Why should child care providers and settings be culturally responsive?
In today’s multicultural environment, diversity is celebrated more than ever. From honoring our unique heritages through language, art and festivals to understanding the religious, racial and belief systems of those different from ourselves, cultural acknowledgement can lead to an authentic sense of acceptance in ourselves and others.
For young people, one of the most natural places to first understand and respect this concept of diversity is in a child care setting where “culturally responsiveness” can be part of the educational process.
But first, let’s look at why the concept of culture is so important to a child. Culture is the core of identity. Culture tells us about our past, it tells us about our heritage, and it connects us to a larger sense of belonging. Children who understand their own cultures also learn to respect their personal history, that of their ancestors, and it can help them develop a lifelong sense of pride. When children realize that they are unique because of their individual heritage, it can also help them learn to accept the difference of others—ideally eliminating bias, prejudice and preconceived notions from their thought processes.
Studies have shown that children as young as 2 ½ to 3 years old become aware of and take in socially accepted ideas, feelings and stereotypes about themselves and of others. Because these impressions happen at such a young age, it becomes clear why a child care setting can be a perfect place to promote respect for cultural diversity.
In the child care setting, children can learn to accept the differences of their young peers and set the stage for a life of working, playing and getting along with people of different backgrounds. To help children fully comprehend this concept of diversity, it’s vital for a child care provider to create a culturally responsive environment.
For providers, the first step in creating a culturally responsive environment is acknowledging and honoring the diversity of all children in their program. Learning and sharing the beliefs, values, customs, holidays and even food of every child represented in a center can help promote pride, respect and understanding for everyone.
The next step in this process to promote a sense of inclusion and acceptance of all cultural differences—beginning from the teacher all the way down to each student in the classroom. When children see that everyone from every background is respected and accepted, they begin to model their own behavior in the same way.
Another way to promote a culturally responsive environment includes having a curriculum with multicultural elements. From learning basic language skills of children from different cultures to celebrating the diverse art, food and dress of others, teachers can make diversity a fun and engaging lesson plan that promotes acceptance and respect.
Finally, a child care center can promote cultural responsiveness by making a commitment in writing stating that respect and inclusivity for every child is an expectation among their staff and by noting it in their provider handbook. This kind of acknowledgement can show parents that their child’s culture is appreciated and honored, and it will help build trust and acceptance in the parent/provider relationship.
For more information on ways to implement cultural responsiveness in the classroom, visit https://www.schoology.com/blog/culturally-responsive-teaching-16-ways-integrate-it-your-classroom.
Visit abcquality.org to learn more about child care and development, search for a child care provider and learn about the state’s voluntary quality rating system. ABC Quality is administered by the SC Department of Social Services’ Division of Early Care and Education.
By ABC Quality Team at 19 Feb 2019, 11:00 AM