Just recently my kids have started noticing the color of people's skin. Not in a bad way, just pointing out if a person is darker or lighter skinned. I was surprised that they noticed this at their age...and quickly realized that I need to make more of an effort to teach about loving everyone no matter what color their skin, hair or eyes are. Here are things I have tried that seem to be working:
My kids are mixed race, so to be honest it is hard finding toys that look just like them. Instead, I don't worry about the color of the toy. My daughter has dolls of every skin color. She seems to be more concerned about their hair color at the moment, so she has a variety of hair colors as well. I try not to teach her that every doll is beautiful and unique in their own way.
I try not to discriminate in any way ever, but especially around my kids. I try not to categorize anyone by skin color, or talk about a race in a negative way. This can carry over into age discrimination, gender, and even social class. Our kids learn these differences from us and their interactions with others. They also learn how to treat others and love others from us.
My kids pick up on everything I say, so I have to really watch what words I use. Instead of describing a person only by their skin color, I try telling what hair style they have, what they're wearing or what they are doing. I don't refrain from saying black, white or brown completely, I just don't make it the focus of my description. If I don't make a big deal out of someone's skin color, they won't either.
In our home, learning about other cultures is something we focus on. I like to go to events and festivals that feature different cultures and I have involved my kids in learning and studying cultures from the time they were little. It's normal to dance samba, eat sushi and hit piñatas at our house. I try to teach my kids that even though we are different, there are great things to learn from every culture.
I try to make my house a very safe place for questions of all kinds. We often talk about what is right and what is wrong and my kids aren't afraid to ask me anything. If I see a behavior that is not right, I call it out. Whether it is something my own kids are doing, or something we see someone else doing, I will explain to my kids that that is not right and why. Every moment is a learning opportunity.
We love to travel as a family. Going to new places whether in your own state or outside the country is a great way to see new cultures and experience new people. Don't be afraid to bring them along when you travel and to go outside and experience where you are. There really is no better way for your children to learn about others who are different then themselves then by seeing it firsthand.
We may not be able to control what other people say or do, but we can teach our kids and those around us what being a good person who sees someone's qualities before skin color is.