Diversity Discussions

 

I recently observed in a family child care program and had an interesting discussion with the provider about diversity.  When asked about any activities that help children understand diversity, the provider stated that diversity is hard for her, because she just doesn’t “see color.”

I appreciate her response, as she was honest, and I commend her for her commitment to seeing children as children, not a certain race or ethnicity.  However, as much as I can appreciate her commitment, the phrase, “I don’t see color,” is not exactly true.  We do see physical characteristics-we notice if someone has blue eyes or brown, we take note when someone is tall or wears glasses, and we notice if someone is using a cane to get around or if their hair is brown, grey, white, or pink.ThinkstockPhotos-478104457

Noticing these differences does not make us racist or insensitive, it makes us human.  Our goal with children is not to teach them to not see differences, but to teach them to respect and appreciate differences.  We don’t have to repeatedly point out a child’s skin tone or ethnicity, but it’s certainly ok to acknowledge differences in children and celebrate those differences.

Generally, when I ask about activities that promote diversity, teachers and providers respond by stating they have dolls, books, and play food representing different races/cultures/ethnicities/abilities.  That’s great, but dolls alone just don’t provide the type of activity that really helps children understand and respect diversity.

Diversity isn’t just skin tone, either.  What about culture?  We all have different cultures, even within our individual families.  For example, Susie might celebrate her birthday with dinner at a nice restaurant with her parents and siblings.  Henry might celebrate with a large party at his house, including extended family, friends, and neighbors.  Susie and Henry both celebrate birthdays, but in different ways-differences in their family culture.  Discussing birthday or other celebrations, and having children draw what their family does, or making a chart tallying what is the same and different about their celebrations is an example of an activity that helps children understand diversity.

I often hear providers and teachers say that they struggle to discuss diversity with infants and toddlers.  It’s true, a lot of activities that are out there don’t work for that age group.  I like to encourage people to incorporate diversity into their language with children.  We want providers/teachers to use many different descriptive words throughout the day to build children’s vocabulary and language skills, so why not dedicate some of that language to diversity?  “Molly you have such big, brown eyes!  And Kevin, you have bright, blue eyes!  Our eyes help us see.  Where are your eyes?  Can you blink?”  or “Shawn’s mommy brought him to school today.  Claire, your daddy brought you.  Isn’t it nice to spend time with mommy’s and daddy’s?  Let’s look at our family pictures.  Shawn, your mom has brown hair.  Claire, your dad has no hair.  Where is your hair?”

What are some ways you encourage providers and teachers to incorporate diversity?  Do you find it difficult or are most people eager to help children understand diversity?

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Jamie

Jamie

Jamie has worked with young children and their families for over 15 years. She is dedicated to ensuring that all young children receive high quality care and education.

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Group Times

Group times can be a great way for providers to share some content on certain topics, complete daily tasks and even share a bit about their plans for the day. Too often, we find providers spend more time saying things like “sit down,” “crisscross applesauce,” or “listening ears,” than they spend conveying information or interacting in a positive way with the children. Usually this occurs in large group times-times when all the children, or a large group of the children enrolled are required to sit down for a “group time” or participate in a group activity, like an art project. The following tips may help providers determine when and if they want to utilize group times and ways to ensure success:

Is group time necessary? The ITERS-R evaluates group time in Item 31, Group play activities, and can be scored NA if no group play times occur. Group times are defined as being staff-initiated and have an expectation of child participation. If the children in the group are not ready for group times, it is perfectly acceptable to not conduct group. The FCCERS-R also allows for an “NA” if children are never required to do the same activity as a whole group during play or learning. Because of the multi-age setting of family child care homes, group time can be especially difficult.

What are children gaining from group time? Many teachers and providers seem to feel that group time may be their only chance to “educate” children, and they conduct long groups covering a variety of topics. We know that children learn best through play and interaction. When they are required to sit for long periods of time, participating in an activity that they are not interested in, they are losing out on valuable time they could be learning in a meaningful way. I’ve seen providers who still conduct a calendar/weather time each day with children, but it is a voluntary time- only those children interested participate. Instead of introducing a “letter of the week” in large group, would time be better spent introducing it to a small group of children while encouraging them to come up with words that start with that letter?

Are children capable of learning in a group time? It is important to consider each child’s physical ability to participate in group. We know that young children need to be active and are often impulsive. Are they physically capable of sitting in group, or is their body telling them they need to move? Instead of reprimanding them for doing what their body is telling them, (“sit still”) would it be better to allow them to join in another activity? Is there another way that they can gain the same information that is more appropriate for them?

What’s the right size? Consider the ages and stages of the children. Some may be able to learn and participate in a large group setting, and some may not. The pressures and distractions of a large group can bother some children. Keeping group size small, especially for younger children, helps children focus and enjoy participation. The ITERS-R states that group sizes should range from 2-3 infants, 2-5 toddlers, and 4-6 two year olds.

What are the providers achieving? If providers are feeling like group time is a constant fight, it is time to re-evaluate. If group time is a daily struggle, it’s as hard on the teachers as it is the children. When a provider is constantly reminding children to sit down, listen, stop talking, etc., they likely don’t feel very successful. What are some ways providers can determine if their group times are helpful to the children? Are there any tips or techniques you feel work well when it comes to group time?

Jamie

Jamie

Jamie has worked with young children and their families for over 15 years. She is dedicated to ensuring that all young children receive high quality care and education.

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