Both tolerance and respect have the same basic foundation of treating others with courtesy, consideration, and dignity. A lack of tolerance however, is often about people and things we are not familiar with or don’t understand well. At SCC we approach tolerance in three ways with the preschool children:
- enhancing the child’s appreciation for self and others
- exposing the child to different life forms
- use of our Diversity Dolls to introduce ethnic, cultural, and physical differences
Appreciation for Self and Others:
Our approach to tolerance with our preschoolers includes activities to enhance the child’s appreciation of himself. According to Michelle Borba in the book Moral Intelligence, “Before a child can learn to appreciate and tolerate others, he has to appreciate himself.” To enhance the child’s appreciation of himself, we try to point out positive qualities the child is exhibiting throughout the day, such as sharing or being kind to others. We also use a cat puppet named Midnight who models how it is O.K. to like and appreciate things about ourselves. Midnight is a cat who loves her tail. Midnight tells the preschoolers about her wonderful tail and the children get to pet it each day. Then we ask each child what they like best about themselves. Answers range from, “My green eyes”, to “My feet, because I run so fast”. If a child does not have an answer, we encourage suggestions from the other children or we tell the child what we especially like about them.
To help the children recognize the differences and similarities in people, we guide them in comparing each of their individual qualities to the other preschool children and teachers. We see how many have blue eyes or brown hair, we compare who is a boy and who is a girl, or we look for who might be wearing the same colors.
Exposure to differences:
An appreciation for self and others is important for developing tolerance. When a person is not tolerant, it is usually about people or things they don’t know or understand well. If a person does not naturally feel an appreciation for this very diverse world we live in, then it is understandable they might be uncomfortable with someone or something that is different than they are. To build tolerance and help prevent this discomfort from growing into fears or stereotyping, we guide the preschool children in getting to know and understand other people and various creatures better. We do this by supplementing the children’s natural exposure to some of the diversity in the world. We teach the preschool children about people with ethnic, cultural, or physical differences, and we also expose the children to different forms of life that are very different from what they may be used to, such as worms or spiders.
Different Life Forms:
One of the things we use to help the children develop a tolerance for other types of living creatures is a worm farm in the preschool garden area. The children get to care for and examine the worms up close. They get to turn the soil for the worms to give them fresh air and then sprinkle food on the soil to feed them. Of course, when they find a worm while turning the soil, they get to hold it and we talk about how it is made.
For further natural world activities and observations, we use various creatures we find in the back yard such as spiders, snails, roly polys, and butterflies. We use bug-watching jars as well as butterfly nets to familiarize the preschool children with these creatures. We supplement our observations with pictures and descriptions in books.
Ethnic, Cultural, and Physicals Differences:
To help the preschool children learn about people that may be different than they are, we use Diversity Dolls. Our Diversity dolls are big (more than 20 of them are between 32 and 38 inches tall), so the children can relate to them more like they would to a real person. These dolls not only represent children from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, but also children who may have a physical difference such as being bald from Chemo Therapy or having a birth mark on their face. The goal is to represent every type of difference the children may encounter at the local playground or grocery store. That way when the preschool children actually met someone who has a difference, they have some familiarity with it and it’s not a complete oddity to them. If they have some understanding of the difference, they are less likely to make unkind or embarrassing comments to the other individual.
The children get to interact with the Diversity Dolls and, with some dolls, they even get to have an experience of what that doll’s difference may be like. For instance, one day our Hindu doll joined us for the preschool circle time and we explained the spiritual significance of why she wore the beautiful bindi on her forehead. The children then each got to put a bindi on their forehead like the doll. Another doll has spina bifida and uses forearm crutches. The children often ask if they can try-out his crutches and because they are real toddler crutches, we can adjust them to the proper size for any child and let them use them. In addition, the children get to have a sense of what it might be like to find their way around the room if they were blind. We let them put on a blindfold and then they use the cane from our doll who is blind.
To view all or our Diversity Dolls click on this link. Our Diversity Dolls include the typical ethnic and cultural diversity as well as dolls that are:
- big for their age
- short for their age
- bald from chemo therapy
- deaf and wear a hearing aid
- sight impaired and wear glasses
- blind and use a cane and a guide dog
- sad because of separation from a parent
- have a lazy eye
- have albinism (albino)
- have Down Syndrome
- have a birthmark called a port wine stain
- have spina bifida and use forearm crutches
- and even grandparent dolls