Whether your family is devoutly religious, more secular, or just celebrates religious holidays, your toddler is beginning to take notice of the traditions and customs your family practices. While Baby is still too young to get too deep into the complexities of theology, they may be reaching the point when they start getting curious about why their friends, family members, or characters from media, might have different holidays and practices.
When it comes to explaining other people’s religions to young children, just like introducing other complicated concepts, it’s helpful to keep it simple – you can introduce more complex information as Baby gets older, and better able to process the complexity. There are a few common ways to introduce toddlers to the diversity of human experience early on in their lives.
- Read books: A trip to your local library will uncover a number of books written about other religions – many geared toward children. Pick up a stack about various religions around the world and read them together, answering any questions Baby may have along the way – and if you don’t know the answer to any of their questions, it’s a great chance for the two of you to learn something new together!
- Keep an open dialogue: Teaching Baby about different religions means talking about different beliefs, customs, and practices of each faith. You may want to start with the religious holidays your family honors, then transition into other religions and the customs they follow.
- Talk about similarities: It may be helpful for Baby to hear more about how their religion is similar to others, when you’re starting out, since they already have a framework for thinking about the similarities. You can start by pointing out various places of worship as you go about your day, and telling them what those religions have in common with your own.
- Exposure: The more Baby sees, the more they will understand. Just because you don’t practice a certain religion doesn’t mean they should stay sheltered from it. Exposing them to different religions through celebrations, festivals, books, and stories that work to bring people from different religious backgrounds together is a great way to prepare them for the bigger world.
- Educate yourself: As Baby asks questions about religion, you may find you don’t have the answers, especially as they grow. Use this time while they are still young to learn more about other religions on your own so you are prepared when the tougher questions come later on down the road.
You never know where Baby is going to end up when they grow up, or who they're going to meet. One thing you do know, though, is that some of the people they meet are going to be different from them – and that you can help them prepare for those differences.