Discover mindfulness in kid-friendly ways to teach kindness and inclusion
As a mom, I feel proud whenever people compliment my children for being smart, witty and talented.
But if there’s anything that’s as important to me than making sure they’re happy, healthy and safe, it’s raising them to be kind and compassionate individuals.
With all that’s happening with the world today, with people being discriminated against and getting hurt because of their skin color, the more we need to teach our children about compassion, kindness and inclusivity.
Just as we want to ensure that their brain development is on track, we also need to make sure that they know how to be fair and accepting of others regardless of their race or differences.
But you might be asking, how do we teach our kids concepts like diversity, race and inequality?
It sounds like a difficult topic to explain, especially for young children.
So how about we start with something simple – practicing mindfulness every day.
Key Takeaway: Mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening in the present moment.
When do children learn about race?
An article from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revealed that as early as six months, a baby’s brain can already notice race-based differences.
Racial bias can already manifest in a child between ages 2 to 4, and some children have formed a solid set of beliefs about themselves and other people by age 12.
Like language, our children can pick up racial bias even without the parents teaching them about it.
Knowing this, we see that there’s the need to teach them about diversity sooner rather than later.
A good way to introduce this topic is by teaching them mindfulness.
Key Takeaway: Helping kids understand racial differences will help them deal with and react to it accordingly.
Effects of mindfulness on diversity and leadership
Children who practice mindfulness can become leaders who are open, collaborative and inclusive because they have a good sense of self, know how to control their impulses and respond appropriately to situations (they know how to manage their stress).
Kids become compassionate with themselves and others.
They value other people’s feelings and see the need to help others.
They value openness and diversity and appreciate it rather than rejecting differences.
Teaching children to become kind, compassionate, and accepting towards others NOW, assures a better world for generations to come.
Screen time and how it forms our kids’ minds
While we try to provide an open and nurturing environment for our children to learn about kindness and compassion, we should also be aware of one factor that can achieve the opposite – excessive screen time.
While prejudice is something that can be modeled to children in their homes or environment, research shows the connection of excessive screen time to aggression and the lack of empathy.
A 2019 study revealed that screen time has been linked to aggressive and rule-breaking behavior among children.
Screen time also reduces face to face interactions, which is how children practice their social skills and learn about empathy.
Mindfulness activities that teach diversity
The good news is that mindfulness can counter aggression and help our children to regulate their emotions, including having sympathy for others.
There are a lot of amazing books and resources out there that teach kids about diversity and inclusion.
For non-readers, there are also other ways to help them understand it by creating mindfulness activities for kids.
Playing Montessori toys and pretend play, are some mindfulness activities to help young children learn about race and cultural awareness while keeping it light and entertaining.
Key Takeaway: Mindfulness encourages paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally – Jon Kabat Zinn
Here are some fun hands-on mindfulness activities you can try to help you start the conversation about race that can help our child become equipped as an international citizen:
- Painting. With some non-toxic paint, help your kids mix colors to achieve the different shades of brown and other skin tones. You can also let him make a self-portrait using the paint closest to his skin color to express that his skin is beautiful.
- Edible art. Use the multi-grain and the chocolate variant to make a beautiful self-portrait using Cheerios and other cereals. Mindfulness activities like this strengthens fine motor skills, increases focus, and teach kids about self-love.
- Playdough. Using food-grade colorants or dyes, you can make your own play dough to recreate different skin tones. You can also add pantry staples like cinnamon and cocoa powder to add texture to your dough.
- What’s inside your M&Ms? Here’s a sweet way of explaining to your kid about race. You know, how these candies have different colors on the outside, but all look the same on the inside? And we love them, regardless of their color.
- Bring out those kitchen toys and teach through pretend play. Let your child become your assistant as you prepare food from different international cuisines – make fresh guacamole, Japanese pancakes, etc. Then give your child some awesome trivia about the country where the food originated as you sample it together.
- Engage your ears. Listen to music from other countries, or learn how to say hello and goodbye in another language.
- Aside from your usual holidays, celebrate other cultural and religious celebrations. If you’re a multi-cultural family or you know someone who is, you can teach your child about these different beliefs and traditions by doing crafts together. You can make paper elephants for Diwali, or paper lanterns and dragon puppets on Chinese New Year. You can also make prayer beads for your Muslim friends or paper skulls for Dia delos Muertos.
Now more than ever, we need to be mindful in our parenting.
We need to help our children embrace the beauty of diversity and direct them towards activities that will make them develop kindness and empathy towards themselves and others.
By practicing mindfulness, we can help our children become responsible, compassionate individuals and strong and inclusive leaders in the future.