Teaching Diversity and Equality in Bright Horizons Nurseries
Caroline Wright, Early Childhood Director at Bright Horizons, shares how we promote acceptance in our nurseries, and teach children to value themselves and each other.
Everything we do and say when children are present is teaching them something. That’s why it’s important for us to know and remember that we are all role models for our children, and it’s something we take seriously in all of our nurseries.
Recognising that each of our staff, children and families has different viewpoints, cultural and religious values – and is also ‘unique’ – is embedded into our everyday philosophy. Our guiding principles clearly highlight that we respect individuality, and value uniqueness; we listen to the voices of all who participate in our daily nursery life and actively promote diversity and equality.
But what does this look like in practice? How does this manifest itself in terms of our teaching practices?
Well, it goes without saying that our workforce and family ‘make up’ is reflective of Britain today, and of course we have children from all kinds of family ethnicities, backgrounds and structure, who attend our nurseries.
However, it’s what we do on a daily basis that makes a difference.
In Our Language
As well as being mindful of our personal behaviours and the way we speak to each other, we actively try to consider the language that we use when we’re speaking to and with the children: we address them as ‘children’, trying not to use popular terms such as ‘you guys’, which is very gender specific. We are very conscious not to make gender specific judgements, and challenge these actively. For example, if a boy wants to dress as a princess in the role play area, or a girl wants to be a ‘fireman’, we would gently and sensitively support this play, helping all of the children in the game to be accepting. We use language such as ‘firefighter’ when we ‘recast’ the conversation to them, and when we’re complimenting the ‘princess’ on his choice of beautiful clothing.
In Our Play
We also choose toys and resources very carefully: puzzles, games and resources reflect all types of family groups, religion, cultural and family life, in a positive way. We use chopsticks and Balti-dishes for example, in the role play area; dressing up clothes include fabrics and items from a range of cultures. We provide positive small world resources that reflect a range of physical abilities, such as a wheelchair or figure who has visual impairment. We encourage children to become more accepting of difference by encouraging them to use resources that reflect all members of society as they tell stories in their play. In this way, we can join in those stories, and use them to discuss differences openly, so that our children grow used to, and accept what makes them, and their friends, unique.
In their Words
We teach by example: we listen actively to all children’s views; we capture their stories, thoughts and ideas in captions, which are reflected in displays around the nursery, and share them with pride in learning journals and at circle time discussions.
In these ways, we encourage children to speak out, to be confident that what they do and their contributions to the nursery day are valued. We show our children ‘unconditional professional love’ (Philosophy & Guiding Principles BH 2021), and this way we promote positive self-esteem and resilience. After all, “children don’t know we work here…they think we’re here because we love them” (Zeedyk 2020) – we remember this every day and teach children to love themselves, through our caring, nurturing practice and our positive responses to the daily contribution they make to our nursery life.