Encouraging Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in your service
In a proudly multicultural society such as our own it is very important that child care providers have the resources, skills and knowledge necessary to help children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including indigenous backgrounds, settle into a care environment.
Ensuring your centre is well equipped to handle applications from families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and designing orientation programs designed to help these children ease into their new care arrangement will help you build a strong relationship with the children and their families.
Employing a range of strategies designed to encourage awareness and understanding of cultural and linguistic diversity among the other children and families in your service will further enhance the experience for the new families and will foster a wider appreciation of the value of difference.
The Professional Support Coordinator Western Australia has put together a resource designed to help child care providers settle children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds into child care and the most important points are summarised below:
Communication with Parents
- Communication with parents is an important part of the process and could be the key to your centre's success.
- Try to meet and greet the parents on a regular basis, even if it is only to exchange limited information.
- Be sensitive and attentive to information about cultural and religious backgrounds, disabilities, likes and dislikes etc as these may be relevant during the settling in period.
- Invite the parents to read stories, translate materials, and provide music or songs in their language. Extended family members may also be happy to help with this.
- Ask if the family can provide a list of words and short phrases that the child already uses or that staff can use in the centre.
- Offer a loan system for parents to take books home to share with their children. This can assist the child to relate better to stories used in your programs.
- The English world revolves around time, structure and systems. Be aware that not all cultures view this as important, so make sure that you are able to be flexible.
Developing a Culturally Inclusive Program
- Simple repetitive songs and rhymes are ideal for children who are learning English as a second language. These sessions could be offered several times during the day, inside or outside and incidentally during routine times.
- Plan and provide experiences that do not require the use of spoken English. You may be able to modify your existing program to better suit the new child's needs.
- Set up environments that reflect the cultural background and experiences of families accessing the service. This supports children's self esteem. Remember to involve the parents in regard to the appropriate choice of materials used.
- Invite parents to read stories at the centre to a small group of children.
- Collages or pictures from various or specific cultures are a good talking point for children to share.
- Spice up music sessions by including interesting and different musical instruments from various cultural backgrounds and/or CDs and simple action songs.
- Revitalise dress up and cooking areas with clothes and utensils from various cultures.
- It is helpful if staff members are flexible with routines and allow new children, especially those with English as a second language, to observe without applying any pressure to participate.
- Staff members could try using simple communication cards with pictures of the activities you are transitioning to.
- Encourage staff to spend as much time as possible talking with children rather than to them. Consider times such as meals, nappy changing and bed making as opportunities to involve children and extend their language skills.
- Find out from parents what the child's routine is at home and try to incorporate this into the centre's routine. This may mean offering flexible sleep and rest times or providing alternative experiences for children who do not usually have a sleep.
- Flexibility may include providing opportunities for siblings to spend time together during the day. This can help children to feel confident and comfortable in a care environment.
- It is beneficial to separate siblings into their respective age groups for part of the day when they become more settled. However, staff should be guided by the children's reactions to being separated. If keeping them apart increases their anxiety, then it may be best to keep the children in the same room if appropriate.
- Consult parents about their child's food habits and food culture.
- Parents could be asked to bring food from home or you could try to incorporate some of their food preferences into the menu.
Resources and Additional Ideas
- Local libraries are a great source of information for multicultural resources.
- Migrant Resource Centres can also be a valuable source of information.
- Encourage staff to attend cultural community events and workshops when they become available.
- Have a multicultural day at your centre and invite parents to bring artifacts, toys, games, clothes, pictures, etc relevant to their culture. Try offering foods from different cultures such as Kangaroo stew, Chinese noodles, pizza, sushi etc. Children could be encouraged to dress up or wear an item of clothing from their culture. Document the day by taking photos and use this as a talking point in your program.
- Arrange an outing with the children to local cultural events or invite representatives from community cultural groups, such as singers and/or dancers, to your centre to do a performance. Encourage the children to get involved
- Cultural representatives could also be invited to staff meetings to provide an information session for staff.
- Form a relationship with another child care service provider with a specific multicultural or cultural population. Visits between your services may be possible and will encourage further understanding and awareness.
Exploring Multiculturalism, Anti Bias and Social Justice In Children's Services
Professional Support Coordinator Western Australia
Children's Services Central NSW
Professional Support Coordinator Victoria
Professional Support Coordinator Queensland
Professional Support Coordinator South Australia
Professional Support Coordinator Tasmania
Professional Support Coordinator ACT
Professional Support Coordinator NT