Cultural diversity in childcare provides a range of opportunities for children and families to celebrate differences. It’s one aspect of diversity, which also embraces differences in gender, disabilities, age, social, and economic backgrounds.
Cultural diversity promotes different cultures, racial and ethnic groups within our community.
Educators show their respect for diversity by celebrating those differences. By encouraging families to participate in cultural activities and programs, it strengthens children’s self-identity and promotes an inclusive practice in childcare.
And there are many ways Educators inspire cultural diversity. It starts by recognising our own culture, the diverse cultures of our families and Australia’s indigenous culture.
In this article, Nicole Clements, Centre Director at Petit Early Learning Journey Richmond, shares with us her centre’s experience with celebrating cultural diversity in childcare. We also take a closer look at:
- Respect for diversity in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).
- What creating an inclusive practice in childcare means.
- How Educators can acknowledge and support children’s family and culture.
- Examples of respect for diversity in childcare from our Richmond centre.
Respect for diversity in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)
Respect for diversity is the fourth principle in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). Each of the principles support a practice that is focused on helping all children to grow in relation to their learning outcomes.
The EYLF tells us that respecting diversity within the curriculum means ‘valuing and reflecting the practices, values and beliefs of families’. It also outlines the role that Educators have in promoting diversity in child care by:
- Honouring the histories, cultures, languages, traditions, child rearing practices and lifestyle choices of families.
- Recognising that diversity contributes to the richness of our society and provides a valid evidence base about ways of knowing.
- Respecting the diversity of families and communities, and the aspirations they hold for children, to foster children’s motivation to learn and reinforce their sense of themselves as competent learners.
- Providing opportunities to learn about similarities and differences, and about interdependence and how we can learn to live together.
Children notice differences in appearance and behaviours from a young age. Their experiences in early education and care, with families and in the community creates opportunities to develop their self-identity.
It’s also a good opportunity to encourage respectful and responsive relationships with others.
What does inclusion in a childcare setting mean?
Inclusion is the practice of including all children in early learning regardless of their differences.
A culturally inclusive practice lays the foundation for participation by every child. An inclusive curriculum considers children’s differences when making decisions about their participation.
- recognises diversity in individuals, families and communities.
- involves fair and equitable decisions to ensure all children can participate and succeed.
- values every child’s experience.
We live in diverse communities and the first step in practicing inclusion as an Educator is to accept, acknowledge and reflect on your experiences and attitudes towards diversity.
‘At Petit Early Learning Journey Richmond, we have a diverse culture,’ says Nicole. ‘Our families and children come from many different cultures, as do our Educators. When I first came to work at Richmond, I wasn’t used to the diversity.
During those first few weeks, I learnt a great deal about myself. I passed one of my colleagues in the break room. They were eating their lunch with their hands and this surprised me but they explained how it was part of their culture.
It was important to reflect on the way I reacted. It changed the way I looked at my perception of different cultures.’
This change of attitude is an important first step for Educators. It underpins a positive approach to inclusion and diversity. Effective Educators celebrate diversity while recognising bias and accepting differences.
‘We talk a lot about why people have differences like the colour of their skin. As Educators we learn from each other and from the children. A lot of our children are bilingual and recently, we learnt how to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep in Greek.
Inclusion is important in early childhood education and care. As Educators, we want to ensure that ourselves and the children do not discriminate against culture or other differences. It’s critical our children learn different habits and be open to other cultures.’
How Educators can acknowledge and support children’s family and culture
Respect for differences makes it easier for Educators to find common ground and build relationships with families and children. From our relationships we can grow strong partnerships with our families and learn more about their backgrounds, values and beliefs.
Positive family partnerships improves communication and interactions. It also builds a stronger and more inclusive environment where children feel safe and secure
Building strong partnerships with families also has other benefits. By communicating openly, Educators encourage family-centred care where information and decision-making is shared and where Educators recognise and respect cultural diversity.
But it’s important to keep in mind that every family has different ways of knowing and doing things. In Australia there are many different variations of culture and its important to respect the diversity of families and communities.
‘At Richmond, our diverse group of Educators speak multiple languages,’ says Nicole. ‘Bilingual Educators speak with the children in their native language but it also helps to build rapport more easily with families.’
Among the different languages are Vietnamese, Filipino, Sudanese Inca, Cantonese and Serbian. But we also have children with English, Irish, Australian and Canadian backgrounds.’
When language is a barrier to developing family partnerships, we use interpreters or translated material to communicate with families. Both resources and the environment can promote respect for diversity, so it’s important to be mindful of the messages we send and how we send them.
Another aspect often overlooked is body language. Many cultures have different ways of communicating and showing respect. By broadening our knowledge about a culture, we learn the different ways they communicate.
Educators need to be open to learning about other cultural practices. It helps to develop skills for communication, etiquette and interactions across cultures. Building strong connections to community support for different cultures assists families and shows respect for diversity.
More examples from Petit ELJ Richmond of respect for diversity in childcare and the celebration of all cultures
‘At the start of each term, our Educators select and promote a culture to include in their educational curriculums,’ says Nicole. ‘Each room gets a reference review book from which they choose a topic to explore with the children for the entire term.
For example, at the start of the year, some Educators choose the Chinese New Year. It was then embedded as the cultural focus for the whole term.
On a day-to-day basis, Educators sing nursery rhymes in different languages shared by some of the children. They may include a dance or hand movements to go with the song. The practice occurs in all of our rooms and the children learn it together for fun.
This term our Blossom Hill children are learning about the Aboriginal culture.’
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures have a unique place in Australia. These indigenous cultures are some of the oldest in the world and the EYLF clearly outlines that Educators are expected to promote ‘greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing and being.’ (EYLF)
Every day the children in Blossom Hill pay their respects by acknowledging the Wurundjeri Tribe:
“I would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation who are the traditional custodians of the land on which Melbourne centre stands.
I would also like to pay respect to the Wurundjeri Elders, past and present, and extend this respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait people from other communities who are here today.”
‘The children have an action to go with the wording too,’ says Nicole. ‘It helps them to remember the words. There are other cultural activities like exploring Aboriginal art and listening to Aboriginal stories. We’re also organising a tribal member to come talk to the children.
The main foyer at Richmond, displays three flags: the Aboriginal flag, the Torres Strait Islander flag and the Australian flag. Beside each flag is an explanation of what they represent and they constantly spark conversation with the children.
Another initiative by our Educators in the Kinder room is a large world map which hangs on the wall. Each child is encouraged to draw a picture of themselves which is then placed on the map. This cultural activity encourages children to talk about where they are from and to learn more about the many different cultures and people who make up our world.’
By learning about different cultures, not just our own but also others, Educators create an inclusive environment that celebrates cultural diversity in childcare.
Petit Early Learning Journey
Do you have a genuine passion for caring for children from diverse cultures? We’re seeking Educators who are ready to have open and honest discussions with children about their feelings and thoughts on differences and cultural diversity while creating an inclusive environment for every child.
At Petit ELJ, we embrace an open, inclusive and diverse early educational childhood environment that celebrates all cultures. If you’re willing to reflect on and recognise your own bias and willing to share your culture with others, we want to hear from you.
Are you ready to inspire a zest for life-long learning?