Nurturing Cultural Awareness in Early Childhood

Nurturing Cultural Awareness in Early Childhood

Cultivating Cultural Awareness in Children

India is a country that is well known for its diversity. We have a huge range of landforms and climatic conditions, numerous religions, countless deities, several festivals, innumerable languages, varying cuisines and so much more. As countries go, no other can match the beauty and diversity we have in our very own country.

With increasing globalization, our children are given a lot of exposure to western cultures, and while that is necessary in lieu of our children being global citizens, it is equally important for them to fully appreciate our country, culture and heritage. As parents and teachers, we need to nurture cultural awareness in our children and this can begin right from the early childhood years. Participating in a cultural awareness program is also essential for various areas of development like cognitive, language, social, emotional, communication, and fine and gross motor skills in early childhood.

Let us first understand what cultural awareness is. We know that each person is different depending on their upbringing and background. Putting this concept into a larger scale, we also see people from different states, communities or countries also differ from each other. It may be in the festivals they celebrate, their religious beliefs, the type of foods eaten, how they dress, the language spoken and so on. Amidst these differences there are also many similarities for e.g. Hindi is spoken all over India, Christmas is celebrated in many countries all over the world, each community has its own version of a harvest festival, for e.g. Lohri, Makar Sankranti, Baisakhi, Onam, Pongal are celebrated around the same time in different parts of India.

So, to better understand what is cultural awareness, simply put- Cultural awareness is the knowledge, understanding, and respecting the differences and similarities between two or more cultures, especially when interacting and communicating with each other.

Being mindful is the key to cultural awareness. Here are a few ways to foster cultural sensitivity in your child-

  • Learning another language – there are loads of different Indian languages to choose from and young children have the ability to pick up new languages very quickly and easily. Whether you choose to send your child for language classes or to a neighbor next door, along with learning the language itself the child will also get to learn about that particular culture and how they live their lives. This will give our child some insight and a better understanding about that culture. Learning another language increases the child’s language development.
  • Sharing stories – Stories are fun to listen to and yet they are packed with useful information. When children share stories with their friends or listen to different stories at a family gathering, they get to hear things from a different perspective, they even begin to see the differences in villages and in cities. One major eye opener is the differences across generations, especially when they hear about the pre computer era of grandparents, the life of parents when simple computers were first introduced and now in the computer era wherein computers are a vital part of our lives. Exposing our children to such stories leads to empathy and helps break down barriers. Listening and talking helps build the child’s communication skills as well.
  • Try out different cuisines at home– food is the gateway to any culture. The traditional thalies from different regions come with an array of dishes, many of which are fairly simple to make. Getting the children to help is a wonderful way to make them feel involved and connected and they may even be open to trying unfamiliar foods. Whether you make it at home or order in, trying authentic food from different places in India will get your child out of their food based comfort zone and will widen their culinary horizons. Doing things together as a family helps build and strengthen bonds and enhances your child’s emotional development.
  • Participate in festivals other than your own – Festivals are filled with meaning, vibrancy and sentiments. There are loads of traditions and customs that are followed by various communities and each has a meaning and reason behind it. Participating in a festival is the quickest and the most fun way to learn about it, for example Makar Sankranti is a festival in which you eat laddoos made out of sesame seeds rich in calcium while flying kites in the sun to get a good dose of vitamin D which is in turn is good for the absorption of calcium and development of bones. Celebrating festivals as a community also helps in the social development of the child.
  • Actively celebrate and embrace your own culture – while it is necessary to understand and be sensitive to the other cultures around us it is equally important for us to understand our own culture. In doing so makes us more aware of who we are and where we come from. It keeps us connected to our families and gives us some meaningful traditions and memories to pass on from generation to generation. So, whether you’re in your own country or somewhere abroad, our culture helps us stay connected to our roots and gives meaning to who we are and where we have come from apart from assisting in your child’s cognitive development.

The next time you’re planning a trip in India or abroad, do read up on that place, make yourself culturally aware, and if possible look for opportunities to participate or observe certain events, try out the local cuisine or delicacies.  It will make your holiday more meaningful and special while providing you with loads of memories.

At Eurokidswe embrace cultural diversity and look for opportunities to bring about cultural awareness in preschool children. Our centers promote a culturally rich and diverse environment where children can freely talk about their cultures and traditions. Eurokids also celebrate many festivals and children are told about the importance and significance of each. Click here if you would like your child to be a part of a program that helps your child realize and appreciate the beauty of our diverse country while also learning about cultures abroad.