Posted: September 7th, 2023
Multicultural Considerations in Early Learning
Multicultural Considerations in Early Learning
Early childhood is a formative time when children begin to develop their understanding of culture and identity. Educators play an important role in fostering multicultural awareness and inclusion from a young age. This article will explore some key considerations for early learning environments seeking to embrace diversity and promote respect among children from different backgrounds.
Culturally Responsive Curriculum
A culturally responsive curriculum exposes children to stories, songs, activities, and lessons that represent diverse cultures and experiences. This helps children see themselves and their families reflected in the classroom. It also helps children from non-dominant cultures feel valued and seen (Department of Education, 2019). When choosing books, toys, and other materials, early learning programs should aim for variety and representation from many ethnic and cultural groups. Beyond exposing children to other cultures, the curriculum should also validate and celebrate each child’s own cultural identity and heritage.
For example, one preschool developed a unit exploring different family structures after a child with two fathers expressed confusion about why some children had moms and dads but he had two dads. The teachers used books, photos, and discussions to teach about diverse families in an age-appropriate way. This type of responsive curriculum builds understanding and fosters acceptance among children (Jones, 2021).
Supporting Home Languages
Where possible, early learning programs should support and encourage the use of home languages. Displaying basic words and phrases in languages other than English helps children from linguistically diverse families feel welcomed. Programs could invite family members to share songs, stories, or other traditions in their home language. When possible, hire bilingual educators and staff who can communicate with dual language learners in their home language as well as English (Center for Early Childhood Education, 2022).
This validation of home languages promotes cultural identity and self-esteem. It also supports early literacy development, as research shows maintaining the home language supports later English acquisition (Garcia & Kleifgen, 2018). Programs should avoid punishing or discouraging the use of other languages and instead view multilingualism as an asset to be cultivated.
Early childhood is a time of rapid social and emotional learning. Educators play a key role in explicitly teaching children about fairness, respect, and anti-bias attitudes from a young age (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2020). This involves calling out stereotypes, addressing prejudiced remarks respectfully but firmly, and promoting inclusion through lessons, books, and activities that celebrate diversity.
For example, one preschool teacher read the book “I Like Myself” to her class. During a follow-up discussion, she noticed some children were excluding a classmate from their play based on perceived differences. The teacher used the opportunity to remind children that everyone is equally deserving of friendship regardless of attributes like race, ability, or family structure. She then supported the children in including their classmate in their play. Teaching anti-bias attitudes in these teachable moments fosters a more just and equitable society.
Early learning programs have a responsibility to thoughtfully consider issues of culture, language, and identity in their approach. A culturally responsive curriculum, support for home languages, and explicit anti-bias education can help young children develop multicultural understandings and inclusive attitudes from an early age. With care, awareness and intention, early childhood educators can nurture respect and appreciation for diversity.
Center for Early Childhood Education. (2022). Supporting dual language learners in early childhood programs. Retrieved from https://cece.education.ufl.edu/files/2012/01/FS6_SupportingDLL.pdf
Department of Education. (2019). Culturally responsive curriculum. Retrieved from https://www.education.gov.au/culturally-responsive-curriculum
Derman-Sparks, L., & Edwards, J. O. (2020). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. National Association for the Education of Young Children. essay writing help.
Garcia, O., & Kleifgen, J. A. (2018). Educating emergent bilinguals: Policies, programs, and practices for English learners. Teachers College Press.
Jones, S. M. (2021). Supporting LGBTQ+ families in early childhood settings. Young Children, 76(3), 20-27.