It’s the last day of Pride month – but it’s never too late to stand up for our values and shout out what makes us great! At Heights Cooperative, we believe that diversity makes us stronger and that celebrating love and self-expression is a year-round activity.
Diversity in Books
Starting with Circle Time in our classrooms, we introduce different types of people, families, and cultures with books from diverse authors and communities. At Heights we make sure to talk about all different kinds of stories! Children are naturally curious about their visible differences like skin color, clothing, hair, braces, glasses, visible disabilities, etc. It’s also important to talk about the things we can’t see on the surface, like invisible disabilities, family dynamics, and more.
Some of our favorites that speak to LGBTQ+ diversity are Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer, Teo’s Tutu by Maryann Jacob Macias, ABC Pride by Louie Stowell and Elly Barnes, Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, and Pink, Blue, and You by Elisa Gravel with Mykaell Blais.
In this article for the Buckeye Flame, Mx. Taryn says, “It’s important to have books where the LGBTQ story isn’t the entire focus. Why can’t there just be a book where two dads pick their kid up, or you’re at a birthday party with two moms? It just needs to be normalized, kids need to see that as much as they see heterosexual examples.”
On this note, we love books like Federico and All His Families by Mili Hernandez, Cookies and Cake & the Families We Make by Jennifer L. Egan, Gabrielle’s Gift by Lerone Landis, and Miss Molly Learns Responsibility by Kathleen S. Pero. And we also want to shout out the book Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder – which is about body diversity including size and ability, but can easily incorporate education about gender expression in different bodies too.
Every Family is Different
At Heights, you might have noticed a few changes to the words we use to describe family members. Not every student has one mom and one dad, so we talk about people’s grown-ups! This covers so much more than LGBTQ+ families too – if a student lives with an aunt or uncle, grandparent, or other adult, we want their families to be recognized just as much as students who live with mom and dad.
The assumption that everyone has a mom and dad, and that they are happily married, isn’t true for many people, so we celebrate all kinds of families and encourage our students to appreciate their own unique family structure. This includes friends of the family and non-related aunties and uncles too! Maybe this summer, you could invite all of your family (blood related and not!) to share in celebration of everything you’ve accomplished and built together.
Kids Understand and Celebrate Differences!
It’s so beautiful to see the ways that our students learn about and appreciate the differences between themselves and their friends. Whether that means using different pronouns, recognizing cultural and racial differences, or finding ways to accommodate and include disabled friends, at Heights we are all about celebrating the things that make us different and bring us together!
Photo by Alex Jackman on Unsplash
Dr. Kari is an Occupational Therapist and Certified Transformational Parenting Coach. She loves following her heart and helping others do the same, especially when it comes to changing the way we parent the next generation of leaders and learners.
Earth day is a wonderful day to teach kids about a variety of topics relating to respecting and loving planet earth. Here are a few fun and simple activities to try for all ages and interests to help your child grow their love of our world.
Find trash or recyclable materials around your home you can use for a painting project. You can use items such as toilet or paper towel rolls, boxes, ribbon wheels, paper bags, and more. Use paper bags from the grocery store or a posterboard as the background. Dip the ends of the toilet or paper towel rolls in some paint and make circle shapes on the paper!
You can talk about how you can repurpose trash or single use items, and give them a second life and use before throwing them away.
See examples and learn more about this idea from No Time for Flash Cards: Recycled Art For Earth Day - No Time For Flash Cards
This one is simple but beautiful. Go outside and make observations about the earth and nature (even if it’s just in your yard!) Collect sticks and twigs, pine needles, or leaves. Collect small rocks. Notice different kids of weeds or flowers. Look for wildlife or signs of wildlife such as birds, squirrels, insects, or bugs. You can talk about how all of these work together to make a beautiful planet. We are so lucky to have so much to look at outside!
Earth Day Play Dough
Did you know it's super simple to make your own homemade play dough? Try this recipe from Pre-K Pages!
Along with green and blue play dough, find stones and twigs from outside. You can form the dough into land with trees (made with green dough for the leaves and twigs for the trunk). You can make the ocean with blue play dough or sculpting clay, and fill with fish made from play dough, seaweed made from green play dough, and stones for the bottom of the ocean. Here’s more inspiration: Earth Day Theme Play Dough for Preschool - Pre-K Pages. You can talk about how some animals live on land and some live in the water, even incorporating some of your kiddo's favorite books or tv show characters and identifying their habitats. Enjoy talking about the earth and all its diversity!
Visit Your Local Library for Earth Day Activities
There are countless free community resources available locally for Earth Day, including at the library! Check out your local library or community center for Earth Day story times, art projects, and more.
Litter Bug Jaunt
Take a little walk around your neighborhood and pick up trash. This is a great time to instill messages about littering and how to keep our earth clean and healthy. For older kids, you can teach about the principles of "Leave No Trace" to keep the planet free of the impact of our trash.
Will you give one of these ideas a try? Report back and tell us how it went!
P.S. We're raising money for sustainable initiatives including new outdoor play spaces and low waste materials. You can donate here.
Happy Black History Month! Each February we celebrate Black History Month to learn about the culture, heritage, and history of the Black community. Using books, music, art, and conversations, we can encourage even the youngest of learners to celebrate Black history. During this month at Heights, we're incorporating stories, art, and more to focus on a celebration of Black culture.
Of course, learning about Black history shouldn't be limited to just one month out of the year. But during Black History Month, it's a reminder for people of all cultures to specifically seek out and deepen their understanding of Black history. While it's easy to share about the successes and accomplishments of Black historical figures, it's also important to teach children from all backgrounds about the harder topics related to Black history too.
Help Preschoolers Celebrate Black History Month
One of the easiest ways to teach kids about Black history is through stories and reading! Having a diverse array of books to choose from helps expose kids to different cultures from an early age and teaches them to appreciate the differences between people, instead of thinking that differences are bad or strange. This makes children more empathetic and compassionate, and starts to build their sense of social justice.
There are countless books about Black history written by Black authors for readers of all ages. Some of our recommendations include:
Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race by Megan Madison
Little Black Lives Matter by Khodi Dill
Teach Them Young ABC's African American Edition by Shamariah Starr
You can also start talking about race and culture at all ages of your child's development. Part of Black History Month's importance is acknowledging what Black people have experienced throughout history, which includes hard topics like racism and slavery. Have a conversation about race and prejudice with your preschooler – explain why it’s important to learn more about the histories of different cultures, and how we can all work together to make things better for everyone.
You can look to your preschooler's favorite tv shows to help celebrate and learn during Black History Month too. Sesame Street and CNN partnered to develop Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism in 2020 during the Black Lives Matter protests, as a way to help connect with children and help families explain and understand racism in kid-friendly terms. And PBS Kids had a special about race and racism featuring content from popular shows Daniel Tiger's neighborhood, Arthur, and Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum.
Preschoolers are developing a strong sense of fairness, right, and wrong - which means they'll catch on to simple explanations of treating people unfairly based on the color of their skin. Remember to keep things simple and age-appropriate and answer your child's questions honestly.
Black History Month doesn't have to just be about history, either. Embrace your child's current favorites and enjoy shows, movies, stories, music, and more that feature Black characters and artists who are making history today!