[~12 months on]
Being ‘culturally aware’ is a desirable quality to many and living in Australia, you cannot get away from it. Influencing your child to be culturally aware encourages your child to:
- see things from others’ perspective
- understand cultures and why people do things differently
- develop better communication and problem solving skills
- learn about the world (even from your own home) – the countries, different languages, foods, music, dances, the list goes on..
- which in turn helps them to learn about Australia, their own country, where they come from, and who they are and what is ‘being Australian?’
The Culturosity Group (whilst American), defines ‘cultural awareness’ with the following points:
- We are not all the same
- Similarities and differences are both important
- There are multiple ways to reach the same goals and to live life
- The best way depends on the cultural contingency. Each situation is different and may require a different solution
Interestingly, they define the term ‘culturosity’ as:
- A desire to learn about and engage with other cultures
- An essential mindset in a global world
- Today’s competitive advantage
Who can deny these are desirable qualities for your child in today’s multicultural society and world? And looking at each point separately (for example, ‘we are not all the same’), you can start thinking of simple ways to point it out to your child (ie, different skin/hair/eye colour, height, disability). By really talking to your child about the above points (at any age) and making them consciously aware of other cultures, you can only ensure a child with a much ‘bigger’ outlook on life, more maturity and potentially better job prospects down the track. Developing a culturally-aware child also helps the world to become a better place!
There are probably many ways to come at this topic, but I will start by suggesting introducing ‘geographical awareness’ so that you can then compare and contrast Australia with the rest of the world and introduce cultural awareness…hopefully inspiring lifelong ‘culturosity’.
Some ideas to get started, step by step…
~12 months old
Start pointing out the shape of ‘Australia’ and saying ‘Australia!!!!’. It certainly won’t mean much at first, but might be your child’s first shape they recognise. This could be in any books, logos, or the weather forecast on TV. Your child is smarter than you think. Before long, they will be pointing it out to you!
~2 years old
Then to define it.. Start pointing to where you live in Australia and naming your city, every time you see Australia. And using simple words, such as ‘Melbourne!…Eric live here, Eric live Melbourne’. Talk about other cities you visit nearby or where other relatives come from, such as ‘Grandma live here, Grandma live Sydney, Eric live here..Melbourne’.
A great way to put things in further perspective is to think about a globe. Kid-friendly inflatable globes can be bought from eBay for $AUS3.50 (including postage) from Hong Kong or at bargain stores. And then to defining to your child ‘what is a globe?’… Start referring to us living on ‘Earth’, and how it is actually a ‘ball’, called a ‘planet’. Slowly but surely, compare it with the moon, sun and other planets which are also round. And then remember you’ll have to introduce ‘world’ at some point too!! (At this age, as far as they are concerned, ‘globe’, ‘earth’ and ‘world’ roughly mean the same thing…).
Now with a globe, you can start pointing out Australia more often, your city and refer to it as soon as anything else comes up, for example, the globe came on a plane from Hong Kong! Starting from your city, pretend to ‘fly’ from there to Hong Kong so they can relate it to what they know, Australia. Call on the globe as much as you can – the more you use it, the more your child will start to ‘get’ it and be interested for more.
Link any of your child’s interests to countries to give them a ‘meaning’ for the name of each country. For example, finding on the globe where each of their favourite animals come from, looking at where foods in the pantry have come from (hopefully mostly Australian!) or where in the world your dinner might be eaten (eg. chicken in most countries, dhal in India, pasta in Italy but also other countries). Master 3 likes to ask ‘which countries eat this food?’ and we make some educated guesses!
As soon as anyone goes travelling, ask for postcards and get out the globe.
Look out for Putumayo CDs. These are collections of songs from around the world and do wonders in introducing new ‘culture’ and different languages (oooh, we don’t know what they are saying, they mustn’t be speaking ‘English’). http://www.putumayo.com/putumayo_cds/kidscds
Children are quick to learn farm and ‘zoo’ animals but can they name some Australian animals? (without explicitly pointing them out, your child might be stumped).
~3 years old
Comment on different languages at every opportunity (eg. songs – frere jacque, Dora – spanish, words we have taken from other countries – spaghetti, croissant, ballet) and begin using the term ‘English’ to contrast with the other languages you are talking about, such as ‘frere jacque.. that’s in French… people in France talk French. We speak English’ (if you haven’t yet found France on the globe, you’d be going to get the globe ASAP).
Get out your passports! So much to discover, looking at stamps, looking at the front page and the information we need to show other countries when we travel (eg. Mummy’s full name, birthday, where she was born – get out the globe).
Look for simple non-fiction books at the library on different countries. You don’t even have to read the information but just look at the pictures and comment on any similarities/differences you see. That goes for any other stories that might feature other countries. Also look for books written and illustrated by Aborigines. These will teach your child about Australia, even without realising it at first.
Keep pointing out similarities/differences between people here in Australia – even amongst peers at daycare, for example, ‘Sarah has a baby sister, you have a baby brother’, ‘Charlie lives with his grandparents’, ‘Maya has very curly hair doesn’t she’. Don’t forget how they might do things differently, but still reaching the same goal (for example, washing up the dishes differently or using chopsticks).
Talk about the suburb you live in and comment when in other suburbs within your city. Talk about what makes your part of the world, your part of the world (we have nice weather, we live near the beach, we have so many parks to choose from) and really make your child appreciate and ‘own’ where they live.
Does your child know we have a ‘song for Australia’ (national anthem) or a person ‘in charge of’ Australia (prime minister)?
~4 years +
Continue pointing out other cultures whenever possible, even if it is hypothetical. For example, after reading a book and seeing pictures of how life looks very different in a developing country, you could talk about what games the children might play, what they might eat or wear or what their school would be like and come to a conclusion about whether it is really that different to here. (To a child, it probably all seems quite the same).
You can always start simple discussions of why we speak ‘English’, who is an Aborigine, why it is daytime here yet night time on the other side of the globe (which countries are on the other side of the globe?) or point out accents!
Of course, the discussions will merely change the older and more curious your child becomes. As an ex-exchange student, I can only recommend promoting ‘culturosity’ and possibly a year on exchange where your child will be forever changed!
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