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, he may be reaching the point when he starts getting curious about why his 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 his 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 his religion is similar to others, when you’re starting out, since he already has 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 him what those religions have in common with your own.
- Exposure: The more Baby sees, the more he will understand. Just because you don’t practice a certain religion doesn’t mean he should stay sheltered from it. Exposing him 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 him for the bigger world.
- Educate yourself: As Baby asks questions about religion, you may find you don’t have the answers, especially as he grows. Use this time while he is 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 he grows up, or who he’s going to meet. One thing you do know, though, is that some of the people he meets are going to be different from him – and that you can help him prepare for those differences.