Cultivate a sense of openness and respect for diversity in your child with these expert tips.
Many parents recognize that their children often see themselves as the center of the universe. But children also exhibit an incredible ability to wonder and to relate. Even infants show an innate capacity to attune themselves to the feelings of other infants. Children appear to be naturally inclined to empathize with peers who are hurt or bullied. By and large, children are as aware of their social surroundings as they are egocentric.
Whereas adults have access to the media to learn about the world, a child’s understanding of the social world tends to be confined to his family, playmates and classmates. It’s up to parents and teachers to help children become aware of the similarities and differences across cultures and among people with varying levels of abilities, backgrounds and family types. Social awareness helps young children understand how they fit into the world as they develop their values and attitudes about others.
Socio-dramatic play is a developmentally appropriate way to cultivate a sense of openness and respect for diversity starting at an early age. Traditional fairy tales are rich with details about other cultures and people, and your child may want to explore these identities through pretend play. Give children space to explore, act out and imagine these stories. Dress-up and role-play activities that relate to celebrations or traditions from different parts of the world can help foster a sense of appreciation for cultural differences and spark curiosity to learn more about other people.
Keep in mind that role-play is not a lecture in social studies, but rather an opportunity to freely imagine what it is like to take on another identity. Here are some fun tips to help your child develop social awareness: