I had been hearing about the importance of routines since before my daughter was born. Between the back and forth to music, art, or gym class, set mealtimes, and set bedtimes, I began to feel like my daughter’s world was quite small. How could I teach her about other countries, cultures, and indigenous peoples across the globe within the confines of our day to day life?
While I would love to have the time and funds to jet set off to a foreign land with my family, that’s not currently in the cards. Plus, it would be nice to have my daughter be of an age where she’d remember such a journey. My husband and I decided that the best way we could introduce her to other cultures at this stage is exposure through things she enjoys every day: reading books, listening to music, and going to museums.
There are a number of multicultural children’s books available – all intended to transcend stereotypes and expose the reader to other cultures. “Round is a Mooncake” by Roseanne Thong has become a favorite in our house. Thong includes recognizable items (the moon, a pebble, a cell phone) as well as items relevant to Chinese culture. As a bonus, there’s a glossary that defines the Chinese items mentioned in the book which allows me to further the conversation after we’re done reading.
I sing and listen to music all day long with my daughter, so incorporating songs from other parts of the world has become a fun way to expose her to other cultures. We’ve added Native American, Latin, African, Irish, and Indian music to our Pandora playlist. We try to tie this music to meals or events, so, for example, we’ll talk about Irish step dancing around St. Patrick’s Day or we’ll listen to salsa music while eating a Colombian inspired dinner. In these ways, we feel we can bring a bit of other cultures into our home.
We may not have plans to travel to overseas right now, but The Boston Children’s Museum’s Japanese house exhibit allows us to step into an actual home from Kyoto, Japan. From taking off our shoes before we enter, to sitting on the mats around the dining table, to observing a Japanese garden, we have a unique opportunity to experience what daily life was like in this hundred year old house. In addition to the Japanese house, there are several other permanent exhibits and scheduled programs that highlight world cultures. These exhibits and events have given our daughter opportunities to experience traditions and cultures with nearly all senses.
We know that these are small steps that we can take as parents to introduce other traditions, ceremonies, lifestyles, and languages into our daughter’s life, but our hope is that we spark a natural curiosity to learn more and create an attitude of tolerance and acceptance.
In what ways have you exposed your child to our multicultural world and the indigenous peoples in which it resides?