When is the right time to start difficult conversations about racism with children? Is it necessary to have these conversations in an early childhood setting?
The starting point for such a conversation could be a child commenting on differences in appearance, or a child asking “What is this all about?” after witnessing a protest, or a child recounting being confronted with comments about race.
By acknowledging the children’s questions through further conversations, parents and educators help the children process their observations. You could start by making the children aware that there is still injustice in our community that is solely based on skin colour, gender or beliefs. Introducing the term ‘policy’, you could talk about rules that were implemented by the wider community a long time ago because at the time people thought they were ok. Most people have now realised that these rules are not ok and that they have made a big mistake, but because these policies have been in place for so long, some people think that they are the norm and don’t need to be changed.
‘Policy’ is a big word and needs more explaining. You could compare it to rules the children know from home, bedtime, for instance. Do the children consider these rules to be fair? Do the rules change sometimes? How can the children advocate for rule changes? Children might know of some policy changes in Australia. Did they know that Aboriginal Australians were not allowed to vote or speak their languages until fairly recently? How do they feel about this?
Antiracist baby is a great tool for parents and educators to talk about equity, racism and why it is so important to continuously revise rules and think about their meaning for everyone in the community.
With our book recommendations, we want to spark an interest in children to discover STEM in their everyday lives. Most books go beyond the obvious STEM connections and can be a great starting point for exploring children’s questions and ideas further.