bringing in different foods from around the world and even playing cultural music in the background.
18. Storytelling Circle
Have a class discussion or storytelling circle where everyone can share stories about and answer questions about their families, heritage, traditions or memorable experiences.
19. Parent Talks
Invite parents or community members from different cultural backgrounds to talk to the children about their traditions, jobs or hobbies. This will provide kids with a different perspective and introduce them to diverse role models.
Puppet play is a wonderful way for children to act out the world and try to make sense of it. Provide some diverse puppets or get kids to make puppets and set them up in a quieter area, where children can interact with the characters on their own terms.
21. Role-Playing Scenarios
In this activity, the adult guides the role play by presenting a scenario that involves embracing diversity, such as welcoming a new friend who speaks a different language or has different traditions. You could also use the puppets for this. Involve the children in deciding how the characters can respond to and support each other.
22. Virtual Field Trips
Why not make use of technology to broaden children’s experiences of the world and its diversity? Play them video clips of unique experiences or take them on virtual tours of beautiful places.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these examples of multicultural activities. Many of these can be adapted to suit kids of all ages and can help set a foundation for social studies, which kids will begin later on at school
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