Do you believe in diversity - a mix of races, ethnicity and cultures?
The United States has been a melting pot of different peoples since the Mayflower landed in Plymouth and while the initial settlers came from various European nations, the new land that was to become their home became a mixture that over time grew to be the major nation on the planet.
Initially a white, European base, other races were brought in to be slaves (from Africa) or low cost labor (from Asia and Latin America).
Still, the white race dominated for much of America’s history. This has now changed and over the past ten years, the population shift in the United States has shown significant movement towards an even more diversified environment. The census of 2010 showed that white Americans made up 72% of the population but that percentage dropped to 60% in the recent 2020 census. This trend towards diversity is projected to continue with the percentage white dropping below 50% in the next decade.
Adults cannot ignore this shift and realize that their children will be facing a different world than they did when growing up. They also realize that part of their parenting job is to help their children understand the change and embrace it.
But how do you teach diversity to your child? At what age do you start doing so?
Let’s start with age. Various studies have shown that children become aware of differences in their friends and school mates as young as when they are 3 years old, so you should start discussion of this at about that age.
With the shift to a diversified environment, your child will probably encounter a more varied school than you or your parents did. Schools have pupils with a mix of ethnicities and culture. Children as young as three years old start to notice differences in their school mates and more often than not, skin color is unimportant compared with other aspects in their social interaction – kindness, humor, confidence, courage, independence, honesty, being smart, looking good. They do not have built in views on race.
Even so, as a parent you should be guiding your child through what might be a challenging environment. But how?
One major way that children learn is through play, and often playing with toys.
As parents, we need to encourage diversity and since much of a child’s learning of social skills comes from play, we believe that the toy box that our little ones have makes an obvious starting point.
Here’s a challenge for you. Look in their toy box and see if any of the toys reflect an ethnicity other than their own. If they are to function in a diverse world, why not start them with a diverse set of toys?
This choice is available today but this has not always been so. Many children of older generations had little choice but to have white toys; few toys depicted other than white people particularly when it came to girl’s dolls but in 1980, Mattel started selling Barbie dolls which were black and Hispanic and today there are over 1,000 different black Barbies available.
Interestingly, Mattel for many years targeted Barbies at early teen girls as their primary market but over the years, preschoolers in the 3-7 years old category have become more important. So now, a little black girl can have a black Barbie at age 3.
From whatever ethnicity we come, we need to educate our children about this change with a hope that they will grow up believing that race is an unimportant factor in social intercourse.
So does your child’s toy box in a white family need to have black, Hispanic and Asian toys? Yes it does. Similarly, in a black family, or a Hispanic family, the toys should not just reflect the family’s ethnicity. The toy box in these families should include a mix.
When we created the Five Enchanted Mermaids brand back in 2017, we set out to address the diversity issue in preschoolers by having each of the mermaids coming from a different racial or cultural background. Zari was a black mermaid, Sofia, a Hispanic, Emily, white American, Jenny, Asian and Anna white Irish. The stories about the mermaids ignore the differences in color and backgrounds as the mermaid friends use their superpowers to help build the preschooler’s social skills – honesty, confidence, courage, independence and kindness.
May I suggest that you open up the toy box and if there is not a diversity there, find some new toys for your little girl. Give her a doll from a different ethnicity. If they just accept the doll without question, your job is done. If they query why you have given them a doll from another ethnicity, it provides you with a first rate opportunity to discuss diversity.
The Five Enchanted Mermaids celebrate diversity in our world and the belief that each child deserves to have a mermaid that looks like them. Through their individual personalities and traits, they weave stories that help teach skills for children in this age group.
The idea for the Five Enchanted Mermaids was born to provide a fun but educational backdrop for girls aged 3 to 7 years. The characters address emotional skills (making friends, resolving conflicts, coping with change, making their own choices, and “being good people”) and educational skills (learning to read, the alphabet, counting, symmetrical shapes, time, the value of monetary coins/notes) that are important at that age in the development of young girls.
The stories use each of the diverse mermaids as a role model for behavior and values.
LifeMadeSimple, LLC and acclaimed children’s book author, Lois Petren, are collaborating to provide a series of books, party accessories, and other appropriate items as mermaid gifts for girls to support these goals.
Visit us at www.fiveenchantedmermaids.com