When it comes to teaching the early years, we don’t “do” equality and diversity - it’s more about how as practitioners, we set a good example with the ethos adopted in our settings.
It’s our responsibility to ensure we are being inclusive, that we consider the terminology we use; and assess our resources to avoid stereotypes.
Your practitioners and staff are role-modelling to the children every day in their attitudes, speech and behaviours. Therefore, they play a key part in being able to promote equality and diversity throughout your setting. Not only that, but they’ll already be promoting mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs as part of embracing the British Values embedded in the EYFS.
Here are some activities that you can do with the children in the day-to-day running of your setting in order to promote equality and diversity. It’s worth remembering that it’s better to have these conversations informally as and when they become relevant, taking a more organic approach, rather than in a planned and ‘artificial’ way.
In general conversation, talk with the children about their families – ask them to bring in photographs and then discuss the make-up of each family. There will be a variety of dynamics; so this is a great way of them discovering that not all families are the same. This can then lead quite naturally into stories and discussions that reflect a variety of different (non-traditional) homes like blended or LGBT families.
Celebrate festivals and events from different faiths and cultures. Promote them in your newsletter to parents, on your social media pages and around your setting. During these festivals, you can introduce a range of traditional foods relevant to each festival during snack time!
Provide a language-rich environment that reflects a diversity of languages, even in groups where English is the only language spoken. Try singing well-known songs that are not in English, e.g. “Frere Jaques” or “La Cucaracha” – the children will be sure to love learning about the little cockroach who cannot walk but loves to dance!
Provide positive visual images of the different ways people look and try to avoid inadvertently reinforcing gender stereotypes of job roles like a doctor (male) and a nurse (female).
Play the mirror game and let the children compare their faces with their friends. What makes us the same and what makes us different? Do some children wear glasses? Why do we not all have the same hair colour? Why does the colour of our skin differ?
As part of adopting British Values, encourage and explain to the children the importance of tolerant behaviours, such as sharing and respecting each other’s opinions – you can even talk to them about their favourite football teams, music or food - there is no right or wrong – everyone is entitled to an opinion!
Story time is one of the most valuable and effective ways of being able to communicate important messages
- like inclusion and bullying - to the children without making it sound too ‘serious’. Two great story books that we love, are
“Llama Llama and the Bully Goat” by Anna Dewdney and “Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean” by Jane Lynch.
The more interactive the session, the better! The use of puppets not only makes it fun, but can also reveal if there are any underlying personal issues that you should be aware of. Children will often open up when they are using a puppet because it’s not about them and they just love to use puppets! “The Ugly Duckling”, is a good tale to act out with puppets. The children can make two duck puppets and then take turns being the one being bullied and the one doing the bullying.
Read non-traditional fairy tales and stories, avoiding the gender-stereotyping stories like “Cinderella”, “Moana”, “Ferdinand”, “Fix It” and “The Paper Bag Princess” are great modern tales which promote gender equality.