Giving kids the tools to build a just world

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

Living in a time of blatant racial injustice all around us is very, very difficult. How do we explain it to our children? What is appropriate to say at what age? How do we give them the tools now to build a better world when it’s their time to do so? How do we model for them how to navigate the world kindly and compassionately? Below is a ladder of lessons that you may find helpful depending on the age of your child.

  1. Toddlers 1-3 years old. The lesson is Empathy. Everyone is born with empathy. The more young children see that in their surroundings and hear it from their loved ones, the more they can grow it themselves.

Babies are born naturally gentle and sweet, but that’s also because they are still small and vulnerable. When they start having more energy and strength, it’s good to teach them to use it gently on those more vulnerable or smaller than them. Deliberately pointing that out helps them learn empathy in their actions and words.

  • Positive Exchanges:

  • “You were being gentle with the cat, good job.”

  • “I like the way you are softly touching my arm to get my attention.”

  • “I liked it when you helped me set the table, that was helpful and made my job easier.”

  1. Preschool 2-4 years old. The lesson is Kindness. We all have a choice to be kind or not. We can relate to people and get things done with or without it. Children quickly observe that as we go about our lives relating to people: when we order takeout, when we buy from the store, when we order at the restaurant, ask a question at the bank and most of all, when we interact with each other at home. Kindness is a muscle that we can grow and make stronger everyday.

  • Positive Exchanges:

  • Reminding them to use manners

  • Use calm tones even if you have to be firm

  • Be aware that everyone is heard and take their turn speaking

  1. Pre-Kindergarten 4-5 years old. The lesson is Resilience. At this age, children are so adept at expressing themselves that they might run into conflict with their friends. They are beginning to know themselves and their preferences and they might not understand why others don’t feel or act the way they do. They are beginning to realize that not everyone is like them and they might not know how to feel about and respond to that.

  • Positive Exchanges:

  • We can point out the differences between people’s actions and opinions as long as they are being kind, gentle and considerate of others.

  • We can teach them that accepting the difference of others actually makes us grow larger and smarter. Like earning more powers for a superhero!

  • When we correct our child’s behavior, remind them it’s a great opportunity for their kindness and resilience muscles to grow. Take them aside and speak gently so that you are not shaming them. Whispering in their ear gets their attention can calm them down.

  • Discuss what putting yourself in someone else’s shoes means. Answer their questions with compassion and grace.


Modeling acceptance of other people or situations

Discussing problem-solving situations and being proud of them for trying

Learning about the different cultures of people you know

Modeling conflict-resolution if they are having differences with friends

Telling stories about people solving differences


Modeling kindness to people in our community

Taking turns in games and being a good sport

Listening to each other and responding with kind words

Praising children when they use their manners and kind words to express themselves

Telling stories about how a community comes together


Modeling empathy at home

Playing with babies / animals gently

Telling stories about being gentle and caring for others

Providing positive reinforcement when they’re being gentle and helpful



The Atlantic, How to talk to Kids about Race

“The worst conversation adults can have with kids about race is no conversation at all,” says author Jemar Tisby. “Talking to kids about race needs to happen early, often, and honestly.”


Infant toddler (6 mos to 2 yrs)

Kindness Counts by R. A. Strong

You Are My Baby by Lorena Siminovich

My Neighborhood by Maddie Frost

Preschool (2 to 4 yrs)

Mindful tots: Loving Kindness by Whitney Stuart

Tails Are Not for Pulling by Elizabeth Verdick

Counting On Community by Innosanto Nagara

Pre-K (4 to5 yrs)

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy By Susan Verde

Tails Are Not for Pulling by Elizabeth Verdick

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

City Shapes by Diane Murray

Older children

Guiding Principles of the Black Lives Matter Movement for Young Kids by Laleñia Garcia

Black Lives Matter coloring book

Protest Facts For Kids

Resources for adults


5 Racist Anti-Racism Responses “Good” White Women Give to Viral Posts

What’s My Complicity? Talking White Fragility with Robin DiAngelo

Do Something: 12 Things To Do Instead of Calling the Cops

Me and White Supremacy Book and Workbook: Become a Good Ancestor

Resources for Discussing Police Violence, Race, and Racism with Students

Martin Luther King Jr.’s True, Radical Legacy is Being Whitewashed For People Looking For Easy Absolution

Instagram Accounts:





Donate to local and national bail funds:

Thank you to Katrina Green of Chick Peas Coop School

& Medina Kahlil of Brooklyn Free Space

for these resources

102 views0 comments