In elementary school and beyond, teaching about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an important part of the curriculum. But what about in preschool? Some of the subjects surrounding his legacy are advanced for early learners, so we put together some ideas to lay the foundation for the more the more complex concepts.
Focus on FAIRNESS
Practice taking turns with toys (instead of “sharing,” which is more of an abstract concept). Sometimes a timer helps (we like to use sand timers because little ones have a better visual of how much time they have left). For example, set a 3 minute timer for two siblings or classmates who both want the same toy. Talk about how they each got 3 minutes to play with it, which is both equal and fair.
When reading books to children, if there is a character that is treated unkindly, ask your child whether they thought the other characters were being fair or unfair? More than likely they will give you the correct answer. Elaborate on why it was unfair, and ask them what they would have done differently to be fair to the mistreated character.
One of the best ways to teach empathy is to model it. When a child is feeling big emotions, try to name those emotions for them and ask them if they are feeling that way. For example, if they are sad that they can’t immediate have that toy (see above!), ask them if they are feeling sad, angry, etc. Tell them you understand why they are feeling that way, because they really want that toy but have to wait their turn, but that you hope they will be happy when they get to play with it! If they are the one who takes that toy away, talk to them about how the other child may be feeling, and point out that taking a toy away from someone might make them sad. Ask them if they like feeling sad or angry? Recognizing and reflecting on feelings is a simple building block for nurturing empathy in little ones.
It’s never too early to talk about diversity and how to celebrate differences and encourage equity. At your house or classroom, start with a quick “audit” of the books and toys in your home. Is there an overwhelming uniformity in the representation of characters, dolls, action figures, etc? We personally love the “I Never Forget A Face” memory card game, which depicts 24 children from different parts of the world.
Books are a wonderful way to introduce the concept of diversity. Last year we curated a list of books for Black History Month. They are all preschool-age appropriate and loved by our own Wellies! Reedsy.com also has an amazing list of 60 books that “introduce young minds to a range of subjects, from cultural differences to gender fluidity, from social expectations to identity construction.”
We hope these simple tips help to start the conversation about Dr. King’s dreams to make the world a better place filled with more love, tolerance and kindness.