At a recent Bubble working parent club event, Vese Aghogovbia, Founder of Philly and Friends spoke to us about introducing diversity into the home to be intentional about raising actively inclusive kids. At Bubble, we host working parent club events every month. Find out more about how to sign up.
Here are some very practical steps that you can take to ensure you are introducing diversity into your home and raising actively inclusive kids.
Taking a moment to reflect
So what I want us to do is just reflect. I do not come from a place of condemnation, never because we are all learning, I come from a place of collaboration. What we need to do is take stock, think about our children, what books, toys and media they are exposed to, and how representative they are of different cultures.
So I understand that this is uncharted waters for many and most people are only just beginning to understand the need and importance for a diverse toybox.
Over the last three years, I’ve received a lot of messages from parents saying I want to do this, but I don’t know where to start and we all need to do it, myself included. I can’t and I shouldn’t just fill my child’s box with black toys, because she needs to see a full picture of the world and so we all need to work together to ensure that we’re raising inclusive kind kids who grow up to love the world and make it a better place.
So before you get started, what I want us to do is think about ourselves. I want to encourage you to check your unconscious bias because we all have it. We cannot begin until we check those biases because our children observe us. You hear your child say something and you’re like, my goodness, where did you pick that up from? When did you hear me say that? And so this is why it’s important to check our unconscious bias because until we do so and we’re conscious of it, checking it at every point in time, then we can begin.
How do you begin to introduce diversity?
Good old decluttering. When was the last time you went through your child’s toy box or bookshelf to have a look through what is there, what’s available? This is a good time and a good chance to have a look through them. We’ve all been there, bought something on a whim or realized we didn’t need it or maybe our kids have outgrown them or perhaps we don’t, they don’t align with our principles anymore.
This is an excellent time to declutter and take stock, Go through each item and rate yourself on a scale of 1-10. How diverse is their toy box?The reason why it’s good to rate yourself is because when you can see your progress, you can see how much you need to move on the scale and you can give yourself a goal and say I’m on two right now, but I want to be four. And at the end of the year you can say I’m on four.
Ways to ensure your child’s toys are representative of diversity:
Books are so, so powerful.
These are a powerful way to introduce diversity of cultures, races and experiences. Does your child’s library display a sea of colours, concepts and abilities? Do you have a mix of books, male and female lead characters? Because books with girl characters aren’t just for girls. They’re also for boys. Boys need to see girls win. They need to see girls lead. They need to see girls save the day.
We need those things and this is so important because they will grow up and might have a female boss and be okay because they’ve identified it from a very young age and seen that it’s okay for a girl to lead. And so this is why representation across the board is very important. What about characters with physical ability challenges? Are we exposing our children to those things?
This gives us the room to have those conversations with our children so that when they go out outside and they see someone in a wheelchair, they understand, they’ve had the conversation already at home. And even if they haven’t and they see something out there. You can go online, look for a book about it, a children’s book, very simple and read it to them so that they can understand that people are born differently abled.
Dolls are an excellent way to teach empathy.
They provide a physical representation of diversity. My daughter, caring for a doll, combing the hair, braiding it, you know, feeding the doll and all sorts. If children can touch, care for and play with a diverse range of dolls, they will build kindness and acceptance towards it. Also, dolls are not just for girls. Dolls are for boys too.
We need to help our sons grow up into father’s or uncles who can care for children because they’ve learned how to do it from a very young age. A diverse range of dolls is a great way to offer children the chance to role play and learn positive awareness and inclusion towards other races, individuals and people that are differently abled.
Board games and card games.
These are very simple ways to introduce diversity and to open up conversations with your children.
There is a memory game that I love so much it’s called ‘I never forget a face memory matching game. and it just has a picture of different people from different cultures and all you’re meant to do is match them, it’s it’s a very simple game. When I play this with my daughter she asks me questions. Why does she have a hat? Why is she covering her hair? Why does he have a nose ring?
This opens up the conversation and, with that one game, I’m able to explain the concept of culture and differences to her. And that’s what we’re trying to do with our children gently introducing the idea that people are different.
We are all born differently and it is okay. It’s as simple as that.
What shows do they watch? Are they representative and is it a positive representation? What are these shows showing our children and how are they displaying culture and other people?
What are the childcare arrangements and how committed are they to promoting positive representation?
Things as simple as early learning posters can introduce diversity to the playroom and that’s what it is with our children because some of these topics can be quite heavy and the concept is to just introduce them lightly to the fact that people are different and we should accept that they are different.
Family life plays a very significant role in the thought formation of the child. So the place to introduce diversity and positive representation is in the home. If we’re intentional about raising well rounded empathic children, the toy box in one of the most effective ways to do so puzzles, dolls, books ,the kitchen set role play like whatever it is. As simple as all those things. They help our children through a well represented playroom.
We teach our children to love, as Nelson Mandela said no one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
The need for representation is beyond being able to see yourself on the T.V. Or in a book. It sits in self esteem, it sits in teaching our children self respect, teaching them how to sit in a new environment and be comfortable and then teaching them to love one another. We all want our children to grow up and be in a world where kindness is the rule of thumb, not the exception to the rule.
And through a diverse toy box we can achieve that.
Recommended resources that promote diversity and inclusion
For more suggestions of resources that promote inclusion and diversity, Vese has very kindly shared a list of her favourites as well as a prompt sheet you can use to rate the diversity of your current playroom you can find them here.