Adults can seek knowledge. The internet holds a treasure trove of information right at our fingertips. This knowledge equips adults with the ability to form connections with all different types of people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. Children rely on the adults in their lives to instil these values in them. Only the adults in their lives can instil respect for cultural diversity, whether it’s family or teachers. Cultural diversity in childcare centres is important to early childhood education and development.
Introducing and promoting cultural diversity can be challenging, especially in a childcare setting. Students don’t have the necessary skills to address the subject tactfully. As a result, there may be unintentional insults or disrespect.
Importance Of Cultural Diversity
The term diversity encompasses all of the different aspects of someone’s identity that make them unique, from age and gender to culture and race, nationality, and sexual orientation. Promoting diversity is about enhancing the diversity in our environment. While there are plenty of different ways to achieve this goal, the best place to start is by welcoming people from diverse backgrounds and respecting them for who they are. These are the foundations of creating a diverse environment. It’s the best way to build meaningful, positive relationships and for individuals to connect.
Building meaningful connections is not the only benefit of diversity. Diversity has many benefits in any and all settings. However, for children, there are distinct benefits for their early childhood education. A diverse childcare setting increases innovation and creativity. When children can experience different backgrounds and people, they become more creative in their problem-solving skills.
The second major benefit of diversity in childcare programs addresses the empathy gap. When children meet people outside of their identity it exposes the empathy gap. When students are exposed to diversity from an early age they can overcome that gap much sooner in life, which is beneficial to their development and the community as a whole.
Finally, children learn and grow up, and as they do, they will meet more people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures. Preparing children to promote respect and diversity as well as celebrate differences at a young age will provide them with preparation for adulthood.
The world is ever-changing, and a multicultural society is both inevitable and essential. It is vital that we ensure children understand the value of different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and perspectives in their early learning with positive attitudes. It can be a challenge, but it’s a critical skill that should be built from an early age.
Cultural Diversity In The EYLF
Most Australian early childhood centres follow an early years learning framework that has been set out by the government to assist with early learning, for children of all cultural backgrounds. The Early Years Learning Framework‘s fourth principle is respect for diversity. Each principle supports practices focused on helping children grow and develop. And the fourth principle, childcare cultural diversity, means that the curriculum in childcare programs should reflect values, beliefs, and practices. It holds that educators should honour the culture, language, tradition, and history of all peoples. Celebrating cultural diversity makes communities stronger and the world a richer place. When children learn about different cultures in childcare with EYLF, they grow to be more empathetic and inclusive as adults. Children start to notice differences from a young age, so providing them with the framework in their early learning to explain cultural differences in childcare helps establish their self-identity, as well as understanding and respecting others.
How It Benefits Early Development In Childcare
Cultural competence is the ability to understand, respect, and communicate with people from different cultures or belief systems. Cultural diversity activities in childcare programs help children develop cultural competence that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives. A child’s early development will set them up for adulthood so establishing cultural competence early is beneficial to how they will evolve as people.
Communication And Understanding
Relationships are stronger when people find common ground and respect each other’s differences and cultural background. This can facilitate the growth of stronger relationships with the people in the childcare centre. This also has a positive impact on family units overall, which can improve interactions and communication. Having a cultural diversity experience plan in childcare provides children with an inclusive environment that offers them a safe and secure space. Communication is the foundation of everything humans do as social creatures. The ability to communicate across a spectrum of cultures and recognise and respect differences is invaluable.
Children walk into classrooms with their individual cultural expectations, values, talents, and skills. They start to develop a self-concept, in part, based on how others perceive them. Children need to honour their culture and family to form a positive self-concept. If their classroom doesn’t validate their culture, they may feel ashamed, invisible or unimportant. So, early childhood education with cultural diversity programs help validate everyone’s culture or identity.
Sense Of Belonging
Offering support for diversity means everyone does their best to ensure everyone’s background and culture are respected. We need to value and respect diversity and encourage everyone to accept our differences. In doing so, it provides children with a sense of belonging, which will help them find their place in this world. Australia has a diverse culture, and it’s one that should be celebrated. By doing so, we promote the well-being and acceptance of children from all backgrounds and cultures.
Confidence is a natural benefit of teaching children respect for diversity. First, it gives all children confidence in how they relate to and communicate with others. Second, when children are taught to meet everyone with respect, it instils them with confidence.
How Childcare Centres Can Practice Cultural Diversity
There are a wide variety of ways for childcare centres to practice cultural diversity. You can choose one or all of them. You may want to reach out to the parents to discuss their ideas as well to ensure you get everyone’s support in your pursuit to practice diversity.
Respect for diversity in early childhood and childcare examples:
You can celebrate cultural events throughout the year from Chinese New Year to Diwali. Whether it’s simply a festival of fun or a religious festival, it’s an opportunity to highlight how different cultures celebrate and what makes them unique. Whether it’s Holi, the August Moon Festival or Burns Night.
You can also hang different flags from other nations to promote acceptance and conversation.
Foods And Snacks
Food is a great equaliser and Australia has a wealth of options because of its diverse culture. You can teach children about different cuisines and also encourage them to bring in samplings of what their favourite cultural food is. Be sure to provide everyone with a list of prohibited foods to keep everyone safe and ensure all cultures are respected. You can tie this into cultural practices or events so, if it’s Diwali, introduce flatbreads, dal, and pakora.
Music And Dance
There is a lot you can do with music, including nursery rhymes in a variety of different languages that represent the whole class. You can ask parents to provide you with written versions of nursery rhymes in the language they speak and practice a different version every week. You can tie this into cultural traditions and events as well. So, if it’s Chinese New Year, make the full week about celebrating Chinese culture and make it an inclusive practice.
Children are naturally curious, and early childhood educators should be prepared to have open and honest discussions to foster cultural diversity and greater understanding of diverse cultures. You can also invite parents to discuss their language or diverse backgrounds and answer questions.
Create A Diverse And Welcoming Environment
The simplest way to highlight respect for diversity is to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where your childcare centre is. The traditional owners of Melbourne are the Wurundjeri people. While the traditional owners of Sydney are the Eora nation’s Gadigal people. You can find out who the traditional owners of your locale are and make a statement acknowledging them at the start of each day. It helps build respect for ancient cultures, and it’s one of the simplest nods to diversity. You can also create a world map and highlight where everyone comes from or where their ancestors were from.
When a new student arrives and they have different skin colour or an accent, it’s the educator’s opportunity to celebrate their differences and talk about culture and diversity.
Children take the lead from the adults in their lives. So, educators should act without discrimination and actively discourage discriminatory behaviour in class. There are plenty of ways you can do this, but a simple way to teach this is embracing language differences by teaching children how to say hello and goodbye in other students’ languages.
Finding The Right Childcare
When you are looking for a childcare setting for your child, look for educators that offer cultural competence activities in childcare. Don’t be afraid to challenge the centre on their curriculum and diversity programs to ensure your child receives a well-rounded start to their early childhood education. Look at how the staff treats each other and the children they work with – look for respectful interactions and a varied curriculum. And above all else, trust your gut.