Have posters of infants of many nationalities up on the walls of the nursery. Some of the available posters show charming photos of infants of different skin colors reaching hands toward each other or sitting together looking with delight at a puppy or sniffing a pretty flower. If your infants tend to rip paper from walls, be sure to laminate the posters before displaying them at eye level in the infant room.
Sing lullabies in different languages in order to help infants drift easily into dream land. Your choices can include AfricanAmerican lullabies such as "All the Pretty Little Horses" and "Hush Little Baby". The French lullaby "Fais Dodo, Colin Mon Petit Frere" is a lovely, simple song about Mama downstairs making cocoa for her baby, while Papa upstairs makes a little cake for the baby. There are also lovely lullabies in Spanish, such as "Duermete Mi Nino", as well as those in Russian and a host of other languages. Fortunately, many folk song books have simple melodic notes along with the words so that teachers can enrich their repertoire of songs to sing at nap time. Babies will have their world of music enriched by the pleasure of hearing lullabies from many lands.
Choose books with pictures of babies of different ethnic groups and enjoy exclaiming as you point to each picture "Here's baby's pretty nose! Here's baby's pretty hair!" Babies who can point with their index finger will be proud to show you "eyes" and "shoes" and other articles of clothing and body parts for each pictured infant. They will also become at ease with seeing assorted skin colors and hair styles of infants from different cultures.
If possible, try to increase the variety of ethnic groups represented in your toddler program Then, the more that toddlers play together in the sandbox, build towers together, and giggle beside each other as teachers swing them in swings on the playground, the more effortless and natural will be your teaching of acceptance of children from different nationalities and cultures.
Choose picture books with many photos or drawings of children who are of different ethnic groups.
Invite parents from other cultures represented in your classroom to "show and tell" times. All the parents may wish to work at planning a celebration for the school, to which they can contribute dishes from their own cultures. Toddlers can be offered tiny amounts of the special foods made by the mamas and papas of friends in the toddler class. Some of the circle games played in other lands could be programmed as part of the celebration. Your toddlers will already be familiar with "Ring-Around-the-Rosie" and can join comfortably in a circle game even though the chant is now in a different language.
This article originally appeared in the November, 2001 issue of Early Childhood Today.