So I realised something this holiday. Everyday this week, we made our way to the different art galleries, literature festivals and museums, taking advantage of London’s amazing culture. Growing up in a family that spent its holidays outdoors hiking, walking outside and sightseeing mostly in the beautiful landscapes of North America, I can say that these are things that would not come naturally to me.
I make a deliberate effort in the holidays to ensure my kids are exposed to as much science and culture as possible. And true enough, even I was surprised and excited by the result. Art and science can be exciting for a child – given the right teachers and exposure.
It made me think. Unless we deliberately expose our children to new and different things from what we as parents enjoyed as children, will they ever organically discover interests other than our own? I have my doubts. Should we only pay attention to what our Children show an interest in?
Partly because of my experience. Music wasn’t big in our family, hence none of my siblings nor I, am really into it. My parents weren’t interested and thus neither were we. We never really had the choice. To hear the radio blearing loudly in the car (even today), I find uncomfortable, preferring silence to unwanted background noise.
On the other hand though, we are all pretty sporty and outdoorsy because, growing up in Canada, that was what we were exposed to. (Mum and Dad, if you’re reading this, I’m not knocking you).
Recently, I’ve been busy looking at interesting and educational gifts for my daughter who turns 7 next month. Typing into google “gifts for 7 year olds” without specifying gender, I get a whole list of ‘science-ey’ activities and toys that I perhaps wouldn’t have thought of before. Shamefully, even with all my consciousness around the issue of gendered-toys, I assumed she’ll be less interested in them.
She’s a girly-girl, loves dressing up, role-playing, singing and dancing. But as she gets older, her tastes will change and why shouldn’t they evolve to include lego, hot wheels or magna-tiles (look them up, they’re super cool). Why shouldn’t we encourage our children to like other things?
Watching her at a classmate’s (a boy) birthday party recently, I saw her flock to toys she may never have played with or thought that she liked because she, just as I do, gets sucked into what she thinks she should be playing with. Truth be told, she loves magnets and building and ran over to me on more than one occasion to show me what she’d built or what she’d discovered.
At the science museum too, we happened upon a show that was 75% filled with little boys (the other 25% made up from what I could tell were sisters) called “The Rocket Show”. It was full of big bangs and explosions and all things we might typically associate with boys.
I didn’t tell the girls beforehand what the show was about- thinking perhaps my oldest would protest that it was for boys. But as soon as we got in, my girls were captivated- right down to the explanations of Newton’s laws of motion and gravity. How many little girls missed out on that show because they thought it wasn’t for them, or it sounded like a ‘boy show’? And how many parents agreed?
Fast forward to secondary school, then university when girls are all choosing their majors. How likely are they to choose engineering having had so little exposure to building and motors and science because neither they nor their parents thought it was something they were interested in.
Ironically, my previous career was developing policy to encourage women into STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in higher education. I now have first-hand experience of the sad reality of gender-based subjects and I genuinely fear its future impact.
So What to do about it?
If we expose our children to a variety of interests and activities and we are deliberate about seeking out things that they may not think they are interested in, you might find your child finds a new interest- something they are good at but would never have tried before.
What’s the consequence if we don’t? Well, maybe nothing. But it can’t hurt to try. Parents who enrol their sons in dance classes just because they’d like them to try it. It could go either way, either the boy will hate it or love it but at least he’s had the chance. Others who seek out out-of-the-ordinary type activities like circus skills or cricket for girls. How would you know unless you try?
It worries me, what my husband and I are missing in our interests and exposure. I know we’re very different so we’ve got a lot covered in terms of our interests but art and culture don’t really feature. It’s no coincidence that the offspring of two maths professors is most likely to be interested in maths.
Between us, our kids have a good chance to like books, language, urban life, history, music, sports and nature. Hubby’s view is that if they’re interested in it, one window of exposure is enough for us to know if it’s something we should pursue for her. But I’m not so sure. She never went on about dance after just one dance class. It’s been continual and cumulative- building up over time so that now our little ones are dancing and singing at every opportunity. Buying her a karaoke set is a no brainer.
My daughter is naturally good at English, reading, and writing stories. She struggles more with her maths. But is that perhaps because we, her parents, are both writers? Because we weren’t good at maths?
We have to do something differently though if we are to give our daughters a real chance to discover what they’re genuinely good at and love. She’ll love to sing because she (and us) believe it’s what she’s good at. But that science kit is something we need to make an effort to buy.
We owe it to all of our daughters that if they decide science or art is not for them, it’s not because they weren’t encouraged or exposed to it at every opportunity. It’s because they genuinely chose to do something else…
While I’ve written this with my daughters in mind, all of this can apply to sons. Whatever the gender, we cannot pigeon hole our kids into certain activities and toys just because they show a liking for them.
I love Christmas (if you haven’t guessed that already) and just as much as I love the lights, the tinsel, Santa and all the decorations, I also love the intensity of it all.
But I recognise this can be challenging and sometimes painful for families where, seeing each other once or twice a year is not always easy. Throw in a couple that have multiple heritages, traditions and backgrounds and it’s grounds for some pretty intense conflicts- if it’s not managed well.
More often than not couples from similar backgrounds can master the main events together easily. Not so in mixed-culture couples. Holidays steeped in tradition- often religious- and mountains of relatives in close quarters, can result in intense emotion from all sides and high expectations of what and how things should go down.
While my partner of Nigerian descent and I of Iranian/Canadian descent have been lucky to find acceptance from both sides of our families, it doesn’t mean we’ve not had our fair share of conflict around festivals and traditions.
Children bring out a new angle to building on and passing on tradition in a multicultural family. And what can follow can be intense feeling about what and how you should celebrate.
After 15 years of being together and 3 children later, my partner and I are gradually learning to let things go, reduce expectation and build our own unique family traditions outside of what we grew up with.
Like a lot of multicultural families, we spend most of our travel budget on visiting family. The yearly trips to visit my family in Canada and my husband’s family either in various parts of England or even Nigeria (if we can stretch it) are steeped in expectation and an idealised version of ‘homecoming’.
The pressure to create the kind of atmosphere you remember fondly can be stressful, especially if it’s at odds with how your partner may feel about it. I feel that I could or should do more for my girls or they will miss out on an important part of my cultural heritage. What kind of pressure is that?!!
Take last year for example. The intensity of my excitement to be coming ‘home’ for Christmas in Canada was endearing but nerve-wracking. The pressure to ‘do’ everything, see the lights, make a snowman, visit Santa and decorate the tree with the right Christmas album playing in the background (yes, I’m sure everyone has a favourite that was continually played while growing up) can lead to overload fast.
My partner, on the other hand, is much more relaxed when it comes to Christmas. Growing up in Nigeria where the weather is warmer and perhaps schedules looser, has different ideas and both our versions of how to ‘enjoy’ the holidays as been at odds.
The Holidays can also split a multicultural family down the middle…
For multicultural families that have had to endure prejudice from one side or both because of their union, the holidays can be even more painful. The pressure and desire to spend it with your loved ones, hoping against hope that they will have gotten over their racist ideas and accepted your relationship for the sake of the kids or just because ‘it’s 2018!’- is heart breaking when it doesn’t happen.
Social media has made many of these stories real to me, particularly after big political events such as Brexit and the US election when I read about many mixed couples planning to spend Christmas or Thanksgiving with family they knew had voted to leave or for ideas symbolised by the Trump campaign which represented deep rooted prejudices. Their fear and sadness that their partner would never be accepted, despite the love between them, was harrowing to read.
For lone parents in a multicultural family, the struggle is even greater…
Not at all surprising, all those times throughout the year where families feel separated, abandoned, rejected or deep in conflict become even more intense in December. In instances of lone-parent families where the non-resident parent doesn’t play a big role in their child’s life, it’s left to the resident parent to fill their child in on a culture they may know nothing about.
For many, the fight isn’t worth fighting because as a lone parent, it’s probably easier to just do it your way. And yet, the void children may feel as a result of the other parent’s absence makes it even more vital that they know about all aspects of their racial and cultural heritage. Even more so, so that they are comfortable with who they are, recognizing that they belong to two or more cultural and racial heritages.
All parents do things with their kids based on what they have known and learned throughout their lives. Their own parents gave them some of it, but a lot came from the culture in which they were immersed.
Looking back, I realise that what made the holidays so special wasn’t the Christmas album, the gifts or the right coloured lights. It was having our entire family round for a big meal celebrating our unique traditions, beliefs and cultures- in whatever form that took. It was spending time together and making memories that strengthened our bond as a family.
Releasing expectation about reliving your childhood can be what’s needed at this time of year. Your heritage cannot be exactly relived because it’s relevance becomes diluted when you have two cultures to merge in a multicultural family.
Perhaps that’s what will make our Christmases in a multicultural family more interesting and more memorable. Our Christmas turkey now sits alongside a giant bowl of jollof rice and plantain. And snow lined walks in the afternoon will be replaced with games. Either way, I’m hoping that that’s the part my children will look back on and remember- our unique heritages that blend together to make Christmas so special.
I love this time of year and I love the magic that kids experience through Christmas. It truly is the best time of year.
And yet with gifts to buy, shows on offer, grottos and markets galore, the budget can certainly get stretched at this time of year. In fact, we barely make it to the big day sometimes as last minute shopping can certainly do my wallet in.
I want my children to take in as much as they can this season- the lights, the markets, meeting Santa. But we honestly can’t do it all. We’d bust.
And I know we’re not the only family out there feeling the pinch at Christmas. The challenge? How do we ensure our kids can experience the magic without breaking the bank?
Well, here it is…
1) Free Christmas Activities for Kids in London: Sloane Square Christmas Lights Switch-On!
See Chelsea light-up at the magical Christmas Lights Switch-On on Saturday 17 November.
Meet the real reindeer and even see Father Christmas turn on the lights with his special helper! Entertainment and Christmas treats will be available across the area from 2pm – Duke of York Square, Pavilion Road and Sloane Square. Visit the Festive Food Market to pick up delicious treats and explore the area with complimentary horse & carriage rides taking place throughout the afternoon. Enjoy magical performances from local choirs – the Chelsea Pensioners and Holy Trinity Church, as well as Salvation Army Band – singing carols leading you to the switch-on moment on Sloane Square at 5pm.
2) Free Christmas Activities for Kids in London: Family Day Children’s Christmas Party at the Benjamin Franklin House
Saturday December 8, 10.30am-12noon
Children will discover the magic of the holiday – 18th century style – with crafts and treats. Sing along to festive classics like Jingle Bells with accompaniment on the glass armonica, the instrument Franklin invented at Craven Street. Enjoy holiday treats and deck the halls with Christmas crafts to make and take home! Suitable for children aged 5-11
3) Free Christmas Activities for Kids in London: Snow Ball at the Royal Festival Hall
Show off your best fancy dress and learn dance moves to your favourite seasonal hits at this winter ball, featuring games and festive fun for the entire family. Those who want to show off their costumes can join in with the Penguin Parade, a People’s Catwalk with a festive twist.
I’ve banged on before about how much representation matters. From buying dolls to choosing books to the movies your children watch, seeing themselves reflected in their everyday is so important for a child’s self esteem and for their aspirations to believe that they can achieve anything.
So, as part of that series, we are bringing you the ultimate guide to multicultural toys and black dolls with natural hair. From dolls to figurines to bags, subscriptions, puppets, games and more… And the best part? You don’t need to order from across the pond! This list should appeal to both boys and girls but if you’d like us to include anything else, just write a comment below! In the run up to Christmas time, this is the perfect Santa list for your little ones.
Designed by Berengeuer, these Lots To Love Babies are the perfect bath and playtime doll. Chubby and sturdy – who wouldn’t love these dolls. Perfect for bath or play. Comes with removable nappy. Able to sit independently. Outfits available.
Girls Pink Foldable Umbrella, Kids Umbrella, Cute Umbrella, Personalized Kids Ballerina Rain Gear, Monogrammed Umbrella, Girls Umbrella
Snowflake Princess is a very soft and cuddly toy. 15 inches or approx 36cm in length. Lightweight and very flexible. Very soft material body with beautiful pale blue princess dress & crown. Light tan complexion.
I love a good puppet and Granny ventriloquist is a fantastic option! High quality full body ventriloquist style puppet made by Silly Puppets. Easy to move mouth. Hand entry through the back of the puppet. Includes 1 arm control rod which can be clipped to either hand for movement. Height is about 65cm tall. Lightweight at just around 500g. Puppet can be re-dressed in child size 18 month clothes.
Black Panther… the movie of all time. And it’s great that lego has the toys to keep the play alive. Includes three minifigures: Black Panther, Okoye and Killmonger. Rhino features a minifigure seat, posable head and legs, rhino horn elements and two stud shooters. Mining cart features a tipping function and translucent-blue vibranium nugget elements. Activate the rail track’s explode function to knock over the cart.
This Nahla 18 inch doll is fully pose-able. She comes with 2 outfits and extra accessories including a story book. Eyes open and close. and you can buy lots more great outfits, accessories and accessory sets in the Our Generation range.
A fun game for Doc McStuffins fans. Help Doc find her missing instruments and fill her. Game play based on the popular pre-school TV show. Perfect for children aged 3 and up, 2 to 4 players. Easy to understand rules combined with a unique and fun game play.
We love crafts in our house and having the option to use different coloured pegs to make a puppet or figurine is such a great idea. Just wrap with fabric to ‘fashion’ an outfit. Decorate with acrylic paint, twirly hair, fabric and yarn (not included. Comes in 5 assorted colours – Dark Brown, Tan, Orange, Peach and Beige.
Get a monthly subscription box with 2-3 children’s books featuring characters of color plus fun book swag! Finding the best African American children’s literature can be challenging. We’re here to help! Every month we hand-select books to send to your child. In addition, we include fun and educational activities to enjoy with your family.
The Tidlo Little Friends Puzzle features eight little friends who come in pairs – a boy and a girl in each set. The head, body and legs of each character lift out separately, leaving little ones with the task of piecing them back together – working out which piece belongs to which character! A line drawing underneath each piece can be used as a guide to find the correct slot! Or, for a little extra fun, why not mix and match the character pieces to create some funny new characters. The puzzle splits into 24 chunky pieces that are ideal for little hands to lift, grasp, examine and replace. With a bright and colourful design, this wooden puzzle is sure to attract the attention of youngsters and is a great way to improve early shape recognition.
Explore the world of medicine with Barbie dolls and medical play sets! Barbie baby doctor doll is ready to see patients with furniture for an exam table and accessories to care for two adorable babies. Details are realistic with colourful touches and office-inspired elements. Teal scrubs and white shoes are a perfect professional look. Barbie baby doctor doll does double duty with an exam station that features two tubs, a moving mobile and storage space. Accessories let young minds care for baby patients with a stethoscope, two baby towels, a bottle and a medical chart. Young doctors will love giving their patients a clean bill of health with baby doctor Barbie doll.
Get your girls and boys dreaming big with Barbie Robotics Engineer doll — this Barbie Career of the Year doll introduces a partnership with Tynker, a game-based platform that teaches kids how to code and inspires them to explore STEM opportunities! Barbie doll comes with a silvery robot and a purple laptop — that shows a screenshot of her robotics project. A career-themed look includes a white t-shirt with rainbow tech-inspired graphic, a denim jacket, black pants, white sneakers and protective goggles.
Have twice the slamming ideal time with the WWE Battle Pack. No-holds barred personality pack celebrates key rivalries, champions, WWE Women’s Division competitors, manager and talent, tag teams and siblings. With the included iconic accessory and authentic WWE detailing, you can recreate realistic, big event matches with two approximately 6 Inch superstar figures.
I love the Queens of Africa range. The Trinity Pack features Azeezah, Nneka and Wuraola. Stylish Outfit and accessories for each doll. Each Doll has a different Afro hairstyle.
The name Lela is of Swahili origin, meaning black beauty. Lela loves to be creative and express herself in everything she does. She is confident and full of enthusiasm and loves all things pink and sparkly. Welcome to the wonderful world of Lela, a place where kids can feel good about themselves. Lela products are appropriate for many gift-giving occasions, from birthdays to Christmas’s and more. This back pack is beautifully made with lovely detail making this a bag any little girl would love to take with her everywhere.
Finally, a musical jewellery box with a black ballerina, which is the perfect keepsake gift a little girl will treasure for years! Wind the key and lift the lid to see the beautiful ballerina turning to a melody. Illustrated in a colourful image with Nia Ballerina sitting at a dressing table getting ready makes this music box ideal for little girls to keep their jewellery and special memorable items safe.
A Happy African-American Family including Grandma, Grandpa, Mum, Dad, sister and brother. Perfect idea for any kids’ doll house. The family is also fun to play with on its own. Beautifully crafted dolls made from friendly fabric and quality hardwood. Helps develop role play and dexterity as well as playful storytelling.
African American Custom Selfie doll, personalized doll, custom doll, character doll, rag doll, art doll, made by photo, artist cloth doll
I love this idea but beware it’s not cheap and it takes 6 weeks to arrive. But, these replica dolls can be custom made designed after you or your loved ones! Features, hair style, colour, clothing and all! The base price includes one 30 cm (12 inch) tall doll, with clothing (max. 2 garment) that you can specify in detail.
Black Boy Hoodie Sweatshirt Men’s hooded African American Black Boy Joy Hoody Sweatshirts Multiple Colors
For more ideas for afro dolls and black dolls with natural hair, visit our exclusive list of the best dolls available…
*****This post contains affiliate links. It’s how I pay for this site but each and every one of these items was fully researched to bring you the best and most creative ideas for your mixed kids. Get buying!****
Halloween is next week and while I’m thinking of the usual ideas like zombies, witches and ghosts, for the first time, I’d like my daughters to consider that representation matters.
I’d like them to see themselves represented, not just in the shows they watch, the books they read and the movies they go to but ALSO in the costumes they choose. Why not? They’re still young enough to want to dress up- even when it’s not halloween.
They seem to have a million and one princess dresses but I’ve been trying to be intentional about finding them non-princessy type dressing up outfits. Since then, I’ve added a fire fighter, police officer, pilot and construction worker to our dressing up box.
So this year, for Halloween, I’m not just thinking about gender but about real life (or fictional) characters who are black or non-white and in whom my kids might see themselves reflected. Even if they’re joke characters, it’s important that there are diverse characters that look like them. Few as there might be, I’m determined that they see them.
Try some of these out and tell me about more so I can add them below!
Diverse Halloween Costumes Ideas
Our favourite Disney princess, if you’re daughter is obsessed with dressing up as her favourite Disney character, why not play feature Moana this family movie night and see how keen she is to wear Tafiti’s heart.
Again, a no-brainer for your Disney inspired princesses. Princess Tiana is a great black character and inspiration for frilly, sparkly obsessed little princesses.
Shuri Black Panther
Wow. I love this costume. Not just for the character in the movie, but for how cool it looks too. More superhero inspiration for kids wanting to shun the usual gender-specific costumes but instead come out fighting.
Looking for something different? Go historical. One of the most intriguing women of our history, Cleopatra is a perfect fit. Teach your daughters and sons about her and Anthony, her empire and her eventual fall. Great history lesson along with a very cool costume.
Rhianna from Home
No need to buy anything here. Simply don your child in an orange coat and jeans and see how cute they’ll look impersonating the cutest character from Home.
We all love Maui from the wonderful Moana movie. He’s a great character and has inspired many little boys.
We had to go 80’s! Always a winner for any little boy. He’s funny, tough, has his own style and will make you take a walk down memory lane.
Good ol’ Doc McStuffins will never disappoint. She’s an aspiring doctor, black and a girl. You don’t get better role models than that. Let your daughters dress up and bring along a stuffy to complete the outfit.
And finally….’ it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white’, Michael Jackson appeals to ALL children- even years after his death. He’s still the king of pop so get your kids to dance along to some of his best hits and they’ll be killing it on the dance floor.
Good luck and have fun with it!!
*******This post contains affiliate links***********
Mixed Race Book Review: I Like Myself
Of all the things that will change when my daughter starts school this year, perhaps her self-image is the most profound. From the relative intimacy of a pre-school environment, she’ll suddenly become a small fish in a big pond, surrounded by many similar fishes.
She will probably learn about comparison and self-appraisal at an unprecedented rate. Like all girls, she may encounter objectification of her appearance and uncharitable assessments of other aspects of her worth.
This brings out the lioness in me. I will protect my daughter’s ability to love herself, with roars and claws if necessary.
I Like Myself is my current favourite weapon in this war. In it, a girl uses affirming and celebratory words about herself. She announces that she loves her body, doesn’t care what others say, and knows that what other people see is not the total of who she is.
“I like myself because I’m me, and me is all I want to be!” is our new family mantra. My daughter is lucky if I’ll read her anything else right now: why tell her stories of male trains or a piggy family when I could boost her self-worth by chanting the catchy lyrics of I Like Myself again? And again? And AGAIN! Better still, the central character is a girl of colour.
In a world of children’s books that is still inexplicably dominated by male characters – even animals are routinely masculinised by default (looking at you, Giles Andreae) – and white ones at that, this is a breath of fresh air. It’s a catchy, funny, brilliantly illustrated read that is fabulous for all kids, but for mixed or Black girls I imagine that our heroine would make an especially good role model.
As parents, if we want to counteract the culture that cause our girls to dislike how they look, or even who they are, we have work to do. Words help ideas take root in a child’s mind: they have the power to instil a sense of worth in our kids as they encounter an objectifying world.
This book is a fun, beautiful and powerful tool in our toolboxes, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. AGAIN!
*** This was a guest post written by Zoe Sanderson that has been republished***
For more mixed race book reviews from Mixed.Up.Mama, visit:
“You don’t look Iranian, you look white. I’m just surprised.”
How many times have I heard those words said to me when I’m asked where my name comes from.
I was born in Iran. My father is Iranian and my mother is white English. My family emigrated to Canada from Iran via England when I was 4 years old.
So I was young enough when I got to Canada to assimilate into Canadian culture, adopting the accent, the mannerisms and the language to present myself as white to my peers.
But something about describing myself as ‘white Canadian’ has never and will never sit right with me. Because my experience was never like my peers. Because my experience has always been mixed.
I remember being told once by my best friend, ‘your house always smells like exotic food’. Childhood memories are filled with big family gatherings, relatives all speaking Farsi, special occasions like the Persian New Year filled with feasting and big Iranian community parties. We were a classic immigrant family in all senses of the word. My English Mum had learned- from her 10 years spent in Iran early on- how to cook Iranian food and most nights, our table overflowed with rice and Persian stews smelling of pomegranate and sour cherries.
Don’t get me wrong. I hated being different, constantly searching for ways that I could easily pass into white culture if I needed to. Wanting desperately for my father not to speak with his thick accent in front of my teachers or shout too loud at my soccer games.
That’s the thing with being mixed though. Our experience can sometimes betray our appearance and how we’d like to present to the world. Then, throw in the fact that how we understand ourselves can often be in direct conflict with how others understand us.
Identity is about understanding your place in the world. ‘Feeling’ one identity, more than another because of how you were raised or where you grew up can sometimes not resonate with what you look like so it leads to internal struggles with identity.
When I’m confronted with the question, “what are you?”, I honestly don’t know how to answer. To lay claim to an identity that is symbolised by its language (most of which I know very little) and appearance, I often feel like a fraud identifying myself as Iranian. I feel like I need permission to sit at the ‘mixed’ table and I’m conflicted that I don’t have the colour to back up my feeling that I am mixed.
And yet, to say I am ‘white’ feels disloyal and untrue to the parts of me that have been exposed to immigration, racism, Iranian culture and food.
Sometimes it is not about choosing one identity over another. My preference is to straddle multiple spheres, knowing I don’t exactly fit in when I’m amongst the Iranian community doesn’t make it any easier when I’m around white English folk.
I feel like society wants me to pick one. To box me politely into what they think I shouldbe based on my appearance and how I behave. Why can’t I be multiple things at the same time? I wonder.
My friends have always been foreign. I’ve somehow gravitated towards others who have a similar experience- whether they’re African, European or Mixed, I’ve always found things in common with those who have experienced ‘other’.
My husband and children have made my identity journey even more complex whereby my husband is Nigerian, and my 3 daughters are being raised half Nigerian, Iranian and English.
But their appearance suggests they are black or Biracial and whether there’s space in there for them to identify as anything but that, will be an essential part of their story. The thing that makes them ‘stand out’, their colour, is what will be notable to others. So even if they wanted to identify as white, they probably couldn’t.
As they grow, like other multiracial black and white mixed people, the fraught history between black and white will make for mental and emotional struggles. And it can become intensely personal. Allying yourself with your ‘black side’ can be partly a way of gaining solidarity with a community. It certainly was for me in high school and eventually University where I embraced my Iranian-ness but was only allowed a half- membership. I wanted desperately to find my belonging.
Our appearance as mixed people can tell a story entirely different to the one we’ve experienced. I remember wishing and wanting darker skin so that my ‘claim’ to being Iranian didn’t feel so disingenuous. My siblings, both with darker skin colour and perhaps more Iranian features have a different story to tell.
Of course there’s privilege to blending in and invisibility. Ambiguity allows you to flirt with many identities and cultures and to use those identities interchangeably.
The debates about mixed people being caught in the in-between and ‘confused’ have thankfully moved on. But is the response just that it’s multi-faceted? Will it ever be possible to be black/mixed and white at the same time?
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DIVERSE CHILDREN’S BOOKS WITH MULTIRACIAL CHARACTERS
You’ve probably realised the importance of reading books to your children and perhaps you don’t need to be convinced of the idea that representation matters if you want to raise a positive, confident mixed race or multiracial child.
But the fact is having a shelf full of diverse children’s books is important for ALL children. It doesn’t matter whether it’s to instil in them a view of the world that goes beyond their immediate environment or to feature inclusivity, tolerance and respect through the books that they read.
ALL of the above reasons are important. And athough diversity is still not truly representative in our art, media, tv shows that we watch and see all day, we can make it a priority through our choice of diverse children’s books.
With the wave of technology and more and more authors choosing to self publish, we are lucky to live in an era where diverse children’s books are appearing more often in our book shops.
This guide features not only the best books but the BEST diverse children’s books LISTS broken down by theme for your child’s bookshelf. Have a look and choose a few today!
For more from Mixed.Up.Mama…
It’s been a long summer and although we spent quite a lot of time outdoors, our evenings were quiet, stay-up-late-and-sleep-in-the-next-day kinds of summer nights. Mostly spent cuddled up in front of the tele watching movies.
We got through some of our favourite childhood 80’s flicks but more importantly, we watched some amazing kids’ classic black movies.
Representation matters… but why?
Our children notice colour from as early as age 2 and if you don’t think they do, go ahead and ask your child who is most likely the princess in the fairy tale. Then hold up a brown skin doll and and a white, blonde hair doll. *This experiment was done as part of a 1970’s university research project. It has been replicated many times since then and can be replicated even today amongst my own daughters.
Unconscious bias seeps in so early we almost don’t notice. And because of that we know, as parents of mixed race kids, that seeing characters and role models that look like themselves is essential. It gives them a reflection of who they are and who they can be.
So without further ado, we have compiled a list of our favourite kids’ classic black movies featuring black or mixed race characters (for kids around 3-10 years). These are in no particular order as you’ll see many of these described as our favourites! Be sure to tell us any others that we’ve missed!
THE ALL TIME BEST KIDS’ CLASSIC BLACK MOVIES
No, not the 1970’s flick. The newest remake starring Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx, amongst others. It’s still the Annie story but a more modern version for a kid in foster care who meets hard-nosed billionaire and mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx). Stacks believes that he’s Annie’s guardian angel, but the plucky youngster’s confidence and sunny outlook may mean that Annie will save Will instead. One of our favourites!
A sweet movie featuring a friendship between the last girl left on earth and her alien friend. Another favourite of ours, we love the curls in this cute flick. After a hive-minded alien race called the Boov conquers the Earth, they relocate the planet’s human population — all except for a little girl named Tip (Rihanna), who’s managed to hide from the aliens. When Tip meets a fugitive Boov called Oh (Jim Parsons), there’s mutual distrust. However, Oh is not like his comrades; he craves friendship and fun. As their distrust fades, the pair set out together to find Tip’s mother, but, unbeknown to them, the Gorg — enemies of the Boov — are en route.
A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
One of our ALL TIME favourites! Not only because it features a mixed race family, a female black curly girl heroine and some famous names like Oprah Winfrey, but also because she’s a science geek who’s able to blend magic and theory. It’s got all your kids will want in a movie.
Cinderella (1997) Featuring Brandy
Another remake of the classic fairytale, this version is more modernised and representative of the real world. And it’s packed with stars we all recognise and love. Cinderella (Brandy) chafes under the cruelty of her wicked stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and her evil stepsisters, Calliope (Veanne Cox) and Minerva (Natalie Desselle), until her Fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston) steps in to change her life for one unforgettable night.
Karate Kid (2010)
Yet another remake but again one of our classic 80’s favourites so who could complain when it’s a story of a black kid who learns martial arts to fight off the school bully? When his mother’s career results in a move to China, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) finds that he is a stranger in a strange land. Though he knows a little karate, his fighting skills are no match for Cheng, the school bully. Dre finds a friend in Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a maintenance man who is also a martial-arts master. Mr. Han teaches Dre all about kung fu in the hope that Dre will be able to face down Cheng and perhaps win the heart of a pretty classmate named Mei Ying.
Black Panther (2018)
I’m not into superhero movies that much but I could recognise the importance of this movie. Loaded with powerful characters and a plot line to boot, it’s the movie ever child has been waiting for featuring black superheroes. After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people. Definitely not one to miss.
Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
This is a really sweet movie, (or so I’m told). We’ve not actually seen it yet but it’s on our list of favourites given the reviews. It’s about Akeelah, an 11-year-old girl living in South Los Angeles, who discovers she has a talent for spelling, which she hopes will take her to the National Spelling Bee. Despite her mother’s objections, Akeelah doesn’t give up on her goal. She finds help in the form of a mysterious teacher, and along with overwhelming support from her community, Akeelah might just have what it takes to make her dream come true.
Can I say that we have several favourites? This is definitely high on that list!! Everyone in my family (from hubby to 3 year old) love this movie. It’s got a wonderful story about a daring teenage girl who wants desperately to be independent and prove herself to her father. A funny demigod, Maui whom she meets along the way in her quest to save her people and an action-packed voyage. A beautiful story to boot that is about identity, nature, spiritualism and culture.
The Wiz (1978)
Featuring an all-black cast and with the soundtrack borrowed from the 1975 musical, this classic movie couldn’t be more groundbreaking that it is. Featuring Diana Ross as little Dorothy from Harlem and one of the last appearances of Michael Jackson in his ‘natural youthdom’, this movie was bound to steal hearts. Sit back and enjoy an absolute classic.
Are We There Yet? (2005)
This was a a laugh out loud funny story about Nick, a guy (Ice Cube) attempting to win the favor of the newly divorced Suzanne (Nia Long). Nick offers to accompany her children on a flight from Portland, Ore., to Canada to see their mother. With a load of mishaps and obstacles in their way and one accident after another, this is a cute movie with a happy ending.
Dr DooLittle 3 (2006)
The third and sequel to the famous Dr Dolittle played by Eddie Murphy, this is an interesting change to cast Maya Dolittle, the youngest daughter of the man who can talk with animals. She has inherited her father’s amazing gift. However, the ability has brought only trouble. She heads to a summer camp to get in touch with her gift, then realizes that she holds the key to helping the financially strapped camp win an upcoming rodeo. Tell me what you think because the jury’s up on this one though we do love the preteen drama in the script.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Of course we couldn’t leave out Disney’s one and princess movie featuring a black princess. A good attempt at keeping it diverse and the story line was good but there were bits that were a bit stereotypical. But it was a cute movie which my daughters enjoyed and which yours will love I’m sure.
A Ballerina’s Tale (2015)
A documentary of Misty Copeland- the first black ballerina at New York’s American Ballet Theatre. Not only is Copeland a significant role model for any young girl who dreams of a career as a dancer, she’s also emerged as a important example for the black community, showcasing the ways the rarified world of classical ballet is evolving and becoming more diverse. Featuring lots of amazing dancing, the film is excellent for any young girls who are fans of ballet.