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Reflecting Our Multicultural World: The Importance of Inclusive Toys and Books

Reflecting Our Multicultural World: The Importance of Inclusive Toys and Books

Written by: Caitlyn Chun

All children benefit from learning experiences that are inclusive of people and cultures that reflect the rich diversity of our world. Understanding and appreciating our differences and similarities is an important skill for all! For children of color in particular, research demonstrates that celebrating and embracing their own heritage is a powerful source of resilience in the face of prejudice and injustice. When toys and media depict only white characters and stories, children of color may receive the message that stories about white characters are preferable to stories about characters of their own race. They may even sense that they need to change themselves to be accepted. White children can receive the same message — they may begin to believe that stories with characters of different races, ethnicities, backgrounds and heritages, don’t belong in their world. It is important to give your child the tools and space they need for understanding complex ideas about identity, diversity, and justice. The toybox and the bookshelf are great starting points to help your child understand and appreciate multiculturalism in their world.       

Learning with Toys
Play is an essential aspect of development for many reasons, and the positive effects of play are enhanced when playtime is inclusive. First, it helps children build social skills and confidence in interacting with peers — these are life skills that are essential for success in school and beyond. Second, it allows children to digest complex experiences: during play, particularly pretend play, children spend time practicing taking others’ perspectives, processing their emotions, and developing self-regulation skills. During playtime, children are free to experiment with their views of the world, break them down, and then build new worlds to try again. It is critical to provide play opportunities that affirm children’s experience of a diverse and multicultural world to help them process, understand, and appreciate the ways that people are different and similar.

Giving your child opportunities to represent diversity in their play can be as simple as providing crayons or markers that represent the wide range of human skin tones. There are even coloring books with the purpose of recognizing diversity! Other inclusive materials for pretend play can include play-food such as a multicultural play food set, this taco and tortilla set, or this Hawaiian food set. Diverse dolls and figurines such as My Family BuildersHape Wooden Doll FamiliesFriends with Diverse Abilities, and Heart for Hearts Girls can also be used in pretend play. You may even consider playing a face memory matching game

Learning through Stories
Books and stories provide our children with information and insight. They can also provide an important space for explicitly tackling difficult topics such as race, equity, and social justice. Books like Pat Thomas’ The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism (for pre-k – 3rd grade) and Julius Lester’s Let’s Talk About Race (for pre-k – 5th grade) use plain language to encourage discussion about race without shying away from this complex topic. Informational books such as these can help young readers develop awareness about injustices in the world.

Stories convey messages about what is important to us and they help children learn problem-solving strategies. For example, readers who dive into Patricia Polacco’s Mr. Lincoln’s Way (for 1st – 5th grade) will learn about strategies for responding to race-based prejudice with patience. This story also emphasizes that people are capable of changing harmful and prejudiced views about others. 

In addition to tackling heavier topics such as racism and injustice, it is also important to share stories in which diverse characters experience joy and affirmation. Stories such as these help readers — especially diverse readers — develop their sense of self. With this sense of identity, they are able to build an awareness of their own history and culture in addition to an awareness of others’ histories and cultures. Books have the power to broaden children’s’ knowledge and awareness of other cultures, and children whose cultures are represented can experience the joy of having their experiences, histories, and knowledge bases affirmed and celebrated. 

In David Robertson’s When We Were Alone (for k – 3rd grade), a young girl of Cree heritage learns about residential schools and how her Grandmother held onto Cree language and culture in spite of others trying to strip it away. Stories such as this can help young children learn that their cultural and racial identities should be celebrated as sources of strength. Natasha Anastasia Tarpley’s I Love My Hair (for babies and up to age 3) tells the story of Keyana, an African-American girl who discovers the beauty and magic of her hair. The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali (for pre-k – 3rd grade) follows the bond between two sisters as the eldest finds pride and strength in wearing the hijab in the face of hurtful words. In Joanna Ho’s Eyes That Kiss in the Corners (for pre-k – 3rd grade), the narrator, a young Asian-American girl, becomes empowered to love her crescent-shaped eyes. Each of these books features characters that are strong because of their appreciation for their unique identities, histories and traditions, and sharing stories such as these can help your child celebrate what makes each of us different.

Resources
Social Justice Books’ Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books
Colours of Us 50 Best Multicultural Picture Books of 2019
Amazon Best Sellers in Children’s Multicultural Story Books
Bookriot’s 30 Children’s Books About Diversity that Celebrate Our Differences
Edutopia’s 22 Diverse Book Choices for All Grade Levels

Book Recommendations by Topic
These recommendations are a fantastic starting point for diving into multicultural stories. Check out some of the guides above to explore more titles!

TopicTitleAuthorAge or Grade Range
Race and RacismLet’s Talk About RaceJulius LesterPre-k – 5th
Race and RacismMr. Lincoln’s WayPatricia Polacco1st – 5th
Race and RacismThe Skin I’m In: A First Look at RacismPat ThomasPre-k – 3rd 
African American StoriesFull, Full, Full of LoveTrish Cooke Ages 2 – 5
African American StoriesI Am EnoughGrace ByersPre-k – 3rd
African American StoriesI Love My HairNatasha Anastasia TarpleyAges Baby – 3
Alaska Native StoriesSweetest KuluCelina KallukAges Baby -3
Alaska Native StoriesA Walk on the ShorelineRebecca HainnuK – 2nd
Alaska Native StoriesA Walk on the TundraRebecca Hainnu3rd – 5th
Asian American StoriesEyes that Kiss in the CornersJoanna HoPre-k – 3rd
Chinese American StoriesThe Ugly VegetablesGrace LinPre-k – 3rd
Indian American StoriesThe Many Colors of Harpreet SinghSupriya KelkarPre-k – 2nd
Indian American StoriesSame, Same but DifferentJenny Sue Kostecki-ShawPre-k – 2nd
Korean American StoriesBee-bim Bop!Linda Sue ParkPre-k -3rd
Muslim American StoriesMeet Yasmin!Saadia FaruqiK – 2nd
Muslim American StoriesThe Proudest BlueIbtihaj Muhammad and S.K. AliPre-k – 3rd
Native American StoriesMy Heart Fills with HappinessMonique Gray SmithAges Baby – 2
Native American StoriesSkySistersJan Bourdeau WabooseK – 3rd
Native American StoriesWhen We Were AloneDavid RobertsonK – 3rd
Vietnamese American StoriesA Different PondBao PhiK – 4th




Staying Strong Against Cyberbullying

Staying Strong Against Cyberbullying

Written by: Joshua Blazen

What does bullying look like during the age of online school? Today, many children have access to social media accounts, cell phones, and the internet. These online platforms have created a new type of bully: the cyber-bully.            

What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is any teasing, intimidation, or harassment that occurs outside of school hours via social media or other technology. Roughly 10-40% of school-age students will experience cyberbullying at some point. The experience of cyberbullying is different for each student. Some cyberbullied children may be flooded with “spam” messages from bullies, some may have embarrassing rumors or photos spread by bullies through social media, and some may receive threatening or intimidating messages from bullies. Since cyberbullies can set up anonymous online accounts, cyberbullying victims do not always know who their bullies are. For this reason, cyberbullying can be more frequent and more difficult to avoid than traditional bullying. More time online with digital learning may increase both opportunities and impacts of cyberbullying. 

What are some warning signs of cyberbullying?
Here are some warning signs that your child may be experiencing cyberbullying:
• They become upset, sad, or angry after spending time online or on their phone. This may be a reaction to experiencing some kind of digital harassment. It may lead to decreased interest in digital activity. Current requirements for increased online learning and online homework completion can unintentionally enhance a student’s discomfort. 
They become socially withdrawn. Cyberbullying can make a child more self-conscious, and this can make them avoid social situations where they might be judged. 
They go to great lengths to hide their screens when you enter the room. Children often feel shame about experiencing bullying and may try to hide it from their family members. 
They appear more down or sad than usual. This may include losing interest in activities they once enjoyed. If your child experiences a sudden downturn in mood without a clear cause, you may want to get some more information to see if cyberbullying could be the cause.
They suddenly want to avoid school. If a child who normally loves school suddenly starts dreading going to school, this could be a cause for concern. It may be that the child wants to avoid seeing their cyberbullies as much as possible. Some children may even use feeling sick as a reason to stay home or stay offline. They may refuse to turn on their camera during online learning. If this is the case, you may want to gather more information to see if your child is experiencing cyberbullying. 

How can I protect my child from cyberbullying?
• Make sure your child knows that you are ready to listen. If your child talks to you about being a victim of cyberbullying, be supportive and non-judgmental. Some children feel like it is their fault for experiencing bullying and they can feel ashamed to tell their parents for this reason. Make sure your child knows that they are loved and appreciated no matter what.  
Talk to your child’s teacher if you believe your child is experiencing cyberbullying. Teachers don’t always know when cyberbullying is happening, so it may be helpful to bring it to their attention. Ask if the teacher would consider talking to the class about cyberbullying in a way that doesn’t specifically identify or target your child as a victim. Your child’s teacher may even have a specific anti-bullying curriculum in mind! 
Help your child come up with some strategies to avoid cyberbullies. You may want to help your child limit their technology and social media time by agreeing on a technology-use schedule. An online schedule can reduce the amount of time they are exposed to cyberbullying. You could create a tech space in the house that is more public so your child feels as though you are part of the online experience and can intervene on their behalf. Additionally, you may want to show your child how to block cyberbullies’ phone numbers and social media accounts.

What should I do if my child is cyberbullying others?
• Help your child come up with more acceptable ways to solve conflicts. Children often resort to teasing or bullying to get revenge. Make sure that your child knows they can come to you for advice when they have disputes with others. 
Gather more information. Your child’s teacher may be able to shed some light on any conflicts your child has with other children. Talk to your child to learn more about why they are bullying others. Some children may bully others to cope with stress or other negative feelings. 
Talk with your child about feelings. Help your child understand the way that bullying makes others feel. Help your child come up with acceptable ways to express their feelings. 

Resources
For more resources for caregivers, visit the Cyberbullying Research Center website: https://cyberbullying.org/resources/parents

More recommendations for caregivers from ConnectSafely:https://www.connectsafely.org/cyberbullying/

To report chronic or severe instances of cyberbullying and harassment:https://www.cybersmile.org/advice-help/category/who-to-call


Tantrums – What do they mean?

Tantrums – What do they mean?

Written by: Joshua Blazen

If you know a child, you have probably witnessed a tantrum. You’re not alone! Most children aged 18- to 48 months have tantrums. Many toddlers will have at least one tantrum per day. 

What do tantrums mean?
During a tantrum, some children will lay on the ground and cry, some children will throw objects and scream, and some children may even hold their breath. While each tantrum looks different, the reason for a tantrum is usually the same. Young children use tantrums to communicate when they don’t have the language skills to express themselves. Here are some of the most common causes for tantrums:
To get something: Young children may use tantrums to access something they want, like treats, attention, more time with a fun toy, or more time with a fun person or activity.
To avoid something: Young children quickly learn that they can avoid an unpleasant activity, like bedtime or a time-out, with a tantrum.
To express feelings: Through a tantrum, your child may be telling you that they are feeling frustrated or disappointed. It can be emotional when an enjoyable experience ends, and your child may use a tantrum to tell you that.
To express needs: For children who don’t have a lot of spoken or signed words, tantrums are the best way to let adults know that they are tired or hungry.

What can I do about tantrums?
What DO I do?
• Keep a consistent schedule. A predictable routine leads to less surprise disappointments for a child. For example, if clean-up time happens at about the same time every day, your child will be less surprised when it is time to put their toys away for naptime. 
• Look for triggers. Pay attention to the times of day and activities that seem to relate to your child’s tantrums. You may be able to avoid some of these triggers, like walking down the toy aisle at the store or driving past the candy store on the way home. Some triggers, like bedtime and brushing teeth, can’t be avoided. Try scheduling triggers that can’t be avoided at the same time every day so the child can predict when they happen. Give your child warnings and consider doing some kind of transition activity (reading a book or singing a song) before these triggers happen.
• Ignore tantrums. When tantrums do happen, stay calm and ignore them as long as your child is safe. Let your child know that you will talk to them once they are calm, and then don’t make eye contact with them or talk to them again. Try to keep occupied – you don’t want to make it seem like you’re sitting around waiting for the tantrum to be over.
• Reward your child when they don’t have a tantrum. Reward your child with attention and praise when they express themselves calmly instead of with a tantrum. Reward them if they make it through a trigger activity without having a tantrum. Teach them how to express themselves with words, and then reward them with praise and attention for using their words. When your child does have a tantrum, reward them with attention once the tantrum is over and they have calmed down. 
• Seek support if needed. If your child’s tantrums put them in danger of hurting themselves or others, talk to your pediatrician. If the tantrums seem to be getting worse no matter what strategies you try, talk with your child’s teacher or pediatrician for additional advice.

What DON’T I do?
• Try to reason with a tantruming child. If your child is screaming and crying, they are probably past the point of negotiating. A child in the middle of a tantrum is so upset that they aren’t hearing your words. They just know that their tantrum has gotten your attention!
Give in. Ignoring tantrums is hard. No one likes to see their child upset, and sometimes it feels like the easiest way to end the tantrum is to just give the child what they want. But stay strong! Giving in can make tantrums worse because it teaches the child that tantrums will get them what they want. When they understand this, they are more likely to escalate – longer and more intense tantrums – and this is not good for anyone. Remember, you’re teaching your child how to express their feelings in a healthy way, which is an important skill to have!

Resources
https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1790-toddler-tantrums-101-why-they-happen-and-what-you-can-do

https://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/taming-temper-tantrums

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/dealing.pdf