Imagine a four-year-old girl named Zhou Yan. Her family has just moved to the United States, where no one speaks her language and no one looks like her. The food is strange, the clothes people wear look different, and the way people act is unfamiliar. Nothing makes sense to Zhou Yan. And now, about a week after her big move, her parents take her to church. She is terrified. She cries when her parents leave her because she has no idea what is going on. The teacher tries unsuccessfully to comfort her.
As servants of Christ, we want nothing more than for this child to feel safe and welcome at church. But how can we do that? Most of us have never been placed in a classroom in a new country, so we cannot truly understand how Zhou Yan feels.
Read on to find some strategies you can use to make your classroom a more welcoming and multicultural environment for the preschoolers in your care.
- Pray for a warm and welcoming multicultural classroom that is just right for the preschoolers in your care.
- Learn each child’s name and how to pronounce it correctly. Names are important in every culture. Learning the best way to say names is a good way to make all preschoolers feel valued.
- Value all languages spoken by your preschoolers and their families. You can do this by providing books in heart languages and by singing songs in the languages spoken at home. Invite a parent to visit your classroom and teach simple greetings to preschoolers.
- Ask parents to teach you a few simple words and phrases in their heart language. Teach what you learn to all preschoolers, but especially use your new knowledge to connect with the preschoolers who speak those languages.
- Enrich your classroom by purchasing and using dolls that resemble the preschoolers in your classroom. Everyone will benefit from and enjoy playing with dolls that make each child feel special, beautiful, and valued.
- Provide appropriate toys that are popular in the cultures represented in your classroom to make your preschoolers feel at home.
- Display pictures and posters of people who look like your preschoolers. Include images of homes, cities, and nature from locations represented by your preschoolers.
- Learn more about other cultures by hosting an international festival in your classroom. Invite family members to provide food from their culture, play games that are popular within each cultural group, wear traditional clothing, and teach simple words in their heart languages. The festival could be held during a Mission Friends session or planned as a special event for preschoolers and their families.
Embracing cultures from around the world is a great way to show that your church values diversity and everyone is welcome. By making preschoolers and their families feel welcome, you will help ensure they want to keep coming back-to learn more about Jesus and missions.
Written by Marsha Butler