Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Early Learning Environment
for ALL Families
To effectively engage families, it is important to acknowledge the incredible diversity that they bring to our early learning programs and that this diversity is what makes the communities we serve in unique and special. Over the next couple of months, we will be exploring the ways in which you can create inclusive classroom and program environments that are representative and reflective of and responsive to the diversity of your children and families.
“By encouraging program staff to learn more about families, they will view the diversity in their classroom as a strength and an asset.”
To provide context to the following concepts and strategies, when we use the term “diversity”, we are describing the range of human differences, which include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, family structure, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values systems, national origin, and political beliefs. “Inclusion” describes the process of creating an environment that involves, empowers, and recognizes the inherent worth and dignity of all people.
Creating diverse and inclusive environments serves to:
- Create a sense of belonging for ALL children and their families
- Show ALL families that they can be contributing members to the classroom and/or program
- Promote the development of inclusive social connections, whereby families learn from and with one another
- Promote and sustain a sense of belonging wherein the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of ALL families are valued and respected
Children and families aren’t the only ones that benefit from diverse and inclusive environments. The benefits for early learning programs and providers include:
- The opportunity to learn more about each child and their family to build a relationship that allows them to provide specific support to children and families based on their strengths and needs
- The ability for staff to learn from families in order to plan more engaging and successful activities that are better aligned with and reflective of the diversity of the children and families in their program
- The development of a greater awareness and understanding of differences across groups of people, thus reducing biases which impact and may limit interactions with children and families.
As you begin prepare for any classroom or program-wide event, we encourage you to use the following questions to guide the planning for more diverse and inclusive programming for families:
- What is the purpose behind the activities you have planned?
- This practice helps with the intentional and inclusive planning of activities that promote learning and development. When you link activities to learning domains (such as those found in the DRDP-R), the focus shifts from your personal view of a certain tradition or holiday to what will meet the needs of all children in the classroom. For example, the traditional activity of making turkey hands to send home for Thanksgiving can be part of a larger exploration of “large birds” and support the development of all children, including those who do not celebrate Thanksgiving.
- What are some important traditions for your families?
- As you connect with families, you build relationships with them and learn more about their beliefs, traditions, and ways of living. This communication can be one of the several times that you connect throughout the year, providing avenues for continual support and opportunities to learn what is special to each family and how to apply it to the instruction in your program.
- How are your families present in the planning of activities?
- Create opportunities for families to take the reins in the planning of specific activities and festivities. Allow families to present ideas, form committees and work collaboratively to create experiences for the children in your program. You should provide some limited guidance and structure to ensure activities align with program goals, values, and policies, but encourage the leadership of the families.
By encouraging program staff to learn more about families, they will view the diversity in their classroom as a strength and an asset. By creating inclusive environments, particularly during this time of year, families will feel a greater sense of belonging and are more likely to engage in the program. When everyone works together, children can experience the benefits of a high quality start in life!
Wendolly’s professional career began over 10 years ago as a lead teacher for a classroom of energetic preschoolers. In her current role, Wendolly is proud to support Quality Start Los Angeles by being an advocate for building authentic and supportive relationships with families of young children. She believes that by creating family-focused systems, early learning programs have the capacity to uplift and empower families and ensure the best outcomes for LA’s youngest learners.