Talking about skin colour to preschoolers
"I’m working as an English teacher in China. When I teach 3-year-old children they are completely afraid of my “brown skin”. (I am African American by the way.) I try to play games with them and they won't stand up, or get involved with any of the games."
It's normal for young children to be shy when they meet a new teacher. For sure they can even be apprehensive, or fearful. I guess your students are not used to seeing Afro Americans, or at least, not so close up! I guess you will have to get them used to it over time, just like they get used to any adult coming into their life. Be sure to get down to their level, even if that means sitting on the floor with them. Don't tower over them, it's intimidating.
How could you do it? Start with pictures.
- Talking about race and colour is a good way to get started. Bring in pictures of lots of different types of people - all kids, so the preschoolers can relate more easily to the pictures. They won't relate much to Obama, however famous he might be! Check out the cute pics at the top of this blog for ideas.
- Bring two of each picture, the same identical picture twice - 2 Afro Americans, 2 Chinese, 2 Hispanics, 2 white kids, 2 American-Indians, and 2 red-heads. You can add to the collection over time. Have the kids sort the pictures into pairs. Then shuffle and let them do it again. Kids could sort these pictures into piles for all sorts of things, like eye colour, happy or sad, black hair and other hair colours, and brown, black or white skin.
Print your cute kids in colour in duplicate. Stick the pictures onto card, and then cover the card with plastic. That way these sets will last you for life. Otherwise, preschool kids will trash them in the first lesson. You'll be able to use these to talk about race and colour to educate the kids, and also for all sorts of things like, the pronouns he and she, hair colour, hair type, eye colour, what is he/she wearing, what is his/her name...
Use toys and your Chinese assistant to break down the barriers
Once your preschool class has been exposed to all sorts of children, with darker and lighter skin, they may start to comprehend that it's quite normal for others to look different. At this point, you might attempt some physical contact with the kids.
- You could have the Chinese assistants play with you, touch you, stroke your skin and say how nice it is. That's showing the young kids that it's fine to do this and that nothing bad happens.
- You could have toys and teddy bears touch your skin, and say mmmm that's nice. See if you can find some dolls with darker skin colour for the kids to touch and play with.
- Then, maybe, offer a prize to each child who dares to touch your hand. The prize could be something healthy like dried fruit, or maybe a sweet - if the school is OK with that. Since you have preschool children, make sure that you don't give them something they could choke on.
- Later on, as kids are getting used to you, you might put some different smells on your skin, like orange or peppermint (with essential oils) and have the kids smell to guess what it is.
Feedback and Comments Below
Since this is such an interesting and sensitive topic, I would love your feedback in the comments box below. Perhaps you have a similar experience and you could share your knowledge with other teachers.