“Culture is everything from the food, drink, language, and clothing that a specific group of people wear.”
Our biracial (African-American and Indian-American) 2.5-year-old daughter absolutely loves the cartoon, Max and Ruby. The other day when we were watching it, the character Ruby, in her somewhat all-knowing and assertive big sister delight, remarked, “Max, culture is everything from the food, drink, language, and clothing that a specific group of people wear.” Max, in response, dutifully looked at 7-year-old Ruby with a nod of approval. In the most simplistic of terms, Ruby gave her 3-year-old brother insight into culture.
Since becoming a parent it has become a joint effort for my husband and I to ensure we teach our daughter about her rich multicultural heritage and culture in general. How do we plan to do this? Here are 12 ways we plan to help our child learn about culture.
12 Ways to Help A Child Learn About Culture
- Traveling. Traveling with a child/children can be laborious and expensive depending on the destination; however, it provides an investment into your child’s future. Traveling opens up a child’s mind to the world and other cultures outside of his or her own. Since her birth, our daughter has already logged over 55,000 miles in a car and about 100,000 miles aboard airplanes. She has traveled to Ireland, London, Canada, and India where she met our extended Indian family.
- Books and educational software. These are both wonderful aids in teaching a child about a specific culture or cultures. Some books and educational software we have enjoyed so far include Children Around the World, My First Hindi Words, Global Babies, and 3 Curious Monkeys.
- Attending cultural events and festivities. We live in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, and as an example, I subscribe to an Indian Magazine called Saathee. Monthly we receive a magazine in the mail that showcases different cultural events both locally and statewide.
- Making the cuisine of a certain culture and letting your child try it. We make both Indian food and American food in our home and allow our daughter to help, too. Thus far she loves Chicken Tikka Masala, Coconut Burfi, Grilled Indian Chicken Kababs, Vegetable Biryani, Chicken Fried Rice, Chicken Nuggets, and Pizza.
- Going to museums. African Americans have such a delicate and deep history in the U.S. In our hometown, we are less than 30 minutes from the Harvey Gantt, African-American museum which celebrates African-American history. In addition, when we visit my parents in Chicago, Illinois, we are minutes from the Indo-American Heritage Museum and The Art Museum.
- Visiting cultural sites. Cultural sites provide a “feel” for cultural experiences that bind a group of people together. In North Carolina, we are an hour and a half from historic markers for the Underground Railroad in Greensboro, North Carolina. Furthermore, when we visit my husband’s parents in Michigan we are approximately 45 minutes from the Dr. Nathan Thomas House (a physical site for the Underground Railroad). As parents, we look forward to sharing and explaining the significance of these historic markers and cultural sites to our daughter.
- Watching culture-related movies, TV shows, and videos. We are fortunate to have resources like the internet and cable to watch Bollywood videos in Hindi and English as well as African-American movies. We also find resources in general programming like the Olympics which showcase talent and cultures spanning the world.
- Listening to music. Bhangra is a big part of our daughter’s Indian heritage, and from the moment we let her hear the music she started to dance like a Bhangra natural. We plan to also expose her to other types of music to aid in her global cultural knowledge of music.
- Wearing the clothing tied to a certain culture. We let our daughter wear Indian clothing around the house when she wants to as well as wear American clothing. This way she will be comfortable wearing the garments and will understand how they are supposed to be worn.
- Helping your child make friends with children of other cultures. Our daughter instinctively does this on her own and has friends of many different cultures. We believe it is important for her to have friends from an array of cultures to give her a broader perspective of the world in which we live.
- Learning the language. Learning the language of another culture helps kids be in tune to learn about that specific culture. We are currently helping our daughter learn English, Spanish, and Hindi (her paternal family’s native tongue).
- Spending time with family. It seems our daughter effortlessly learns more about both her Indian and African-American culture by spending time with her grandparents and our extended family. Her Grandparents, in particular, are enthusiastic about passing down their culture, cultural knowledge, and history.
Do you have other ways you have used to help your child or children learn about culture? Tell us in the comments below.