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It’s science: Children aren’t colorblind

Kids know the difference between colors applied to objects and the social meaning of colors when applied to race.

kids see race

We've seen in some shape or form the confusion kids experience when their innocence and logic do not align with what they are seeing. And we continually hear the well-intentioned, "but we don't see skin colors, we see the person."

But science says otherwise. Research has shown that children are *not* colorblind.


In fact, kids wanted to know why they are labeled "yellow" when they see their skin color as "tan," or why they were labeled "white" when their skin color is not the same as other objects that are white. They even asked why biracial kids with Black and white parents are not "gray."

Kids have to learn to distinguish the meaning of the colors applied to objects and the social meaning of colors when applied to race.

Children begin to figure out racial identity around the age they start to learn colors. This is also when kids begin to notice other physical and socially significant attributes, like age and gender. Landmark research by Dr. Mary Ellen Goodman found that by 2.5 years to 5 years of age, children expressed explicit social preferences for people of their own race.

Another study of 100 children—3 to 5-year-olds—had extensive observations that led Dr. Goodman to discover that not only was racial awareness present but that 25% of the children in her sample were expressing strongly entrenched race-related values by the age of four.

"The high degree of race awareness we have seen in many of these children is startling, and not only because it does not fit our adult expectations," Dr. Goodman stated. Additionally, she found that, "4-year-olds, particularly white ones, showed unmistakable signs of the onset of racial bigotry," and that "[Black] children not yet five can sense that they are marked, and grow uneasy."

Kids notice race and how it factors into society at a young age so it's important to remember that home is their first classroom.

Before they even enter school, children are shaped by the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values of those who surround them. Dr. Ann Beuf, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, points out, "Parental training which contradicts ['color- blind' ideologies] can play a vital role in establishing positive racial attitudes in children."

While it may be well-meaning to say, to be a colorblind society is to believe that racial or ethnic group membership is irrelevant to the way individuals are treated.

A colorblind ideology in schools has been found to inhibit teachers and students from having meaningful cross-race interaction. This does not promote a greater understanding of the role color and race in local communities and society at large.

Here's what you can do at home to guide your kids development around race:

  • Talk about your own racial/cultural identity with pride
  • Talk about other racial groups with appreciation
  • Address stereotypes so your kids will not misread your silence as your endorsement
  • Add and talk about new concepts, themes and perspectives in what you do every day
  • Help your kids imagine, examine and understand concepts and issues from another cultural perspective
  • Fill their bookshelves with diverse children's books, celebrating all races

Both parents and teachers have the opportunity and obligation to ensure that they provide the opportunity for kids to grow emotionally and intellectually so that they can meet adulthood with a broader understanding of the racial structure of inequality and how others can be treated.

Bottom line: Children *do* see color. In the assumption that they don't lies the paradox: By perpetuating this in the home and classroom, the nature of its omission does not allow parents to address it in a proactive and productive manner to teach children equality.

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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