Children are naturally curious about the world, and that includes being curious about people who do not look, act, live, or speak exactly like they do. We live in a world where people from all walks of life are more connected than ever before, and that’s an amazing thing. But along with that opportunity comes the huge responsibility of helping children understand different cultures, abilities, and lifestyles. As caregivers, nannies play a very important role in helping to educate children and in reinforcing the values they’re already learning at home, so it’s important to also make learning about diversity a part of children’s everyday experiences. The ways in which children learn about diversity will vary depending on their ages and their parent(s)’s preferences, but there are some accessible ways for nannies of all children to incorporate valuable lessons about diversity into play time, fun outings, and even screen time.
- Buy Toys and Books That Promote Diversity
Even if you don’t buy toys directly for your nanny children, you can still encourage diversity and awareness through play. You can offer to research and compile a list of gifts for a holiday or birthday that includes dolls and figurines of different skin colors, unique play foods, and/or books featuring characters with different abilities, skin colors, religions, roots, etc. During play, you can also incorporate currencies from other countries and words and phrases from other languages, or do a craft or art project that teaches about another culture.
- Use Travel as a Learning Opportunity
If your nanny family travels, use those trips as an opportunity to teach children about other cultures and people. Before the trip, introduce children to some of the things they might see and experience during their travels. You may try preparing some dishes from the country they’ll be experiencing or visiting a museum where they can learn more about the history of the destination. You can show them where the destination is located on a map and talk about what makes that location stand out. There’s also an app called One Globe Kids that features stories and day-in-the-life-style videos about kids from all over the world.
- Seek Out Local Opportunities to Experience Other Cultures
You don’t always have to travel in order to experience something new. Look out for local food and cultural festivals, visit art museums, learn about prominent artists from different cultures, and attend events at libraries that feature books and authors from different cultures.
- Encourage Diverse Friendships
Children benefit from having friends with different backgrounds, religions, cultures, and socioeconomic statuses than their own. If children only visit the same few places over and over again, they will likely only be exposed to the same kinds of people. If you have the responsibility of planning playdates or outings, plan them with a wide variety of people and at a wide variety of places to help foster meaningful connections between your nanny children and a diverse array of friends.
- Watch Movies and Shows with Diverse Characters
Now, more than ever, there is a wealth of entertainment opportunities that teach children about various cultures and people. Choose to devote time to watching movies and shows that have a diverse cast and tell stories about all types of people—people of various gender identities, differing abilities, different skin colors, etc., who live in or are from countries other than your nanny kids.
- Be Willing to Talk About Differences
For some, it’s tempting to avoid conversations about diversity because it feels awkward to talk about race or the differences between cultures. But children naturally notice the differences between people, and having conversations about those differences increases their understanding and openness. In a guide to teaching diversity by Christopher J. Metzler, Ph.D, that was featured on PBS, Dr. Metzler says to listen to kids’ questions, address any offensive language they may unknowingly use when asking questions (this is an important learning opportunity!), and be willing to explain differences in a positive way, whether it’s why someone has a unique-sounding name or why they look different. Unless we are willing to explain things that seem “strange” to children, he notes, we will never be successful in teaching children to understand and appreciate differences.