Teaching diversity to preschoolers without the "tourist approach" blog header

Teaching diversity to preschoolers without the “tourist approach”

Because of the varied nature of the family and living situations of children today, it’s important to focus on teaching diversity to preschoolers in a way that helps them understand and respect the different situations of their peers.

The children at your preschool will come from all walks of life. Your center’s community is made up of families of different cultures, religions, skin colors, and financial backgrounds. Family units may include single-parent families, blended families, or families with two moms or two dads. Children may be living with their birth parents, in a foster home, or with adoptive families – the possibilities are truly endless.

teaching diversity in preschool - tourist approach definition

What is the tourist approach?

Unfortunately, in many childcare centers, cultural diversity is primarily taught during holidays or special events, when educators find it easy to incorporate lessons of different cultures’ ways of celebrating major occasions like Christmas or Hanukkah. In the industry, many refer to this scenario as the “tourist approach”, since it only allows preschoolers a brief glimpse into the true nature and traditions of a culture for a limited period of time, and is often highly generalized and not representative of the personal traditions of that culture.

How to support diversity throughout the year

Many early childhood educators are calling for diversity to be celebrated throughout the year to reinforce acceptance and respect of the cultural backgrounds and family situations of all children in a classroom. The following are some suggestions to better integrate culture into your curriculum and advice on teaching diversity to preschoolers.

Involve parents in teaching diversity.

Ask parents if they are willing to pay a visit to your classroom to share a cultural custom or family tradition. This could be a song, dance, story, traditional food, or craft to make.

Ensure your toys, books, and materials are diverse.

Select books, dolls, and craft supplies that represent a wide range of ethnicities so they can be incorporated into daily play and curriculum activities.

Kids reading a book together

Discuss and compare cultural traditions.

Ask children about the special traditions they follow with their families. Point out similarities and differences between the ways they celebrate holidays and special events.

Introduce sing-along songs with multicultural themes and lyrics in different languages.

Pair these songs with a similarly-themed story to reinforce the idea of diversity and acceptance.

Let children ask questions about different physical characteristics and practices among cultures.

Facilitating open discussion about these differences lets children know it is okay to notice them, and encourages appropriate discussion about them.

When talking about a particular holiday, ensure you also give time to the other important holidays from varying cultures.

This means more than talking about Hanukkah or Kwanzaa – plan lessons about Diwali, Ramadan, Chinese New Year, and others.

Interested in a better way to plan your preschool curriculum to ensure the celebration of diversity? Early childhood educators like you can benefit from a comprehensive childcare management app such as HiMama, which is designed to make your lesson planning easy! Learn more about our childcare app.

How do you celebrate diversity in your classroom? Join the conversation at @HiMamaSocial and make sure to sign up for updates from our HiMama Blog for articles on similar content in the future!

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Teaching Diversity to Preschoolers Without the Tourist Approach


  • Isabel says:

    Just because Hanukkah and Kwanzaa have been tacked together with Christmas, doesn’t mean children are getting adequate information or education about Jewish culture, Black culture, or the histories behind either of these two holidays. I find it ironic as a Jewish woman that such a minor Jewish holiday is thought of as major simply due to its proximity to Christmas. I do agree with teaching diversity, but you seem to overlook Jewish and Black communities in this posting by suggesting that they are already covered. People thinking Chanukah is a major occasion is evidence that people don’t know about Jewish holidays at all – they understand only through a Christian lens, on a Christian calendar. Yes we need to reach beyond the familiar – but realize that what you think you are familiar with, you may actually know very little about.

  • I feel that Isabel made a good observation, just because a few points of diversity was pointed out it doesn’t mean that children are getting adequate information or education.

  • Julie says:

    I’d like to point out that “Chinese” New Year is actually Lunar New Year and is celebrated in many other countries- North and South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, and Vietnam are a few.

  • Tracey says:

    This is all helpful information & will assist me on being mindful & respectful of all holidays.