Celebrating diversity early in childhood classrooms

We spoke with Kelli DiDomenico of The Children’s Workshop, who shared the following important reasons and ideas for celebrating diversity early on in the classroom setting:

Early childhood educators work with children and families from all types of diverse backgrounds, multi-cultures, multi-races, and languages. As educators, we seek to instill the foundation that will nurture an environment where all children can develop the skills needed to embrace and respect each other’s differences. And we, as their teachers, play a key role in this early development.

Let’s celebrate diversity within our classrooms:

  • Positive Adult Role Models – Children are not born prejudiced; it’s a learned behavior. As parents and caregivers, we must lay the groundwork for children to embrace differences in whatever shape, size, color, or form it may appear to them. We need to focus on developing learning environments that reflect this attitude of inclusiveness, kindness, and respect for all students. Families come in all different shapes and sizes, so again, take the time to positively celebrate these differences by modeling this behavior!

What you can add to your classrooms/schools:

  • Incorporate Books/Toys – ensure that you incorporate books, dolls, and various toys that represent the students in your classroom.
  • Visuals – check your decorations, posters, and signage to ensure that all types of families are represented in your classrooms and around your school. All children want to see themselves within this framework.
  • Policies/procedures – The old saying goes, “practice what you preach”, so make sure that your policies reflect the attitude that you celebrate and embrace diversity in your school. So, you may want to look at your Parent Handbook to ensure that you consider the diversity in your schools when adapting policies. Ex. Holidays – make them inclusive to all families.
  • Food Programs – Consider dietary preferences when choosing a menu for your students that is inclusive of all families.
  • Crafts – Don’t forget the little things such as mutli-cultural crayons, paints, and paper.
  • Holidays – It’s so important to note that if you celebrate holidays in your classrooms, make sure that you are discussing them all. Don’t leave someone out. Let the children and families share their culture.

Differences – Do children see them? Yes, at around 2 or 3 yrs. old:

  • What do they see? – They notice mom has blue eyes and dad has brown eyes or my teacher is short and my mom is tall, my neighbor has white skin and I have dark skin and so on. Their response to these differences are dependent on the influences and behaviors they learn from other children as well as adults.
  • It’s statements like, “Johnny is in a wheelchair so help him pick up the toys” or “grandma is old and she can’t do a lot of things” that raise flags. These biased statements often are unintentional, but still set the groundwork for our students to see differences in a negative light. Let’s champion our schools to make a change and simply rethink our own biases. Let’s celebrate diversity instead.

Maya Angelou stated “that we are much more alike, than we are different.”

Let’s take a lesson from her and lay the ground work in early education to embrace our differences. We need to celebrate that families come in all different shapes and sizes and we need to vocalize how wonderful that is!