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Our attitudes matter

what and how we speak to young children matters

As we have seen in previous steps, social and emotional wellbeing is essential for children to be able to learn successfully. Valuing diversity is at the heart of this, because it is part of a child’s identity and feeling of self-worth.

Educator attitudes matter, what and how we speak to young children matters. We have learnt that “Children develop at their own rates, and in their own ways” Development Matters (Early Years Foundation Stage, England) which values and respects all children.

In previous steps we have learnt that children learn through imitation, they copy adult behaviours and attitudes. They know when we are making judgements about them. It is therefore important for educators to:

  • show they respect and value all the children in their care regardless of race, religion or background. We often have preconceived ideas about children just because of where they are from, where they live or their family background.

  • model behaviours and this includes demonstrating values like kindness, respect, curiosity etc. Children are not born prejudiced or racist. These behaviours are learnt from adults and are another form of labelling even if it is subconscious. Labelling and comparisons are not inclusive or helpful.

  • get to know the children, and in turn their family, and work together. As we have seen, in the EYFS in England, it is part of the key person’s role to build that crucial relationship with a child’s parents or carers.

  • respect the child’s home language and value multilingual families. We live in a global world where it is very common for children to speak different home languages. Family background and culture is a fundamental part of the child’s identity. Exploring the different cultures of the children in your care can help them to feel part of the group and help you understand them better and not make unfair judgements.

  • make sure all children feel included in activities, ensure that they can see what you are reading or showing, and that everyone who wishes to is able to participate. Remember children process the world around them in different ways, so if a young child wants to learn through observing or watching, give them time, space and encouragement. Respect a child’s right not to participate, e.g. actions to a song. Often if they see other children enjoy the activity, they will usually end up joining in.

  • organise the children in different pairs/groups and try to mix boys and girls so the children can learn to self-regulate, express their feelings and resolve conflicts.

  • take advantage of using stories that show diversity and inclusiveness. Through stories children can learn that although we can be different, we are also very similar and whatever our background, it is diversity that makes the world a more interesting place.

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English in Early Childhood: How Happy Children Learn

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