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Fostering Inclusion with Existing Resources

Carefully chosen resources can help to create an inclusive setting for all children. The best materials are those that reflect open ended and divergent thinking and are often simple and understated.

Written by: Early Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

Children learn something new about their world every day, that contributes to their unique sense of being, belonging, and becoming. Watching young children interact with others they are free from judgment and are accepting of others. It is through their eyes that they help us to see the world in new ways.

As they grow and develop they begin to form perceptions from their experiences.

Supporting children to learn skills needed to communicate their needs is essential. In addition to this, teaching them that the people around them also have needs, which may be the same or different from their own. From an educator’s perspective, there are many opportunities to teach and learn all about what makes us different, but also, more importantly, what we have in common.

Carefully chosen resources can help to create an inclusive setting for all children. The best materials are those that reflect open-ended and divergent thinking. They are often simple and understated, which gives scope for children to use their imagination which, when applied to their personal experiences, are meaningful and relevant to them. Following are 6 suggestions to encourage a feeling of belonging and inclusion within the daily program:-

1. Using a sand timer or playing a musical instrument reminds children to plan their time and activities accordingly. During daily transitions, children are given plenty of time to prepare for changes and have strategies in place to support that reflect the changes. By encouraging regular group collaboration and participation, you can strengthen unity within the group.


2. Introducing a clock can support teaching and understanding the concepts of time with the children. Try organising the daily flow of the day to include ample periods to play that is uninterrupted, contrasted with a gentle pace that includes meeting the daily routine tasks.


3. Involve the children in the selection of books and puzzles. It can be overwhelming for children to enjoy a carefully chosen planned program if they do not feel connected to the resources. While an environment can look aesthetically pleasing, if they have not played with the experiences before, or the purpose is not clear with how to proceed, unfortunately, the activities could be mixed up or damaged.

With clear expectations and guidance from educators the chances dramatically improve in children not only achieving the goals that have been set for them, but perhaps more importantly, they begin to respect and take ownership of the materials to find ways to interact with them that educators might never expect! 

Demonstrating how to complete puzzles as a large or small group can be helpful to children when they are practicing them independently. Sorting pieces by colour or size can help to visually distinguish them from one another in a large pile, making it easier to start.

Telling and reading stories with or without books and introducing the characters using puppets or figurines can help them to come alive in a whole new way.

Including a few open-ended props such as farm animals to a story such as Who Sank the Boat? gives children an active way to participate during the story, and later during independent play with the activities where they can re-enact the events and sequence of the plot.


4. Incorporating animal resources can be a softer way to introduce the inclusion message, than using resources with a human element. Creating a Hairy Maclary small world experience, adding a set of assorted dogs with felt wooden trees and green material could be an opportunity to have a conversation about the many different types of dogs that are characters in the story. This could be a simple way to promote the topic of diversity and difference, as each dog has their personality and identity.


5. Encourage the use of open-ended materials. Open-ended materials can allow children to create what they want as they want it within their play. This helps children to develop their imagination, which may lead to new ways to interpret stories with different endings or characters.

Open-ended resources can be used for:-

  • Exploring classification, counting, and sorting with counters and scales
  • Promoting individual identities with a collage of faces that represent the characteristics of children as they see themselves
  • Learning about another culture and their important celebrations
  • Experimenting with tools that promote physical skill mastery and development


6. Directly teaching and promoting a range of social skills such as problem-solving, negotiation, and conflict resolution as a way of understanding different expectations between each other. Modeling interpersonal skills and relationships often occur within role play, but is not limited to any one area of development or activity - many opportunities are embedded within each.


Additional Inclusive Play Essentials from Bellbird

Dolls can assist children with self-recognition and develop a sense of belonging to groups and communities while respecting culture, and diversity and fostering inclusivity for all. They visually distinguish features that are representative of each ethnic race and anatomically correct features that promote awareness of differences.


In a world-first collaboration, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dolls have been created by Indigenous artists specifically for the Australian market as part of the latest range. Dolls can be purchased with ethically sourced clothing featuring a unique pattern or art dependent upon the style of fabric used.

Books are an ideal resource to extend the learning that occurs through play. Those that include Teacher’s Notes an additional resource that provides meaningful and comprehensive questions that prompt formal and informal discussion opportunities as is a sheet of the Braille alphabet

Small group times and art activities could be explored from these notes that could include exploration with mirrors, paints, and other art materials to extend knowledge through sensory and creative experiences that support respect for difference and how we each have our unique characteristics and personalities.

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