Guest blogger Jamie Smith, ISU Environmental Rating Scale Assessor, continues her discussion on diversity.
I often hear providers and teachers say that they struggle to discuss diversity with infants and toddlers. It’s true, a lot of activities that are out there don’t work for that age group. I like to encourage people to incorporate diversity into their language with children.
We want providers/teachers to use many different descriptive words throughout the day to build children’s vocabulary and language skills, so why not dedicate some of that language to diversity?
- “Molly you have such big, brown eyes! And Kevin, you have bright, blue eyes! Our eyes help us see. Where are your eyes? Can you blink?”
- “Shawn’s mommy brought him to school today. Claire, your daddy brought you. Isn’t it nice to spend time with mommies and daddies? Let’s look at our family pictures. Shawn, your mom has brown hair. Claire, your dad has no hair. Where is your hair?”
Music is another great way to introduce children to different cultures. We want to avoid having music as background noise, so be sure to limit use to times that children can hear and are interested. It doesn’t do much good to have music on if a child is crying or walking away to find another toy!
Many libraries offer diverse music CDs, and there are many musical apps or programs, such as Pandora, that also provide a variety of music that is free or low-cost. Talk with children about where the music originates – African drums, Celtic lullabies, etc., as well as the sounds, rhythms and beats. This helps children begin to appreciate diversity and music.
- “Oh, Marcus, did you hear that? Thump, thump, thump. Can you try that on your drum?”
- “Sara, did you know this music is from Ireland. That’s a long way away from here, but it’s very pretty. Do you hear that sound? That’s a flute.”
Using sign language with infants and toddlers provides them with another route of communication and also helps them gain a basic understanding of differing abilities. Baby sign can be helpful to you and children – a child may not be able to verbally express that they are thirsty, but if they can sign “milk,” you may be able to quickly identify why they are upset or what their needs are.
The American Sign Language for Kids website has many resources, including videos and an app to help you learn and use sign language with young ones.
As the new year unfolds, how will you introduce infants and toddlers to diversity words and experiences?