Starting conversations about race with kids - MetroFamily Magazine
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Starting conversations about race with kids

by Liz Howald

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

One of Play Cafe’s founding values is to serve and support our community.  Sometimes–usually–we do this with food.  This might mean providing much-needed coffee to a sleep-bereft parent or delivering meals to healthcare workers fighting COVID-19. Sometimes we do this by raising money or awareness for local non-profits, like Positive Tomorrows. At other times, we do this by providing family-focused information, workshops and resources to educate, strengthen and support our larger community.  This is one of those times.

Initiating conversations about race and racism can feel daunting. It’s common to assume that kids are too young, but science tells us that children’s ideas about “others” are formed early in life, before they reach even 5 years of age.  Littles have a strong sense of fairness, justice and justice denied, and they can quickly appreciate many negative consequences of race-based discrimination if given the opportunity.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled some great resources–all available locally–for starting a conversation about race with kids: 

  1. Introduce your children to books featuring people of color. Nonfiction, especially biographies Book from Commonplace Books like “Black Women Who Dared” by Naomi M. Moyer, are great for kids.  But fiction like “What is Given from the Heart” by Patricia C. McKissak can be wonderful, too. Help children identify commonalities between their lives and characters’ lives to build empathy for others’ lives, challenges and experiences. When adults value books, stories and accounts written by and about people of color the children who look up to them will learn to as well. These books are available at Commonplace Books.
  2. Revamp your children’s toy box to represent the diversity of the world around them. Doll families from PlanToys, available at Plenty Mercantile, are available in a variety of races.  We have all four families in the Play Cafe Play Zone and children loved playing with them. Be ready to answer–and ask–questions about differences between dolls (skin color, hair color, etc.) while also considering similarities (i.e. “This doll family is a beautiful dark brown and this one is creamy light brown, but look how all of the doll families take care of each other!”) Teaching children to celebrate the differences while appreciating the commonalities in their doll families is great practice for how to frame racial differences among classmates, neighbors and other acquaintances in real life.
  3. A conversation is a great place to start but children also need to see their trusted adults act as advocates. Let your children see you do the work, while wearing your beliefs plainly for all to see. Let them see you march. Let them see you donate. Let them see you speak. Let them see you stand up.  And teach them to do the same. Show them that some things are worth working for. Some things are worth fighting for. Because we are all stronger together.
  4. Support local black-owned businesses, services and nonprofits with this list. Talk with your kids the importance of being thoughtful and intentional about where you, and they, spend money. Learn more here.

Liz Howald, owner of Play Cafe, is a former educator and mom to two rambunctious boys, wife to their equally-energetic father and dog-mom to the only calm one in the family. Play Cafe is a family-friendly cafe in Uptown 23rd serving delicious food + beverages six days a week. Table Top Play Packs are available to keep the kiddos entertained while you snack + sip until our Montessori-inspired Play Zone reopens. Follow along at or on Instagram + Facebook @playcafeokc.  

Find more articles, perspectives by people of color and local resources about race and racial injustice here 

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