Dear Parents: Let’s Change the Way We Talk About Colour

Dear Parents,

I love doing art projects with kids. There are so many great learning skills that come with creating art, not to mention the bonus aspects of art being a creative and emotional outlet. But, I’ve started to notice while doing these art tasks, that kids talk about colour in a couple of ways that don’t sit well with me. It bothers me because if these kids continue to grow up believing in these ideas, then it allows for the possibility for themselves or others to feel ‘less than’ or not included. Let’s look at what I mean:

*Boy colours vs. girl colours. THERE ARE NO SUCH THINGS. I cannot type this fact loud enough. So many times I’ve heard boys turn down a pink piece of paper because “it’s a girl colour” or girls refuse to use the blue scooter during gym class because “it’s a boy scooter”. Colour has no definition. Colour does not belong to a gender. By children dragging on this silly old misconception, I worry that one day a child will not allow themselves to be who they are or do what they want because they fear judgment from their peers or parents.

How can you help? Do not classify colours by gender. Buy your children items in a variety of colours. Let your child pick his/her own coloured item and don’t offer your opinion. Do not always buy your daughter the pink girl version and son the blue boy version of things (I’m looking at you Kinder Eggs! Why did you need a pink girl egg? We were all okay with the orange one.). Redirect your child every time to a more inclusive way of thinking when they refer to boy colours or girl colours. For example, “Pink isn’t a girl colour. Colours are for everyone!”

*Skin colour.  The first time that a child asked me to pass them the “skin coloured one”, referring to a peach crayon, I was so proud of myself for catching the classification and correcting it because it was something so slight, yet I knew it could be meaningful. I put the crayon up to my arm and said to the girl “This isn’t a skin coloured crayon. I have skin and it’s not the same colour. There’s lots of different skin colours. I call this crayon ‘peach'”.The second time it happened, I was floored. I have to address this issue again? I couldn’t believe that in a diverse environment of young people that this was a ‘thing’. Since then, it’s happened over and over again. Why is this an issue? It’s a problematic belief to have because it implies that THE skin colour, the one and only and best, is peach and every other skin colour is not as good to hold the title. It’s an issue because I worry that all of the other children at the table who colour people in their pictures with a different crayon will question why they don’t use a “skin coloured” crayon for skin.

How can you help? Always give a child more inclusive and appropriate language when you hear them say otherwise. Have images and toys in your home that represent the amazing spectrum of people that your child will encounter in this world. Be a fantastic role model–act like you want your children to act and speak like you would want to hear them speak!

In my ideal world, kids will be comfortable being themselves and never feel bad about their likes and interests due to the opinions of others. To get to this place, we need to help the next generation develop inclusive and kind attitudes. What easier place to start than with how they look at, understand, and talk about colours!


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