Cultural activities in childcare are essential for teaching young children about the benefits of diversity and inclusion. They’re also a fantastic way to help children connect with their peers and community while developing confidence, empathy, and respect.
Keep reading to find out why cultural activities in childcare are crucial for each child’s early learning and development.
What are cultural activities in childcare?
Cultural activities in childcare are essential for positive early development. Among other benefits, these activities help kids learn more about different cultures and how to communicate with people from various backgrounds.
Some examples of cultural activities your child could benefit from include singing songs in different languages, cooking traditional cultural meals, or visiting a local museum.
Cultural activities are a crucial part of the Australian Government’s Early Years Learning Framework, which emphasises the core values of belonging, being, and becoming. Helping a child recognise their own culture and the varied cultures of those around them is vital to their sense of being and belonging.
When you’re browsing childcare options for your child, seeking out services that offer a range of cultural activities is a smart choice. You’ll also want to make sure your child’s educators understand the value of collaborating with families and embracing cultural differences.
How cultural activities in childcare benefit children, educators, and families
Cultural activities in a childcare setting have innumerable benefits for children, educators, and families.
As we touched on above, children who experience diverse cultural activities in childcare develop a stronger sense of belonging. In turn, this boosts their self-confidence.
When children feel like they belong and are accepted by their peers and community, confidence soars. Like all of us, a child with a strong foundation of support will believe in their ability to take on new challenges and succeed.
The Early Years Learning Framework’s key principles back up this theory. According to the framework, through building a wide network of secure relationships, children feel respected, valued, and confident.
The ability to communicate with people from various cultural backgrounds is critical for forming positive relationships in school, work, and life. By learning how to communicate with people from other cultures at an early age, children will feel more comfortable and confident in their future interactions.
In a multicultural environment, children become more open-minded and tolerant of different perspectives and points of view. These traits are essential for academic and educational success along with general relationship-building in later life.
Etiquette and respect
Cultural activities are also a fantastic way to help children understand the importance of respecting others. Educators can also teach children about different etiquette standards, which can help them interact respectfully when travelling or socialising with people from other cultural backgrounds.
Learning about different languages, traditional clothing, and cultural customs is key in this regard.
In an inclusive environment, children feel safe, understood, and accepted—three values that build a strong foundation for growth and success.
Some benefits of creating an inclusive childcare environment include:
- Promotes creativity,
- Encourages kids to build friendships with other children,
- Builds awareness of every child’s cultural background,
- Encourages open-mindedness,
- Helps children understand different cultures and perspectives,
- Builds confidence and a strong sense of identity.
Inclusivity’s benefits extend beyond the individual child. An inclusive environment also connects families, creates opportunities for lifelong friendships, and strengthens community bonds.
Some strategies for creating an inclusive environment in childcare include respecting family input, making decisions collaboratively, and developing adaptive inclusion plans.
Cultural competence describes a person’s ability to participate effectively and ethically in intercultural settings. It is a critical skill for success in schooling, work, and daily life.
Cultural competence requires an individual to reflect upon their cultural values and worldview while understanding the importance of making reflective, reasoned, and respectful choices. A person with strong cultural competence values diversity for the creativity, richness, and variety it brings to our multicultural society.
Childcare cultural diversity is all about celebrating a diverse group of differences, spanning cultural, social, cognitive, age, and gender.
Diversity and inclusivity go hand-in-hand. In a diverse environment, children feel included and recognised for their contributions to their community and broader society. In turn, these experiences reinforce children’s confidence and sense of self.
To achieve diversity in a childcare setting, educators must:
- Honour the different histories, traditions, child-rearing practices, cultural customs, and languages of families
- Recognising how diversity contributes to our society
- Providing children with opportunities to learn about differences and similarities
- Promoting tolerance and understanding.
Examples of cultural activities and their perks
Now that we’ve discussed why cultural activities are critical in childcare settings, you’re probably wondering what these activities are. Here are some cultural diversity activities in childcare to look for when choosing a service for your little one.
Cultural celebrations offer children the opportunity to discover various aspects of other cultures, including holidays, customs, traditional clothing, languages, cuisines, and more.
For example, many childcare services celebrate NAIDOC week through hands-on activities and games. Celebrations often begin with an Acknowledgement of Country and might include singing songs, reading picture books, or meeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members.
Music and dance
Music and dance are integral parts of modern and historic cultures around the world. There’s a reason why we call them universal languages!
According to The Gordon Institute for Musical Learning, a child’s experiences with music from age zero to five has a profound impact on their appreciation and understanding of music in later life. The Institute recommends exposing children to a rich array of music during these years.
Music and dance have additional benefits for young children, including helping with language acquisition and motor skills. The perks are truly endless!
Some examples of cultural music and dance activities your child might enjoy include:
- Playing familiar songs (like counting songs or the ABCs) in different languages,
- Celebrating each child’s own traditions by sharing musical instruments from different countries,
- Watching live music and dance performances.
Many centres welcome contributions from parents in this regard, so be sure to let your child’s educators know about any cultural songs or dance routines your family shares.
Culture has a remarkable influence on feeding practices. From the types of food served to the utensils used, mealtime plays a critical role in a child’s understanding of culture.
When choosing a childcare service, look for culturally diverse menus—or see if you can chat with your child’s educators about their meal preferences. Many centres welcome recipe suggestions from families that can help incorporate your child’s culture—and the cultures of their peers—into daily mealtime routines.
Since young children learn so well through hands-on play and experimentation, cooking is another great way to build cultural awareness. While cooking, children experience a range of unfamiliar textures, scents, and flavours, building a diverse palette and healthy relationship with food.
Some examples of simple, child-friendly recipes from around the world include:
- Crepes or pancakes
- Stir-fried noodles
- Rice pudding
- Spiced chicken
- Sushi rolls
In many parts of the world, children learn more than one language before they start school—and this early exposure to diverse languages gives them a significant head-start in vocabulary, literacy, and communication.
That’s why it’s essential to introduce children to multicultural languages from an early age. But remember—learning should be fun and easy! Here are some ways your child might experience different languages in childcare:
- Songs: Sing songs from different cultures to introduce children to the rhythm, melody, and sound of other languages.
- Toys: Play with toys or puzzles from different countries to inspire new vocabulary words through repetition.
- Movies: Watch movies in different languages to introduce new vocabulary words, accents, and grammatical structures.
Excursions offer another fun, interactive, and effective way for children to learn more about other cultures. They’ll have the opportunity to meet leaders from other cultures and see how their communities function first-hand.
For example, your child’s class could visit:
- A local landmark with cultural significance,
- Museums or art galleries,
- Historical societies or trusts,
- Cultural embassies,
- Local cultural community events.
Stories and games
Teaching inclusion and diversity through play is one of the strongest methods for building cultural awareness in young children. Like music and dance, stories and games are universally enjoyed in cultures around the world and can bring communities together.
Your child could listen to and act out stories with peers, role-play, or try our traditional sports and games from other cultures. These are all fantastic ways to help children recognise the fun and vibrancy cultural diversity in childcare brings.
Signs of a culturally-inclusive childcare
When you’re searching for culturally-inclusive childcare, here are some signs you can look out for.
A culturally inclusive and competent childcare centre is likely to list its focus on diversity and inclusion in its core value statement.
Inclusive values are all about treating others with dignity and respect. They’re also critical for creating a safe, welcoming environment for all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or disabilities.
A centre’s inclusive values shouldn’t just be listed on its website, but should also be reflected in its curriculum, programs, and policies. Look out for services with strategic inclusion plans, accessible information, strong community connections, and openness to family input and shared decision-making.
A legitimately inclusive centre will likely have access to a diverse range of resources to guide its programs. When asked, most services should be happy to share these resources with you and discuss how they implement the ideas into their curriculum and policies.
Some resources an inclusive service might refer to include the Building Belonging Toolkit, Statement on the inclusion of every child in early childhood education and care, and the Cultural Connections Booklet.
Along with resources specifically about childcare, an inclusive service will likely also have diverse culturally diverse books, magazines, pamphlets, or booklets available to share with children and families.
Varied perspectives and experiences
An inclusive centre should be open to and willing to share varied perspectives and offer diverse experiences for children. The centre’s educators may also come from diverse backgrounds with unique experiences and knowledge to share with children, families, and other educators.
Recognising and celebrating these different experiences and perspectives helps children build confidence and respectful, responsive relationships with other people. Exposure to new ideas also helps children learn essential life skills like critical thinking, empathy, and teamwork.
Find culturally inclusive childcare in your area
Finding culturally inclusive and competent childcare services in your area is easy with Space’s extensive childcare database. With one search, you can discover detailed information about nearby centres, including ACECQA ratings.