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Why is it important to support children in understanding AAPI cultures?
The AAPI community is incredibly diverse and growing – it represents around 50 different ethnicities, over 100 languages, and countless different cultures! Learning about its rich history and culture in greater depth can be beneficial for children of any background.
For kids, learning about cultures that are less familiar to them can help to develop their capacity to step outside of themselves and develop skills such as empathy and perspective taking. Children are little explorers – they are naturally curious about cultural similarities and differences they observe among their friends. Flexibility and acceptance of others’ unique experiences is an important social skill as they grow up in an increasingly diverse society. Making sense of identities that are different from one’s own can seem like a daunting task for a developing brain, but there are many ways adults can support children through guidance and modeling!
For AAPI children, engaging in meaningful activities and conversations about their cultural background can provide opportunities to grow and strengthen their identities. Research shows that a strong sense of connection to cultural background can empower AAPI kids as they navigate through life, whether in school, at home, or with friends. In fact, positive cultural identity has been linked to increased self-esteem, well-being, and feelings of connectedness. When families, educators, and community members intentionally promote cultural strength, this support can empower AAPI children who may not see themselves frequently represented in mainstream media and other aspects of society.
Embracing AAPI Heritage as well as Mental Health Awareness Month – now and beyond – has grown ever more important in light of the many hardships that the community has endured amidst the COVID pandemic, including an increase in hate incidents and an uptick in mental health issues. Meaningfully engaging your family in AAPI cultures can not only help your child develop an understanding of similarities and differences and practice empathy, but can also teach your child to be brave, supportive, and speak up for themselves or others when they see or experience something that is not fair or right.
Ways to Meaningfully Engage Your Child in AAPI Heritage Month
Seek out books and movies that center the AAPI perspective
Introduce your children to books and movies that help them see the world through the eyes of the AAPI community! Focusing on books written by different AAPI authors is a good strategy to learn about the breadth of the AAPI experience. For AAPI children, it is such a gift to be able to explore their own experiences and envision new possibilities through characters who authentically represent themselves. Kids who are less familiar with AAPI culture will have the opportunity to cultivate empathy and expand their sense of the world by relating to the humanity of characters even if they don’t share cultural or ethnic identities. Organize a reading or watch party with friends to make it even more fun for your children. You can start by checking out Noggin’s AAPI book list.
Visit a local library or museum
Check out available programming at local libraries or museums that celebrate AAPI Heritage Month. Your family can attend events, activities, or performances designed for children. Many museums have exhibits from many different countries, which can illustrate the breadth of AAPI Heritage to your child. If you prefer to keep things virtual, Asia Society and Museum and the New York Public Library are hosting a variety of virtual events such as book readings and cooking demonstrations. Engaging in activities like these can serve as an organic starting point for discussing similarities and differences!
Celebrate cultural traditions
Engage your children in hands-on, experiential learning with an activity that introduces them to a cultural tradition from the AAPI community. One of the easiest ways is to try out a new recipe together! Use the opportunity to help them understand the traditions and significance associated with the food you are making. Noggin has a kid-friendly recipe of Bibingka – a special Filipino dish that Josh from Blue’s Clues & You made for his Lola. Another fun idea is to try out a folk dance and music form from an AAPI culture. If in-person dance classes are not available, there are YouTube videos that teach you dances like Bhangra, a folk dance that originates from Punjab, India.
Introduce positive AAPI figures
AAPIs have played an important role in shaping our history and everyday lives, and their accomplishments can inspire all our children! Help your kids appreciate the strength of the AAPIs by learning about leaders, activists, innovators, athletes, and artists from the community. Children might particularly be interested by AAPIs with accomplishments in industries and areas that are unexpected. For example, AAPIs are notoriously under-represented in political leadership and the entertainment industry, so it is beneficial seeing AAPI models in all kinds of jobs! This can help break stereotypes and encourage AAPI children to overcome expectations. Noggin has highlighted some inspiring figures you can learn more about with your kids:
Explore family immigration histories
What better positive figure to introduce to children other than one (or more) of their own family members! Each AAPI family’s immigration history contains stories of immense strength, resilience, and creativity. Children can benefit from hearing about how their parents, grandparents, aunt, uncle, or cousins, etc. made the courageous decision to move to a new country. Whether it’s learning a new language, starting a job or business, or forming a community, putting down roots in a new country and adjusting to a foreign culture are accomplishments to be celebrated. Sharing these stories can help all families and children build a shared sense of pride and appreciation for their immigration background and multicultural heritage. You can even create a scrapbook together with pictures, letters, clippings, and small trinkets documenting your family’s history. Encourage your child to exchange family histories with a friend!
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