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Ideas For Integrating Inclusive Practices In Early Learning

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Inclusion means different things to all of us. At its core, is the concept that everyone has the right to feel included and represented in any setting, and the Early Learning sector plays a vital role in bringing this to the fore.

Written by: Early Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

Ideas For Integrating Inclusive Practices in Early Learning

Incorporating inclusive practices starts with small steps repeated regularly. Each exchange with children in our care is an opportunity to contribute to their personal development, which includes their growing sense of personal identity as an individual with their own needs. When we observe their actions and interactions, we gain information as to how they perceive the world around them and their place in it. Listening to the words, spoken (and unspoken) gives us an insight to their understanding of knowing who they are in relation to others they share experiences with. 

Frequent reflection and discussion helps us to keep looking and listening for resources and materials that support children to explore the world around them. Ensuring that activities reflect the ‘child’s voice’ allows them to develop the confidence to express themselves as individuals with unique and universal needs. Adapting activities that consider different ways to meet physical or emotional needs, such as fidget toys or visual schedules during group times are beneficial for all learners to allow them to engage in comfort.

 

Key aspects that can unlock inclusive practices

1) Identifying the specific needs of the children and families in your care

  • Research your children to understand their uniqueness: Every family provides information about their children that includes details about their specific needs which can include aspects of their physical, social and emotional health that is referred to regularly. In addition, daily conversations and exchanges that take place between educators and families offer insight into how to meet these needs, often to the benefit of more than one child in isolation.
  • Setting up play spaces that represent a diversity of cultural backgrounds can support conversations and respect for differences in ways that promote diversity.
  • Including simple open ended play props allow opportunities for children to create personalised scenarios that are relevant to their play and learning.
  • Adding a diverse range of story books to programs that reflect contemporary issues are important and relevant materials to learn to celebrate what makes us different, and also what unites us.
  • Inviting a family member to read a well-known story in both their home language and in English can propel children’s understanding in meaningful ways that can invite interest to learn other words and phrases to their vocabulary.

 

2) Continuing to grow and refine your team’s level of personal global awareness

It is not just children who are learning about the world around them, if we are open to it, we are learning too. It is recognised that we form opinions influenced by personal experiences. This can have both positive and negative connotations attached, which contributes to our perceptions of the world around us. 

During team reflection, as part of the regular program planning cycle, it can be helpful to consider questions such as:

  • Why do you think what you think?
  • What evidence do you have to support your thinking?
  • What questions do you have about your own learning and understanding?

Answering (or at least pondering) these questions can help us to recognise what we believe and think, and invite the potential to expand on our level of both personal and professional development. In doing so, it can increase the level of inclusive practice that is genuinely responsive towards the children and families that are in our care.

Teaching some words, phrases or songs in Key Sign/Auslan within a group time can provide an opportunity for visual and kinaesthetic learners to see and feel new concepts which may assist them in communicating their needs. Adding a diverse meal choice inspired by a family to the regular menu can be a simple way to stimulate an interest in the vast range of foods that are available to enjoy!

 

3) Including the language of inclusion within everyday conversations

Utilising the wealth of information from your service’s Quality Improvement Program, educators can prioritise which areas they feel they are covering well, in addition to identifying those that could use more focus and improvement.

In a similar way the same approach could be given to play spaces. It is important to regularly assess which resources are offered and how they are presented to children. This can be enhanced by the data captured in observations taken by educators and evaluated by them.

Ensuring that wherever possible that activities are included and represent each area of growth and development. For example, to help facilitate a group discussion about food allergies, an educator may incorporate puzzles that illustrate living with a food allergy.

A group may start their morning circle time by including an Acknowledgement of Country with the children which leads to a greater understanding in Indigenous practices and culture. Central to this opportunity is the invitation to understand what we value and share collectively.

Inclusion can mean something different things to us all,as it is related to personal experiences. At its core, everyone has the right to feel included and represented in any setting, and the Early Learning sector plays a vital role in bringing this to the fore. Days of celebration that highlight inclusiveness like Harmony Day on the 23rd March, are a wonderful way to discuss inclusion with staff, children and parents, and to create events to celebrate and share.

However, its important to remember that the idea of inclusion crosses not only multicultural boundaries, but gender identity, family structures and disabilities as well. Small, regular steps in which you have incorporated up to date information, teminology and language and a willingness to remain open to learning, will help weave inclusion through the practice, and ensure children feel safe, secure and accepted while in your care.

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