“We Don’t Say Those Words in Class!”

The most memorable moment I have of a child speaking out about a difference they noticed in another child was about 3 years ago in my Senior Toddler room. I had a group of 7 seven children and we were playing in the dramatic play area. They were pretending to make dinner for me and setting plates at the table. I had a girl say to another boy “You’re can’t eat here because you’re brown.” I immediately told her that all of our friends are welcome to eat here. She continued on about how her mommy said and I cut her off and reminded her that again all our friends were welcome to eat in our classroom. Then I turned it into a bit of game and told her I was purple so did that mean I could not eat there as well and then all of a sudden all the children were pretending to be different colors. The relaxed and they all began playing together again. I later had a difficult conversation with the parent who was quite embarrassed but did not deny saying it to her child either. She just said she would speak to her daughter about it.

I hoped by reminding the children that all our friends are welcome to eat no matter what their color helped them to accept each other. I enforced this by pretending to be a crazy color and asking if I was allowed to eat. The children that I was working with were young enough to be redirected to understand that we could be any color we wanted to be and still eat with our friends. These children were 2 years old and were obviously starting to pick up on prejudices that the adults around them were showing. I do not honestly think this child understood what she was saying but repeating what she had heard.

Even though children this young do not have a real understanding for what they are saying because it is either learned or out of curiosity this is the perfect time to begin teaching them. Helping children understand why they may look different can be helpful with young children who are obviously picking up on racial or prejudice views. An anti-bias educator would take the time to explain the differences and most likely have a lesson on why we are different. Children need to understand that we are all different but that it is okay to be different. Different is what makes us unique individuals.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gregoryuba
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 16:44:35

    It is wonderful that you are able to share such a powerful story of very young children and the learning of prejudice (or appreciation for differences). While on the topic of lots of colors – Todd Parr has a whole series of books that use bright, saturated colors to give an anti-bias message.

    Reply

  2. russellmochroi
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 19:25:48

    Thank you for sharing this experience. It sounds like you handled the situation very well. You didn’t shut the child down and only say all friends are welcome to eat, you made the situation into a teachable moment which is what we are learning to do in this course. I appreciate your openness about talking to the parent. I am curious how you approached that conversation. I’ve had to tackle different topics with parents in Children’s Ministry but those are usually about rules and behavior but this hasn’t happened to me yet. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply

  3. Leslie
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 22:17:05

    Sound a lot like what happened in the video we saw. Children learn and mimic whatever their parents say and do in their homes and then when they get to school and use ehat they learn, we have to alter it to make it not seem wrong but that what they think they know is subject to revision. You have done well with the situation and that child will remember what she learned from you in class that day.

    Reply

  4. Alicia
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 23:08:25

    I am sure it was extremely difficult to bring this up to the parent. However, it is essential that families are involved and understand your pursuit, as an educator, to create an anti-bias classroom. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Reply

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