8 Ways to help your children respect other cultures

The following post is by contributor Catherine Way of Adventures With Kids.

What is your child’s favourite food?  One of my son’s favourite things to eat is Vegemite toast.  What sports do your children like to play or watch on TV?  My sons love to play footy in the backyard and watch the AFL (Australian Football League).  That’s right, we’re Australian.  I bet that, wherever you are in the world, what your children like is different to what my children like.  That’s because everyone is different and everywhere is different.

Children are born belonging to a particular culture, but around the world there are many ways of living and being. Technology has connected the world and we can speak to and see people in far away places within seconds. As they grow, today’s children will encounter and need to connect, communicate and work together with people from a diverse range of backgrounds.  Encouraging your child to approach people’s differences with a mindset of learning from one another, rather than fearing or judging one another, will help them to understand that despite the differences these are people just like them.

Gaining knowledge of different cultural practices also helps children develop their sense of identity and understand their place in their family, local community, town, country and the world community.

Here are some ways to explore different cultures, traditions, languages and families with your child:

  1. Snuggle up with a book.

    There are many books that can introduce you to places around the world or people that are different from your children.   Delightful Children’s Books has a wonderful list of books to help you Read Around the World.
    My favourite book for starting a discussion about diversity is Mem Fox’s, Whoever You Are.  It is a wonderful book showing the differences and the similarities of children in cultures around the world with the message that no matter where we come from our hearts are the same.
  2. Cook (and eat)!

    I can’t imagine being confined to food from one culture.  I love to try international food.  Cooking and eating new dishes with your children is fun and a great way to start a discussion about other cultures.  There are many ways to introduce internationl food.  Have a theme night with food from a country you are interested in.  Or plan a project to cook and try international desserts.  Visit the supermarket and choose a new type of fruit.  How about eating with chopsticks, making your own pasta or rolling sushi?
  3. Learn some new words.

    Guten Morgen! Selamat Pagi! Bom Dia! Learn how to say good morning, goodbye or thank you in other languages.  Learn to count to 10.  Challenge yourself to say good morning in a different language every day for a week.  Or learn some simple songs in another language – Frere Jacques, anyone?
  4. Dance and sing

    Music is a wonderful way to give the world to your children.  There are some many beautiful styles around the world.  Have you ever heard Tuvan throat singing, played a guiro or seen an Irish dance.  This playlist on Simple Kids is a great place to start exploring world music with your kids, or Putumayo Kids has a range of world music CDs.

  5. Look at the map

    Get a world map or an atlas.  Play games with your children.  Try to find countries from A to Z.  Pick and country and wonder about what it would be like to live there – would it be hot or cold?  what animals would be around?  what would your house look like?  Use Google Earth to take a closer look at the country of your choice.  What are the landmarks that tourists might visit in that country?
    If you have an ipad, Barefoot Books has an amazing World Atlas app to help you explore the world.
  6. Be open to discussion

    Be available to your children when they have awkward questions about differences between people.  Don’t automatically shush them or ignore their question (although you may need to tell them that they need to ask again at a more suitable time).  By honouring your children’s questions, you teach them that it is okay for people to be different and is not something that we ignore or are ashamed about.
  7. Take an excursion

    One-on-one contact is most effective way to teach about other places and cultures.  Take your children to restaurants that serve mulitcultural food.  Look out for multicultural festivals and events in your town.  If and when you have the money, travel to other countries and let your children experience different cultures first hand.

  8. How can you help

    Unfortunately, not all countries in the world are created equal.  Many people around the world are much less well off than us.  So, as you explore the world with your children, think about whether you could do something to help those people.  Perhaps you could make a donation, sponsor a child or loan money through Kiva.

I hope I have inspired you to explore the world with your children and give them a chance to appreciate the richness of the world’s cultural diversity.
Website for further inspiration: kidworldcitizen

What culture would you  love to explore with your child/ren?

About Catherine

Catherine Way is mum to two boys living in North Australia. They read lots, run lots, love to learn new things and are good at finding fun and mischief. Catherine blogs about her family adventures and passion for lifelong learning at Indirect Observations.

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  1. This is a great list. Thanks for the book suggestions.
    Steph´s latest post: Sweet 16

  2. I love and apply all these tips, but my favorite are the last three. We don’t plan to shy away from awkward questions about culture that our toddler may throw at us. He needs to understand his world and shushing him isn’t going to help anyone.

    I would also love to travel to different countries, but in the meantime, I agree that cultural festivals is a great way to expose kids. We just have to balance it with not making the culture seem like a cute novelty but instead let him know that people have roots that continue to thrive even today.

    And I am a huge fan of Kiva; been donating for several months now. Micro lending truly gives poverty-stricken people the chance to create their own successes rather than taking handouts.
    Sleeping Should Be Easy´s latest post: Putting tantrums in perspective

  3. Great ideas! We love learning about many different countries/cultures. We sponsor a child through Compassion and regularly talk about what we think our child might be doing at certain times of the day. We also keep a globe on our bookshelves to quickly locate other countries we read about.
    Our Learning´s latest post: I Love You, Too

  4. I’d like to explore Russia with my kids because we have a few Russian families at our church. A couple of families are our friends so that is another resource we can use to learn from.
    Paula´s latest post: Journey to a Healthier Me: It’s Not Easy

  5. This is such an important topic to address, and I love your suggestions!

    To me, though, the number one best way to help my children appreciate diversity is for them to have friends who are from different cultures and for them to see also that their parents have friends from different cultures. Then difference and diversity becomes the “norm,” and a happy norm at that. We happen to live in a very diverse city, but even in other parts of the world that are less diverse, there are still differences among people, and interacting with people of all backgrounds is a great skill to develop for ourselves as parents as well as for our children. Of course, this can be difficult if you are not accustomed to breaking outside of your “comfort zone.” Volunteer organizations and religious organizations are often great ways to meet new and different people. Or, just hang out at the playground and talk to the other parents you see!
    Shereen´s latest post: I am not even kidding

    • Catherine says:

      I agree, Shereen. Having friends from a range of backgrounds is something that really enriches your life.

  6. Great suggestions! We live abroad so we do a lot of these things to learn about the new culture around us (as well as others) and the culture we came from. It helps us connect and stay connected with many different cultures. My kids love learning Mandarin kids songs.
    Anna@The DIY Mom´s latest post: DIY Easy Dark Chocolate Cake

  7. Education is the key to understanding another person’s culture, and paves the way for intelligent conversation about the various cultures that make up the melting pot that is the world population..
    Sheryl´s latest post: hello world!

  8. This is a great post thanks! In our house we love the Ann Morris books. They are a wonderful way for young children to see all the differences around the world, but also the similarities. http://www.amazon.com/Hats-Around-World-Series/dp/0688122744

  9. We spent 5 years immersed in Hispanic (mostly Mexican) culture. It was a real eye opener for my husband and I, who had been raised in rural Utah. We love trying out new cultures by going to festivals, restaurants, and trying new recipes. I try to integrate cultural diversity in our study of history. We use Story of the World, and as we read about a new place, we try new food. It is really fun for all of us, and has made my kids very adventurous eaters. My 13 year old’s favorite food is Korean. Thanks for these other good ideas.
    Jen@anothergranolamom´s latest post: Picnic Chicken for Hiking Fun

  10. Queen of Choas says:

    I am so glad to see “be open to discussion” included! So often we shush questions about differences. I went to a rather diverse university, and studied Special Education while I was there. I do not see my university friends often anymore but they are still in my life, and therefore in my daughter’s, so she will naturally have the opportunity to learn about “disabilities” make their lives different (not less) than our own, or about the culture they were raised with (more than one are the first US born generation in their family). But the truth is, even most strangers do not mind a respectful child asking a respectfully curious question about their differences (for instance, starting the same way as with any new friend, with your name and asking theirs). Assess yourself whether it seems like an appropriate situation/person, and then if your children want, allow them to ask. You never know what friends you’ll make or new things you’ll learn.

  11. Catherine says:

    We have definitely had some interesting conversations when I let my children ask about things they are curious to know. When he approached a man in a wheelchair it turned out what my son really wanted to know about was how to steer the wheelchair!

  12.  There are many ways to introduce international food.  Have a theme night with food from a country you are interested in.  Or plan a project to cook and try international desserts. 
    Laura´s latest post: Fluoride Dental TIP

  13. Wonderful list! I recently did a similar post on my blog about ways to explore the world without leaving home. I want to expose my girls to many different cultures and countries, but we just don’t have the means to travel everywhere. We read books, eat food, play games, explore the arts and music… so many ways to learn about other countries. It’s both fun and rewarding. My 5-yr-old daughter dreams of traveling to China some day. I hope she gets to go… and I hope I can take her!!
    Terri´s latest post: Weekends: Reflections on Motherhood

  14. I love meeting other parents who are globally-minded !:) I believe that culturally-competent kids will grow up to be responsible, compassionate world citizens. Parents and teachers need to teach their kids about the world so they can be successful in our interconnected world!


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