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Blog

Filtering by Category: Immigration

Building Empathy for Immigrants through the "Where in the World?" Game

Debra Jacobs

While we watch in horror as asylum seekers face tear gas and family separation at the border, our children sometimes display the in-group/out-group behavior and fear of strangers that leads to xenophobia. Preschoolers delight us with their ability to quickly strike up new friendships at the playground, but they can also exclude or feel apprehensive about those from outside of their culture.

Scientists believe that evolution has encoded this fear of the stranger into our genes, yet our “small group thinking” clashes with the global realities of today’s world. We need to train ourselves (and our children) to see all people as members of the human family, in order to welcome rather than revile the newcomers in our communities.

One way to begin this process toward empathy and familiarity with people from other countries is to play the Where in the World? game.

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Welcome, New Neighbor: Helping Children Empathize with Immigrants

Debra Jacobs

Children put people into categories. They do this naturally - even six month old infants can nonverbally categorize people by race and gender. This biological tendency to group people leads to bias. Time and again, research has shown that even without the influence of parents, three to five year olds favor representatives of white, middle-class culture.*


In-group/out-group categorization and bias impact views on immigration as well as race. Children see people who look different and speak, dress, and behave in unfamiliar ways as “other.”


Just as we must speak with children often and specifically about race and even racial bias (see Make Race Explicit), we need to do the same about newcomers to our country and people of different cultures and nationalities.

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