So originally, this was going to be 'w is for walk'. We will talk about walking here, but also about walking of the mind - or wandering. What exactly does that mean? Allowing yourself - and your kids - to really explore things and use their imagination. So let's talk about wandering - CCK style.
Imagination and play are essential for children's development and they are also important components in fostering diversity awareness. Why would this be? Well, there are a number of reasons...
Play helps children to develop a number of skills. These include awareness of the self and others, how to interact with peers and adults, and problem-solving. All of these elements are important in helping children understand themselves as cultural beings as well as understanding others. In addition, play allows children to act out the things that they see around them and make sense of them.
So how can you go about helping your child integrate imagination and wandering (both mentally and physically) into their diversity awareness? I'm glad you asked...
Ask them questions - constantly: The basic questions about how their day was and what they did in school are great, but also make sure that you go deeper than that. Ask about the kids in their class. Ask about the people on the street that they see. Ask about their teachers. Ask about their friends. Nothing is off-limits; an important thing to model.
Encourage them to ask questions: And answer them completely and honestly when they do. Go deeper than the most simple answers to their questions. Of course, it is vital to be developmentally appropriate - you don't want to go way over their heads. But don't make it seem as if the world is neat and tidy all the time. Plant seeds that will grow into deeper conversations as they get older.
Go on an adventure walk: Take a walk around your neighborhood and point out everything. The trees, the people, the houses. Encourage your child to point things out as well. And then comment on the things that they see. Help them to understand why things look the way that they look. Someone planted a tree there. Those homes are condos and those are houses and there are many reasons people choose to live in one as opposed to the other. I see more people with brown skin on this street than this street. Here are some reasons why...
Explore aspects of life that seem simple: When children are playing with toys, talk to them about the interactions. Sure, these things seem simple, but children are typically acting out what they see and experience in the world around them. Ask for examples of what they have seen. Ask about the race, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status of the dolls and toys that they are playing with. Make statements that help them think more in-depth about their play.
There are lots of ways to let your mind and body wander. To explore yourself and the world around you. The best thing about this is that you are never too old for this. It can be tweaked and tailored for any age you choose. Just get started - you may be surprised where this takes you...
Leave a comment below and let us know what you tried and how it went. Be sure to check back next week for letter X and sign up for the newsletter for even more from Culturally Competent Kids!
Dr. Sweeney is a licensed school psychologist and cultural competence expert. Here are her musings on life in a multicultural world.
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