What is Black, uplift black voices

Tools for Talking to Kids about Race & Racism

By Team Ahimsa



Time to Read: 6 min

Talking to Kids About Race

By Dr. Jacqueline Douge

A year ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement, The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health, that I co-authored. The statement provided evidence about how racism impacts the developmental, physical and mental health of all children and provided recommendations for pediatric providers to help our families mitigate the impact of racism on the health of children. As both a mom and pediatrician, it’s personal to me to help other parents with talking to kids about race and racism. I want all children to be healthy and thriving!

About Ahimsa

Founded by a pediatrician and mom of three

Stainless steel is the only kid-friendly material recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics 

We are guided by a Scientific Advisory Council comprised of environmental and medical experts, guiding us in creating the safest products, following the latest science and promoting policy to protect human health and our planet

Want to know more? Check out our story and our products

After the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmad Ahmery and many others and the protests for racial and social justice this past summer, parents were confronted with how to talk to young children about race and racism. Many parents also struggled with the question, “How young is too young to talk to my child about these topics?” 

Children begin to develop an understanding of race very early. By the age of 6 months, children notice racial differences and by 2-4 years of age begin to internalize racial bias. Our children are watching, listening and learning to everything around them and from their parents. As your child’s first teacher, you play an important role in helping to teach your children about empathy, kindness, compassion and fairness towards others, to build positive racial and ethnic identities, celebrate similarities and differences and to help children to create a more just world.

One tool that I recommend to help parents begin and sustain conversations and about race is books. As a pediatrician, I strongly encourage parents to read with children not only to promote early childhood literacy and writing skills but to open our children’s imagination about what’s possible and to learn something new about themselves and others.

Build a diverse and inclusive bookshelf for your children.

Below are some tips to help you choose diverse and inclusive children’s books.

  • Choose books that include characters of color
  • Choose books with a main character of color
  • Choose books written or illustrated by a person of color, of different nationalities, of different ethnicities
  • Choose age-appropriate books
  • Choose books with multidimensional characters
  • Select books that are relevant to their experiences
  • Choose books -“mirror” books and “window” books-that allow children to see themselves reflected and book in which they learn about others

Below are resources to help you as you build a diverse and inclusive library for your children.

Conversation starters about race

The following questions can help parents begin the conversation with kids

  • What did you like most about the book?
  • What do you have in common with the character(s)?
  • Who was your favorite character and why?

Our children are learning about race and ethnicity very early. Books are an important tool for helping children learn about race, developing empathy and kindness towards others and appreciating differences and similarities. As you read with your child, ask them questions, listen to their response, and be open to the questions they have.

It’s okay if you don’t know all the answers. The conversations are opportunities to model for our children that we’re open to have these conversations and to learning. It’s important that we start the conversations even though it may be hard and awkward. Books can help begin an important and ongoing conversation.

Pediatrician, writer, speaker, founder of What is Black, LLC.

Dr. Jacqueline Douge is a pediatrician, public health practitioner, writer and speaker. She’s the former Deputy Health Officer for the Frederick County Health Department and Medical Director for the Howard County Health Department. She is the co-author of the American Pediatrics Policy, The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health. She serves as the Chair of the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MDAAP) Committee on Achieving Anti-racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

She is a renowned leader in the area of racism and children’s health. She’s the founder of What is Black, a digital media company that creates and produces diverse and inclusive family and children's programming to entertain, uplift and affirm Black families, children and youth.   

In addition, she’s the author of the new middle grade novel, Learning to Love All of Me, which addresses racial identity, self-love and family. 

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

About Ahimsa Founder Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi is a board-certified pediatrician whose dedication to children’s health drove her to launch Ahimsa, the world's first colorful stainless steel dishes for kids. She was motivated by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings on harmful chemicals in plastic affecting children's well-being. Ahimsa has gained widespread recognition and been featured in media outlets such as Parents Magazine, the Today Show, The Oprah Magazine, and more.

Dr. Mantravadi received the esteemed “Physician Mentor of the Year” award at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2019. She was also named a Forbes Next 1000 Entrepreneur in 2021, with her inspiring story showcased on Good Morning America. She serves on the Council for Environmental Health and Climate Change and the Council for School Health at The American Academy of Pediatrics. She represents Ahimsa as a U.S. industry stakeholder on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the Global Plastics Treaty, led by the United Nations Environment Program. Dr. Mantravadi leads Ahimsa's social impact program, The Conscious Cafeteria Project, to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard student health as part of a national pilot of the Clinton Global Initiative.

She is dedicated to educating and empowering people to make healthier, more environmentally friendly choices at mealtime. Her mission remains to advocate for the health of all children and the one planet we will leave behind for them through real policy change within our food system.

Mealtime Essentials from Ahimsa

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use stainless steel instead of plastic? Is stainless steel better for health?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report in July 2018 suggesting ways that families can limit exposure to certain chemicals at mealtime, including “the use of alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.” The report explained that “…some additives are put directly in foods, while “indirect” additives may include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard”. Further, “Children are more sensitive to chemical exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to body weight, than adults do, and are still growing and developing.” While stainless steel items meet the recommendation to avoid plastic products in children, Ahimsa® products have the obvious advantage of not breaking like glass.

Is stainless steel better for the environment than plastic?

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel can be recycled over and over and over again without losing its integrity and requires less energy to recycle than to make anew. Most plastic unfortunately ends up in landfills and it is estimated to take 700 years to decompose. Our special coloring process that allows Ahimsa® products to be fully metal is environmentally friendly, so it does not produce toxic run-off into the ecosystem.

Will Ahimsa products break or peel?

No. Our steel is durable, so it won’t break or shatter with everyday use, like glass. And it won’t peel, like other colored stainless steel products you’ve seen. We use a special process that allows the colors to naturally occur in the metal.

Which Ahimsa products are best for my little one(s)?

Our products are meant to last, you can use Ahimsa at ages 1, 8 and 18! We thoughtfully design our products to be safe for little ones and our planet while reducing consumption. Once your child outgrows the Starting Solids Set  and can use regular cups and utensils, the training cup is the perfect size rinse cup in the bathroom, the infant spoon doubles as a tea stirrer and the bowl is great for snacks or as an additional compartment to our modular divided plate. Our plates are great for any age as they encourage choosing a variety of healthy foods at each meal and help visualize portion sizes easily. It’s the lasting beauty of stainless steel - grows with your child and reduces waste.

Leave a comment