If you're like many child care programs, you serve families of different ethnic groups and those with a variety of cultures. Use this diversity to strengthen your program and expand your children's horizons. The following ideas will enrich your program, teach preschoolers to appreciate their heritage, and help all children learn from one another. After all, aren't we more alike than different?
- Invite parents from different ethnic groups to visit your program. Ask them to bring ingredients for a simple recipe used in their country. As part of the lesson, involve children in preparation. (Always post an allergy alert chart for parents the day before, or prior to, the cooking or tasting time.)
- Check out a library book of games from other countries such as Ready-to-Use Multicultural Activities for Primary Children by Saundrah Clark Grevious. Older preschoolers will enjoy playing variations of the game. Talk about how a familiar game is played in our country.
- Start an English as a second language class in your program. Use staff volunteers or enlist the help of local schools and churches to teach the class.
- Fill a library shelf with multicultural books. Preschoolers will enjoy easy-to-hold books with bright-colored pictures and simple text. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale by Verna Aardema; Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola; and The Tortilla Factory by Gary Paulsen are all great choices.
- Teach children words or phrases from other languages and give them the English equivalent. Listen to a recording or tape if you are uncertain of the correct pronunciation.
- Invite people from the community who have traveled in another country to visit your program. Could they share souvenirs and artifacts they brought back? Perhaps a native costume?
- Give a blank tape to a friend who plans international travel. Ask them to tape scenes with their camcorder that would be of interest to preschoolers. When you show the tape, plan a special celebration that includes music, food, and decorations from that country.
- Teach music and simple folk dances from other countries. Enlist the help of physical education or music students from a local university or college to teach the children.
- Bring the world to your program through the Internet. View family traditions of Japan. Learn about living in a rain forest in Africa. See how people of the far North survive winter weather. What is it like to ride on the back of a camel? What determines the type of clothing worn in northern areas and southern areas?
Carolyn Ross Tomlin is a former kindergarten teacher and assistant professor of early childhood education at Union University.