As Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaches, our nation will honor King's legacy of compassion and tolerance for people of all races and creeds. This is an important time for people of all ages, kindergarteners included.
Here's an activity that harkens back to that old lesson that's been around for ages: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s never too early to teach children empathy, tolerance, and compassion. Help your child recognize that all of us—all ages, all sizes, all races—are more alike than we are different, especially on the inside.
What You Do:
- Put the bowl of oranges (or lemons or grapefruits) in front of your child. Ask him to pick one to be his own special orange.
- When your child selects one, put the others aside and say, “Now, hold your orange, smell your orange, and examine your orange very, very carefully. Look at it with the magnifying glass, and see if yours has any marks that will help you pick it out of the bowl later when it gets mixed up with the others. Get to know your orange! Remember, later on (or tomorrow), you'll need to pick out your orange from the rest.”
- After getting acquainted with his or her orange, put the selected orange back in the bowl with the others.
- After a few hours or the following day, peel all the oranges in the bowl. Show your child all the peeled oranges and challenge him to find his special one.
Of course, your child will probably complain that he can't tell which one is his because he can't see the peel. What a perfect opportunity to explain, “You're right! And people are like oranges. We may look different from each other on the outside, but if you “peeled” each of us, you'd find we're all quite alike on the inside. And after all, the important part of the orange is the inside, right? And the important part of a person is the inside!”
Cindy Middendorf, an elementary teacher for 30 years in Tioga County, New York, is the author of Differentiating Instruction in Kindergarten, and a nationally respected teacher trainer and mentor.