Do children know any differences, prejudice, or stereotypes? Do children notice what color a person is? Many adults assume if we let them play together and leave them alone, everything will be fine.  Some people think that children are unaffected by environments.

Do children know any differences, prejudice, or stereotypes? Do children notice what color a person is? Many adults assume if we let them play together and leave them alone, everything will be fine.  Some people think that children are unaffected by environments.

 However, some studies show that children begin to notice differences and construct classifications very early. Children’s self-concept and attitudes toward others are influenced by societal attitudes through experience with their bodies, social environments, and cognitive developmental stage.

 According to some research, children’s racial awareness may begin from 2 to 5 years old through early observations, but cautions that full understanding arises about age 10 or 11. Three-year-olds begin to notice gender and racial differences as well as physical disabilities. Between 3 and 5 years old, children try to figure out their identities as they journey the path to self-awareness.  They may question: Will I always be a girl?  Will I become a girl if I play with dolls?  Will I become disabled if I play with a handicapped friend?  Will my skin color change?

 Children at 4 or 5 years old perform gender appropriate behavior defined by socially prevailing norms.  They may also use these norms to reject the interaction with children different from themselves such as children of color or disabled. 

In order to prevent the barriers and damage from becoming too deep, parents should teach children the awareness and appreciation of differences.

 Using children’s books is a powerful way to teach children.  Go to the local library to find some books related to gender roles, racial and cultural backgrounds, people with various special needs, family lifestyles, and a range of ages.  When reading to children focus on the differences and ask them questions.

 You may take your children to visit museums or any cultural activities.  This can be a learning opportunity for them to see how people live and dress and what equipment or daily tools they use  for living.  Holiday celebrations, cooking, eating, work tools, clothes, family rituals and traditions, language, and music, can also reflect a variety of cultures.

 As a parent, your values and attitudes toward the differences also influence your children’s perception of differences.  Remember, providing children opportunities and environments to explore and learn appropriate attitudes and knowledge for effective living in a diverse world is critical to the impact of bias on children’s development.