How to teach children about diversity


With diversity and inclusivity being brought to the fore across the media and into our homes of late, now’s as good a time as any to reflect on how to teach children about diversity, cultural awareness and racial differences.

By engaging our children in culturally responsive experiences we know that their awareness and appreciation of diverse cultures increases. And you can never start too early. Even babies recognise differences in skin color and hair textures, as Rebecca Bigler, PhD studies have shown.

So if we want to crack those negative stereotypes and move forward in creating a generation of open-minded future thinkers, there are many things we can do to engage our children in cultural awareness and understanding, at home and within our communities.

Educate yourself

Before we can really teach children about diversity, it’s important to have as good an understanding on the subject ourselves as possible. With the Black Lives Matter movement heavily featured in the media and historical statues being torn down, we are realising so much more about our own history than ever before.

There are a growing number of articles, books and talks on diversity and racism, it can only help to arm ourselves with a good range of knowledge from a broad range of perspectives and experiences. Knowledge is power to make a difference!

Challenge those stereotypes

We all know that racial and cultural stereotypes exist. It is very likely our children will have heard or seen something negative surrounding racial backgrounds for example, without even knowing the impact of those references. Don’t ignore them! Talk to your child about it and bring out strong positive messaging surrounding diversity and inclusivity.

Bring diversity into your home

There is sadly a gap in true diverse content in children’s television programming, and very little in the way of books and toys. But television is one of the most influential learning mediums for our children at home and it’s worth digging deep to find a mix of diverse content.

There are of course the usual tokenistic animal species in varying colours (like in Peppa Pig), but bring on programmes that feature authentic human characters with different racial, religious, sexual and other backgrounds.

Zayn & Zayna’s Little Farm was created for the impressionable preschoolers with exactly this in mind. It features characters from differing religions, ethnicities and abilities and aims to normalise these differences for children, using fun, music and creativity in real world scenarios.

Taste the flavours from around the world

Who doesn’t love a tasty curry? A Chinese take-away perhaps? Or maybe an irresistible Pad Thai is more for you? Here in the UK, we are fortunate enough to have the world’s cuisine at our fingertips. Many of us probably know how to cook a dish or two that originates from another country.

Food is a great opportunity to teach children about diversity and raise awareness on the positives multiple ethnicities bring. Teaching (and tasting) cuisines from around the world broadens minds, tempts those taste buds and opens a cultural awareness dialogue. So let’s swap recipes with our neighbours, cook a new dish with our children and help bridge that gap in cultural awareness and understanding.

Try out different cultural activities

A fun way to teach children about diversity is through arts and crafts. Try making some funky clothes like a Japanese Shibori tie-dye shirt for example; or have a go at making Tibetan prayer flags and create messages of peace to write on them. There are many crafts you can do introducing cultures from all over the world. It’s a really fun and engaging way for your children to learn about different cultures and make something cool too!

Share the language of music

There are over 7,000 languages spoken around the world but only 1 language we can all understand – music. We hear the rhythm, the tunes, the sounds and feel the emotions only music can bring. Listening to music from around the world is another great way to introduce multiple cultures and sounds to your children. You can talk about the different instruments, the use of sounds and voices. And use this as a platform to discuss the people and their cultures.

Or why not go all in and learn a new language with your children. You can use apps like Duolingo to learn a language through daily lessons and games. Another fun way to learn and immerse yourself in another culture.

Explore your local community

With children comes a hectic family life, often leaving little time to look into what might be right around the corner. Taking your children for a stroll around your local area may lead to cultural insights never spotted before – from a specialty food shop to a monument or even ruins or a tomb. Discover what there is to see and you might surprise yourself with what’s on your doorstep.

Even closer to home are our neighbours. Reach out and start a conversation. They may have interesting stories to tell (or tasty recipes share) and would welcome the opportunity to talk about them.

Visit places of worship

From the spire of your local church to the minaret at the mosque, places of worship are beautiful buildings that hold an abundance of culture and interest inside. Most places of worship welcome visitors and open their doors for people to take a look and explore inside. This is a great opportunity to teach children about diversity and create an awareness and understanding of multiple religious groups, not to mention a fun trip out!

Integrating diversity and inclusivity into your family life can only help make a difference in our children’s cultural awareness and understanding. Cultural diversity is there to be celebrated. To teach children about diversity, embrace it with your children as an everyday norm and it will help teach them how to be inclusive to all people of all ethnicities.

You can visit Zayn & Zayna, play games, buy books and watch exclusive content on zaynandzaynas.com or visit the interactive app, available on The App Store and Google Play store. For additional information about Zayn & Zayna, visit zaynandzaynas.com. Find us on Instagram at @Zaynandzaynas, see our Facebook page at Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @ZaynandZaynas

Author bio

Wa’qaar A Mirza is co-founder and global CEO of Safi Ideas. An accomplished British entrepreneur with over 30 years experience in direct response marketing strategy, Mirza has held senior executive positions at leading global media, financial and consumer brands including PWC, British Telecom and HSBC.

An accomplished author, speaker, producer and director, much of Wa’qaar’s work has been in cultural and religious production with a focus on content working towards greater equality and visibility for marginalised groups. Mirza has produced programmes for National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.

In 2020 Safi Productions launched Zayn and Zayna’s Little Farm, an inclusive pre-school animated show dedicated to seeding inclusive ideas and teachable moments in kindness, mindfulness, family, and community to all children.

About Zayn & Zayna’s Little Farm

Zayn & Zayna’s Little Farm is a branded English-language animated show and book series for pre-school children that incorporates a little Arabic too. Each adventure follows brother and sister, Zayn & Zayna on their British family farm and introduces all children to mindfulness, sustainability and diversity.

Zayn & Zayna is wholesome entertainment for the entire family where each instalment is an adventure and teachable moment in kindness, creativity, family, and community. Playing games, learning, exploring nature and helping their family are Zayn & Zayna’s favourite pastimes. Zayn & Zayna are Arabic and live with their father ‘Baba’, ‘Mama’ and grandmother ‘Nanee’.

Zayn & Zayna’s Little Farm was created by Wa’qaar A Mirza, who also directs the animated series. Illustrated by Pablo Breh; Zayn & Zayna is produced by Safi Productions, an ethical and disruptive innovation incubation company based in London. Legendary producer, Henry Becket, best-known for ‘Olly the Little White Van’ and a larger team of 34 culturally diverse creatives come together to create this warm and charming animated adaptation.

You can visit Zayn & Zayna, play games, buy books and watch exclusive content on zaynandzaynas.com or visit the interactive app, available on The App Store and Google Play store. For additional information about Zayn & Zayna, visit zaynandzaynas.com. Find us on Instagram at @Zaynandzaynas, see our Facebook page at Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @ZaynandZaynas

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