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Introducing Yarning Circles to Your Preschool Mat Time

A Yarning Circle is an ancient practice used by Indigenous Australian cultures to teach and learn, preserving and passing on knowledge through collaboration.

Written by: Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

 Approaching the planning of a stimulating and culturally diverse environment has the potential to set the stage for how young learners approach different aspects of diversity; however, if the focus is on bringing people together, this increases the opportunity for it to become a learning space that meets the needs of individuals in more ways than beyond the physical environment. 

Selecting one space, area or activity can have its limitations, which is why embedding new practices that are service or centre wide, and can be shared by the whole community, has the greatest impact. 

Focusing on reflective practices that include mindfulness, promotes communication and respectful relationships between educators and children. Introducing these with explicit teaching and demonstration, allows them to become a regular part of the daily routine which will benefit everyone, either by participating or simply observing. 


Setting up dedicated Playspaces with Indigenous resources

Incorporating aspects of indigenous culture into the everyday elements of your Early Learning setting deepens and embeds the learning for all. Placing a rug or mat featuring art that holds personal significance made by each Aboriginal artist is a simple but powerful way to celebrate the relationships between First Nations people and Country.  

Educators can first teach children the associated and personal stories behind the imagery that helps to develop creativity and imagination through storytelling, before inviting them to share their own stories with small or large groups. 

Seeing a defined space like this can remind children of the importance of gathering together after spending time apart to reconnect and share both their learning and their questions with each other. As a home base, it can provide comfort and signal the beginnings or endings of routines and transitions that are essential to a feeling of safety and predictability. 

Sharing a story, music or game in these spaces has a unique way of providing stability as children learn new skills collectively which can then be associated with the enjoyment and appreciation for how to use materials within independent play.  


Yarning Circles

One simple activity that encourages connection and offers an opportunity for such engagement is the introduction of a Yarning Circle to your mat time. A Yarning Circle is an ancient practice that has been used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as a way of both teaching and learning, to preserve and pass on knowledge through collaboration that supports the foundation of respectful relationships. Reciprocal in nature, they encourage peaceful interactions that allow participants to share freely or to witness and hold space for others as they speak. 

There are a few key steps to creating and implementing a Yarning Circle as explained by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority in partnership with The Yarning Circle.


While there is no set format, to begin a Yarning Circle with children educators may: 

  1. Sit in a circle 
  2. Model ways of introducing yourself to a group
  3. Introduce focus questions/topics to help the discussion to take shape 
  4. Support children to share ideas and thoughts that relate to the topic 
  5. Children can be given time to write or draw their thoughts and ideas on paper provided or the educator could scribe them 




Modifying playspaces to incorporate Indigenous resources

Combining everyday items with Indigenous resources throughout your service helps to incorporate Indigenous culture into the learning, thereby avoiding the common tokenism associated with annual events or random resource placement.

Meeting at the start or end of the day, educators may like to recite a simple Acknowledgment of Country with children that encourages a sense of community. This can be an opportunity to model gratitude and appreciation for what there is to be thankful for, whilst encouraging living in the present. 

Extending a story time to focus on Australia’s native animals such as the characters from Wombat Stew could involve setting up a play scene with figurine replicas. Discussing the elements of the story could be the focus of a Yarning Circle for an educator to facilitate a conversation about the feelings from the perspective of each animal. 

Setting up a mud kitchen could further enhance learning by placing gum leaves or petals from native plants and shrubs to help children connect and respect nature and its connection to Country and the role each character plays in the natural world. 

Adding to existing routines and activities with simple pieces can contribute to children having the opportunity to create a personal connection to the wider world around them. It is the feeling of belonging that is most important for this to become part of the child’s sense of identity, and how resources become accessible are the key to achieving this. 


For extra information and inspiration please visit Bellbird’s Educator Resource Centre.


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