You can capitalize upon your preschooler’s natural curiosity about other children to awaken her awareness of the multicultural world she lives in. The neighborhood seems vast to a preschooler, so the concept of the world might be a bit difficult for your youngster to grasp. Enlist the help of a visual aid, such as a colorful globe or map, then use your imaginations to board a pretend plane for a whirlwind exploration of the food children eat, the clothes they wear, the games they play and the words they speak.
Explore Through Language
Preschoolers are fascinated by words, especially those that are silly — or kiboko as children say in Tanzania. In Japan, telephones are answered with a jovial “moshi, moshi” which means “Hello!” Australians refer to the toilet as a “dunny” and a “jayus” is someone in Indonesia who tells a joke that is so awful it is funny. You can also boost literacy skills while learning about cultures by searching for your preschooler’s favorite folktales. From Australia to Mexico to China, the classic Cinderella story has been spun into more than 500 versions, which is a testimony to the power of this famous story that originated as a folk tale in China in the 8th century. Most variations of the orphan-turned-princess tale offer a familiar storyline wrapped in colorful cultural references, such as the “tokgabi” Korean goblins or the Cajun crawfish-drawn carriage.
Experience the World
Provide tactile experiences by signing up for a Native American drumming class, or strolling through a Mediterranean food market, attending a Chinese dragon festival or eating at a Mexican restaurant. If your preschoolers love to strap on her boogie-woogie shoes, then pop in a children’s world music CD and let her shake a set of homemade maracas or rain sticks. You can also explore the ways that similar instruments differ among different cultures. Japanese children tap out a beat on the “tsuzumi”, which is an hourglass-shaped drum, while kids in Madagascar thump a shallow kettle drum called an “antakarana.”
Nurture Worldwide Friendships
While preschoolers might be too young to write, they can still send drawings, postcards, books and friendship bracelets to pen pals across the world. Several nonprofit organizations specialize in matching up preschoolers, including Worldwide Culture Swap and Blue Aglet.
Get Outside and Play
One of the best ways to learn about other children is to play like they play. Many familiar American games hail from other countries, such as hopscotch and soccer, which come from England, while other cultures put a new twist on familiar activities. Instead of declaring “Rock, Paper, Scissors” Indonesian children shout “semut” (ant) when they point their pinky, “gajah” (elephant) when they flash their thumb or “orang” (man) when they show their pointer finger.