As children grow, they learn from caregivers and teachers, explore big emotions, interact with other children, share space with new friends, and, soon enough, begin to recognize the similarities and differences between themselves and the world around them.
By encouraging children to share their thoughts and feelings about who they are, we can build their conviction, grow their empathy, and teach them how to connect with others by understanding how their identities intersect.
Understanding how we embody and personify the cumulation of experiences and identity markers that define us is an ever changing work in progress. Teaching children to reflect on their personal identity regularly will help them navigate relationships and help caregivers to more deeply understand their behaviors, emotions, and motivations.
Before beginning the activity extension below, try reading I Wish You Knew by Jack Azua Kramer. This picture book explores the big emotions and experiences children hold with them as they navigate the classroom and celebrates the power of connection and empathy.
Open Ended Play
Have the child draw or write the visible parts of their identity on the outside of the bag. This can be anything from their physical appearance to the roles they fill.
On the inside, have them place cards with parts of their identity that are only visible when you get to know them or when they choose to share that piece of themselves with another person. Encourage your child to think about things like hidden talents, deep truths, or commonly misunderstood characteristics.
This activity reminds children, youth and caregivers that only some parts of ourselves are visible to others and that we should be careful when making assumptions about others based on what we perceive. For more classroom and caregiver-led activities around identity, race, and bias, check out Start Here, Start Now by Liz Kleinrock.
In The Community
World Animal Day
October 4 is recognized across the globe as a day to honor and celebrate the many animal species who share our planet. Find time this month to engage with the animal world, whether it be through reading, snuggling a pet, or taking in the natural world. Lucky for us, we are surrounded by natural landscapes to explore!
- Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge offers weekly birdwatching walks at 8 a.m. on Wednesdays in front of the visitor center. Bring your own binoculars and see how many species you can spot!
- Learn about the animals at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium on their blog, which features stories and details about a range of animals including arctic foxes, elephants, and jellyfish.
- Try one of the Top Ten Fall Hikes at Mount Rainier National Park, or, for a free option, check out a Discover Pass from a Pierce County Library to explore Washington State Parks.
Every year on October 31, people of all ages dress up in costume, eat candy, and carve pumpkins to celebrate the very old tradition of Halloween. While this holiday is often associated with scary movies and spooky ghosts, it is also a beautiful time of year and a great chance to celebrate fall!
Try out our Leaf Art activity from Play to Learn for a fall-themed family activity that will get you in the Halloween spirit. And for more natural fall crafts, try apple stamping or corn painting!
Filipino-American History Month
The month of October commemorates the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the continental United States and brings awareness to the significant role Filipinos have played in American history. Attend a cultural event or read a thematic children’s book to acknowledge this observance!
6th through 12th grade students, teaching staff, parents and community members are invited to immerse themselves in Filipino-American history and culture at the American Kapwa youth and community summit at Clover Park High School!
The event will feature workshops, cultural displays, performances, demonstrations, contests, food, and great fun for the whole family!
Students can register here.
Tacoma Arts Month
Every October the arts community in Tacoma celebrates the local cultural community through events, exhibits, workshops, and tours. Whether you enjoy music, dance, literary readings, or hands-on activities, many Tacoma Arts Month offerings are free and most are family friendly.
Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month
Children who grow up with more than one language have an understanding of the culture and tradition of both languages, opening them up to connection and a feeling of belonging. Many bilingual children come from families of immigrants whose first language is not English, but over time, the public education system has reacted to incorporate bilingual education and embrace linguistic diversity.
We can celebrate the bilingual child this October by highlighting the importance of learning new languages and framing bilingualism as something to take pride in.
Try listening to a children’s book in a different language or sharing a local resource on social media to engage with this month-long observance.
Down Syndrome Awareness Month
October has been recognized as a time to celebrate people with Down syndrome since the 1980s. Its purpose is to raise awareness and advocate for acceptance of people with Down syndrome.
What is Down syndrome? It is a condition in which a baby is born with an extra chromosome. This extra chromosome means the child may have mental and physical development delays and be at an increased risk for health problems.
Take time this month to educate yourself and your family by learning more about the Down Syndrome Community of Puget Sound or reading a thematic children’s book together.
Museums and Galleries Month
If the Children’s Museums of Tacoma and at JBLM weren’t on your October to-do list before, they are now! We have a variety of activity extensions and programming at the Museums this October.
- Play to Learn at the Children’s Museum at JBLM on Friday mornings
- Print Art Workshops at the Children’s Museum of Tacoma on October 7, 14, and 22
- Sparks Workshop at the Children’s Museum at JBLM on October 8
- Storytime at the Children’s Museum at JBLM on Saturday and Sunday mornings
- Wee Ones Weekly at the Children’s Museum of Tacoma on Monday afternoons
And If you’re feeling adventurous, check out all six Tacoma Museums this month!
Family History Month
Like personal identity, family history shapes who we are and how we operate in the world. Children who know more about their family stories show more resilience and are better able to handle stressful events, and sharing our family history with the next generation is a meaningful way to connect.
Try filling out a family tree template together or choosing a family recipe to be featured in the Tacoma Reads 2022 Cookbook.
More observances in October: World Teacher Day, Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month, International Walk to School Month, and National Bullying Prevention Month.
When engaging in personal identity exercises with children and youth, it is important that trust and respect go both ways.
Spend time reflecting on the intersections of your own identity, understanding how you experience privilege and oppression, and remembering how your identity impacted your experience as a student. By viewing yourself as a partner rather than a leader in sharing identity, you can foster an even deeper sense of community and belonging.