Beyond Costumes: What Kids Need to Know about Different Cultures

Dressing up in costumes = a fun learning activity. Here are a few things you can teach your kids while dressing up 😉

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By: Cha Cababaro

“Nanay, when I grow up, I want to wear a costume, too.”

My 4-year-old girl is homeschooled, and she only gets to see school programs when her cousins invite us over to watch them perform. On one event, she saw her cousin in a Balinese dancer-like costume. When we got home, she told me that she’d like to be in an “event,” too… and that she would like to be in a costume when she’s older. Ha! Regular school = 1; Homeschool = 0.

For some reason, kids just love playing dress-ups. It could be that it allows them to become someone they want to be, or even a person far different than they are. Either way, costumes are a great way to show kids that differences are beautiful and should be celebrated.

Aside from the weekly Instagram entries of their adorable OOTDs, one of the many occasions we moms enjoy dressing the little ones up is during United Nations Day school celebrations. It’s nice to see our boys and girls parade it out and show pride for countries they represent aside from their own.

More than just having the cuties look like someone from another country or belonging to another race, what should we teach them about the world’s rich culture – the distinctions that make one unique, special, beautiful, and respected? With so much divisiveness in society today, any time is a good time to school them on cultural differences. For starters…

Each person is exceptional in his own way – and that’s okay.

Whenever my daughter and I travel locally or international, I see to it that I get to brief her about the people we will be encountering in the place we’re going to visit. I try to pinpoint differences and go on with “and that’s okay.”

“They speak a different language, ‘no? That’s okay.”

“You have bigger eyes than them. But that’s okay.”

I go on to tell her that we are all to be treated fairly not because of how we look, how we eat, or how we speak, but because we were made equals. Rearing her in a Christian home, I remind my daughter that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and each one is a valuable reflection of that image. No one should say otherwise.

You can also do this wherever in the world you may be. You don’t even have to leave your home to teach this – you can do it while watching TV shows where they usually showcase characters in diversity.

Better cultural knowledge, better communication.

Kids understand far better than we think they do. Exposing them to various cultures invite them to engage in better communication practices through respect, adaptability, and openness. Educate them about certain people groups and allow them to strike a conversation and build relations when around these people. This way, kids will be cultured beyond their backyard culture, giving them an edge in understanding.

Treat others well, even when it’s not reciprocal hospitality.

One Bible story my kid still seems confused about is The Good Samaritan. So, a Jewish man in the parable was traveling when he got mugged, the robbers beating him down half dead. A priest and a man of the church saw this man and hastily walked past him, deliberately choosing to “unsee” his condition. Now, the good Samaritan came his way and didn’t leave him to die. Instead, he treated the man’s wounds, had him taken care of in an inn – all expense paid!

Jews back in the day had a history with the people of Samaria, who they claim to be of the same race and faith but practicing otherwise. Samaritans were treated horribly for this. The moral of the story is quite simple – love and compassion are color and culture-blind.

Teaching kids at a young age about selfless values towards everyone will make the compassionate, caring, and understanding individuals in the future – no matter who they come across with, no matter how different they may seem, no matter how this person treats them.

To see everyone in the same light – this is the most effective way we can impart culture to our children. But remember this: how they treat others also reflect how they see us treating other people. The real challenge is firstly on us. How do you treat your neighbor?

Cha is a 20-ish something Christian, solo, millennial Nanay to a soon-to-be 4-year old little girl. While working as a creative in an advertising agency, she finds time making music, travelling, and spacing out once in a while.

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