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How to explore different religions with childminded children

‘Has my guinea pig gone to heaven’?

diversity awareness logoLet me be clear that this article makes absolutely no attempt to advise you how to answer that question from the children that you look after. It sounds so simple at first. But when you really think about it, philosophers, religious leaders, and each member of the human race has battled with this question since the dawn of time!  According to the child’s family’s beliefs, the guinea pig may very well have ‘gone to heaven’, but perhaps he has already been ‘reincarnated’ as some other animal, or maybe he is simply ‘dead’? In most cases, the answers to the real questions raised and answered by the world’s great religions are the realm of the parents. You are treading on very delicate grounds if you attempt to answer them yourself.

Children of this age are far too young to understand the differences between the teachings of different religions. Most are not ready to understand the key messages of their own religions, let alone someone else’s. But they are not too young to observe that there is something called ‘religion’, that most people seem to have one, and that religions cause people to behave differently to one another. For example, they may notice that Jasvin never eats meat and is a ‘vegetarian’. They need to learn that this is because of her religion – she’s a Hindu. And they may ask why Alia, who does music time at the library, wears a scarf on her head?  It’s called a hijab, and is a sign that she is a Muslim.

Your role as a childcare provider is to introduce children to the concept of different religions, to give them the vocabulary they need to describe the differences they observe, and to encourage them to ask questions.

 

There are so many religions – which should we ‘do’?

Have you ever looked at one of those religious festival calendars they publish at the council and thought ‘oh my! I didn’t even know that there was such a religion!’  Then you are certainly not alone.  So how do you decide which religions you should do with the children? And how do you do them?

Talking about different religions can be difficult, especially if it’s somebody else’s religion, and even more so if you’re not religious yourself. You don’t want to give children the wrong information. You want to give real, simple information that they can understand, but at the same time you don’t want to offend anyone by generalising too much and assuming that all members of a faith hold identical views or practice in the same way.

As with the guinea pig example, it is generally best to steer clear of the messages that religions give other than basic, positive moral codes that tend to be common to most religions (such as the Golden Rule). Instead, focus on religious festivals. Festivals are the most accessible time to learn about any religion.

Start with what you know best. In other words, do your own religion, or the one you know best first. If you’re a Christian, start with Christmas and Easter.

Next, think about the children you look after – if you look after a little boy who is a Sikh, then it may make sense to celebrate a festival that is relevant to him. Get the parents involved and let them steer you in the right direction.

Still not sure where to begin? Then start with introducing Britain’s three biggest religions which are Christianity, then Islam, then Hinduism. In practical terms your goal is to find simple ways to celebrate: Easter, Christmas, Eid and Diwali.

 

Easter and Christmas: the two biggest Christian festivals

Easter and Christmas don’t just have to be about bunnies, eggs and Santa – it is ok for small children to learn the basic Christian meaning of these holidays. If you live in this country, whatever your beliefs, you do need a basic, working knowledge of ‘Jesus story’ because Christianity is part of our heritage and our culture. There is nothing wrong with making a nativity scene with the children at Christmas, for example or to teach them some Christmas carols.

A completely free day trip is a visit to your local parish church. Whatever their religious background, many pre-school children will have never actually been inside a church. Many churches have open hours when visitors can walk around and admire the art, stained glass windows, unique smells and ancient architecture that make up these beautiful buildings. When I took the children to our local church I made a simple scavenger hunt. The children had to find candles, stain glass windows, the altar, the pews, the organ and the flowers. This gave a nice focus to our visit and helped to teach them some new words.

 

Eid and Diwali

Eid diversity awareness for childmindersWhen I first started researching about Eid and Diwali, I did what most people would do: I went to the library to get out some books.  The photographs showed busy street scenes in far off countries, with people who looked as foreign to many British Muslims and Hindus as they did to me. If you look after a Muslim child or a Hindu child, these types of images give completely the wrong impression as they make their religion look like something ‘foreign’ that is celebrated by ‘other people somewhere else’ when in fact, here in the UK, things are often done very differently. How children celebrate Eid and Diwali is not a million miles away from how Christian families celebrate Easter and Christmas, and tend to include a family gathering, presents as well as a trip to the mosque or temple.

British Muslims celebrate Eid, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, with huge festivities and they often give cards to each other with the greeting ‘Eid Mubarak’ which means ‘may you enjoy a blessed festival’. So a good way to celebrate Eid is to get the children to make an Eid card and give it to ‘Alia at the library’.

diwali lamp in paper for childmindersDiwali is one of the most important Hindu festivals of the year. It is known as the ‘festival of lights’ and the lights refer to the little clay lamps called ‘diya’ which are lit in temples and houses. Many people set off fireworks, and because Diwali is celebrated in late October/ early November, these displays often coincide with Bonfire Night displays. A good way to celebrate Diwali is to make firework collages with the children, or little paper diya lamps. It’s also a great time to try some Indian food.

If you are able to get an opportunity to actually visit a mosque or a temple it is a wonderful and enlightening experience for both yourself and the children.

 

Like all aspects of diversity, it is crucial that children be encouraged to notice the differences they see and to ask questions about them.

Religion is just one way that people can appear ‘different’ to one another. Encourage children’s questions, keep an open mind, and you can feel confident that you are doing the right thing.

 

Displaying the right impression

welcome poster in many languages

diversity awareness posterThese pictures of British children are all appropriate to display at your home, to discuss with the children, and give the right impression of a racially inclusive setting. To receive your FREE A4 poster by email, sign up for my free quarterly newsletter using the orange box on my website and type ‘poster’ into the message.

Teaching children about diversity helps them to understand that people can be different and the same all over the world. It also helps them to build character that will last for their whole lives. As childminders, if we talk openly with pre-schoolers about the importance of diversity then children are provided with a model of openness that they will learn to imitate.

For more information on teaching diversity awareness to childminded children and for a Diversity Awareness Pack filled with practical activities you can do to promote difficult diversity topics in your setting visit http://kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/Diversity.html .

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

How to ‘Do Diversity’ with childminded children without getting it wrong

So, you want to show Ofsted that you are “doing diversity” in your childminding setting. You’ve bought a black doll, and printed out a calendar of festivals for your wall.  Australia Day is coming up.  That sounds easy enough! You find a picture of a kangaroo for the children to colour and… phew, you have now done diversity.diversity awareness logo

Unfortunately, unless you or one of the children you look after happens to actually be Australian then Australia Day is, for the most part, completely irrelevant to most under fives. What is an “Australia” anyway, and does it have sharp teeth?

The reason childminders celebrate it is because it is safe. There is no fear that we can get Australia Day wrong and accidentally offend anybody. It is a token gesture that makes us look like we are celebrating diversity when in fact, by doing so, we are neatly avoiding the real issues.

 

I’m scared I’ll get it wrong

As childminders we often avoid many of the real diversity issues primarily because we don’t know what ‘message’ to tell the children. Subjects such as physical disabilities, Islam, skin colour, older people and different family types can be so difficult to address that rather than risk getting them wrong, we avoid talking about them entirely and pretend the differences aren’t there.

I believe that you can and should talk about real diversity issues with young children. Children ask questions all the time about the differences they see. If adults avoid children’s questions about race, gender, religion and disability then children will notice. They may come up with their own conclusions, even if those conclusions are wrong. Adults should talk honestly and openly with children about the differences that children see and ask about.

If you would like to explore diversity with childminded children then here are three practical places to begin:

 

  1. Who am I?

Children first need to learn about their own identity – who they are and how they fit into their own families and communities – before they can begin to imagine their place in the big wide world. So your starting point with teaching small children about diversity is to help them to learn about themselves.

“All about me” sheets and self-portraits are ideal ways to get children to think about who they are. Are you a little boy or a little girl?  It is not until they are about three that many children will know the answer to that question. Sit the children down in front of a mirror and help them to add eyes and hair in the right colour. A pack of skin tone crayons is a good investment.

In doing so children learn that some things about them are the same as other children, but some things are different. Encouraging children to point out, notice and accept their different types and colours of hair and skin is the starting point for learning that others may be different… and that “different-from-me” is beautiful too.

 

  1. What communities am I a part of?

Every child’s first and most basic community is his own family. In order to understand other people’s families and how these may be different from their own, children first need to think about their place in their own family. Today there are many types of families including traditional families, single parent families, same-sex parent families, adoptive and foster care families. Ask the children questions and record what they say about their families. Talking about the similarities and differences helps children understand how each family is unique and special.

our home display for childmindersYour childminding setting is also its own special little community. The changing friendships, the new children who come and go, all help the children to build into their identities the idea of belonging to ‘your home’.

It sounds obvious but displaying photographs of the children who come to your house will help the children to feel a sense of belonging there. Putting up displays that promote kindness and inclusion not only give a positive impression but can help to make your home community feel like a friendly and accepting place to be.

 

  1. Displaying the right impression

welcome poster in many languagesEven though most children this age are too young to understand ‘Britain’ let alone ‘the world’, it is still ok to introduce the idea of ‘the world’ and that everyone is a part of it. It also gives a positive impression to the parents. Displaying welcome posters in many languages is a classic example but if possible try to make the languages relevant to the people who attend your setting, or to the people who live in your local community.

Playing music from a variety of cultures is great, including music with words in different languages. The more varied types of music that children are exposed to when they are small, the more they will enjoy music when they are older. Sampling food from different cultures is also fun for everyone.

It is also good to display photos that show racial diversity but it can be very hard to choose appropriate photos to display. It is not appropriate to show photos of children that reinforce stereotypes – for example, hungry children in Africa. It is also not appropriate to display pictures that show children wearing their ‘cultural’ rather than their ‘everyday’ dress. Children in Scotland certainly don’t wear kilts everyday any more than African children wear their ‘tribal’ clothing to go to school in. It can be very confusing to young children to see images that give the wrong impression.

diversity awareness posterThese pictures of British children are all appropriate to display at your home, to discuss with the children, and give the right impression of a racially inclusive setting. To receive your FREE A4 poster by email, sign up for my free quarterly newsletter using the orange box on my website and type ‘poster’ into the message.

Teaching children about diversity helps them to understand that people can be different and the same all over the world. It also helps them to build character that will last for their whole lives. As childminders, if we talk openly with pre-schoolers about the importance of diversity then children are provided with a model of openness that they will learn to imitate.

For more information on teaching diversity awareness to childminded children and for a Diversity Awareness Pack filled with practical activities you can do to promote difficult diversity topics in your setting visit http://kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/Diversity.html .

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

Planning Checklist for Childminders

Is your childminding planning system simple and structured? Do you feel your plans are actually useful to your setting, or just another Ofsted chore? Keep the following in mind when you write your childminding plans:

 

If you feel you are wasting time with planning, then you probably are.

GOOD planning is not a waste of time. It shows parents that you are a childcare professional – not ‘just a babysitter’. Good planning helps you to stay organised, ensures that you are providing a balanced and varied experience for the children you look after, and that you have the resources you need to offer the experiences you have planned.

 

Don’t overcomplicate things or you won’t be able to use your system.

Whatever system you are using for your planning needs to be usable by you every single week. The more complicated you make it, then the less likely you will be to use your own system. If the system you are using currently feels too complicated for you to maintain, then it may be time to try a new system.

 

Involve the children and the parents in writing plans for your setting.

Ofsted loves it when children are involved in the planning for your setting. It’s great to ask older children to help think of activities for younger ones. It’s also nice to ask parents what activities or themes they might like you to explore with their children. Getting parents involved in celebrating festivals that are relevant to the children in your care (like planning to celebrate Diwali if you look after a Hindu child) allows you to tick off the ‘diversity’ and ‘parent communication’ boxes in one seriously-Ofsted-impressing-activity that everyone will enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Plan to do something NEW this year.

Planning new things is a great way to keep yourself fresh and to keep things interesting for the children too. You might want to celebrate a festival like Diwali or Easter or Eid that you’ve never celebrated before? My free 2019 Diversity Calendar could inspire you? Or teach the children about stranger danger, or mini beasts using ideas from the Be Safe Be Healthy Pack. Whatever theme you are planning to do will require a little preparation on your part, so if you put it into your written planning then it is more likely to happen.

 

Your planning system needs to work for your whole setting AND for each individual child.

If the system you use works for your setting, but does not take into account the needs of different children in your setting, then your system needs a rethink. A planning system must work for your whole setting AND take into account the needs and interests of each individual child.

 

Learning and development observations must link into your planning.

Writing observations and next steps into your learning journeys is pointless if you don’t have a method to put those ideas into your planning. All of the ‘next steps’ you record in your learning journeys MUST link into whatever planning system you are using.

 

Get the right mix of planned activities and unstructured free-play time.

childminding free play

Children need daily opportunities for free play indoors and outdoors so that they can engage uninterrupted in activities that interest them. They also need you to organise learning activities and outings for them that address the different learning and development areas and characteristics of effective learning. Making monthly and weekly plans will help you to get the balance right.

 

What are your plans for improvements to your setting, and improvements to yourself this year?

Part of creating a year plan is to think about what new equipment, training and other resources you may want to buy for your setting this year. A formal list of this kind, made once a year, is a great way to make sure you think about your setting as a whole.

It’s also a great time of year to make plans for your own Continual Professional Development (CPD).

You might think about more training you would like to receive? You might think about getting training for special needs children or becoming a Forest Childcare Provider? All of these things directly benefit all of the children who attend your setting.

Your long term planning is a little like a performance review. It is a chance for you to take a step back and ask yourself what you do well in your setting and what could be improved. What could you buy or do differently that would help you to improve what you could offer? If you want to become a Forest Childcare Provider, for example, how would you work in weekly trips to your schedule? How would you make time? What special equipment (outdoor gear, reflective jackets, off-road buggy etc.) might you need?

 

Do you want help with planning for your setting?

Is the planning system you are currently using is too complicated? You may want to simplify things to make it easier for yourself? My Learning Journey Plus workbook takes you step by step through creating a workable, flexible and ongoing planning system for your setting. Use it to create a complete planning system from scratch or to fill in gaps and improve any system you are already using.

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter using the orange sign up box on my website and I will send you best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

10 REAL British Values All Childminders Should Teach to Children

Did you know that in order to protect everyone from ‘religious radicals’ it is now one of your many responsibilities as a childminder to teach ‘fundamental British values’ to the children you care for? According to the government, in the early years this will mean ensuring that small children are “learning right from wrong, learning to take turns and share and challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes.”

When I first read that I can’t pretend I wasn’t somewhat disappointed. I mean, is that the best that the government could come up with in terms of what it means to have British values? Therefore I have decided that it’s time someone improved on the government’s list. If we want our children to grow into good British citizens then here are the top ten things we really need to be teaching our pre-schoolers:

 

1. Learn to talk about the weather

weather poster for childmindersAll British people need to be able to hold at least a two minute conversation about the weather. This is essential for managing school runs, shopping and passing strangers on the street. Ideally you should be able to talk for considerably longer on the subject and share short weather-related anecdotes. Childminders can help small children by teaching them the appropriate vocabulary they will need to join in weather conversations and by keeping a weather chart up in your setting to inspire interest in the subject from an early age.

 

2. Learn to love drinking tea

british values for childminders 5All Brits must enjoy drinking ridiculous quantities of tea. You can help by ensuring that the children watch you drink at least three cups of tea each day, more when socialising with others. An important coming of age ritual in British society is to learn to make tea in a proper tea pot and, when entertaining, to pour it into the cup in the correct order (ie. milk first). Children love pouring things and it’s great for their hand eye coordination, so a plastic tea pot is an excellent addition to any water play area, setting them on the right route to tea loving for life!

 

3. Learn to apologise properly

British people are always apologising, even if it isn’t your fault. For example if another childminder bumps into you, or rams you with their push chair, it is considered perfectly normal for you to mutter ‘sorry’ to them. Hold practice sessions during soft play where you encourage the children to bump into each other and everyone saying ‘sorry’ so that they will learn how to master this skill.

 

4. Learn about the royal family

queen-union-jack-by-louise-careyAll British adults must have an opinion about the royal family. Whether we think they’re great – great for tourism, charity work, national identity and the occasional extra holiday, or whether we think they have no place in modern Britain, we can’t have an opinion about something we know nothing about. Therefore it is essential to help small children to learn about the royal family, even if it’s just to learn the name and job title of the old lady whose head is on all the stamps and coins in your post office set.

 

5. Learn to appreciate stately country homes and gardens

British people love the Downton Abbeys of our countryside. Dotted amid our green and pleasant land they remind us to be proud of our history and heritage. Go for splendid picnics in the countryside, throw pennies in fountains, walk among the daffodils while teaching the children to sing Jerusalem, and don’t forget an umbrella (so you can practice complaining about British picnic weather)!

 

6. Learn to enjoy fish and chips

Don’t take them to McDonalds. When you’re having a day off of healthy eating, show childminded children how British people do junk food by buying fish and chips for lunch. It is an essential part of the experience to eat them in the park straight from the paper, ideally while stabbing them with a little wooden chip fork.

 

7. Learn how to be ridiculously polite, especially at the table

british values for childminders 1We all know that it’s essential to teach children to say please and thank you but why stop there? All British people are ridiculously polite, so make sure to teach small children how to hold doors, how to smile and say ‘good morning’ to people you pass on the school run and how to sound sincere when offering the last biscuit to another child. Good table manners are vital. Smearing your face in yogurt and throwing food you don’t like onto the floor is generally considered unacceptable in Britain after the age of one. As childminders we can help by teaching children how to use a spoon, fork, knife and how to pass plates of vegetables (and port decanters) in the right direction around the dinner table and without dropping them in our neighbours laps.

 

8. Learn to enjoy reality TV shows

All British adults need to make time each week to watch reality TV shows so that they can continue to make conversation with others after the weather topic is exhausted. It is essential to stay as up to date as possible on Big Brother, the X-Factor, the Apprentice and of course Strictly although some British men substitute the week’s football scores for one of these programmes. As a childminder you can help by getting the children hooked on TV from an early age and encouraging them to discuss their opinions about the day’s Octonaut’s adventures, the Pinky Ponk’s latest crash, and Mr. Tumble’s choice of handbag.

 

9. Learn to sing a Beatles song

There are few things more British than the Beatles and all adult Brits know the words and can sing along to at least five Beatles songs. Once they’ve mastered ‘twinkle twinkle’ and ‘wheels on the bus’ your children are ready to learn their first Beatles songs. Beatles music is best played in the car, where small children are strapped in and can’t run away when you sing. Legislation is currently being planned by the government to add Beatles lyrics to the driving theory test.

 

10. Teach the children to queue

british values for childminders 4In Britain there are few things as important to our national identity as knowing how to queue. Despite what it seems to foreigners, British people are not born with this ability but must learn it. So from a very early age, childminders should teach queueing skills to youngsters. Have you ever watched what happens when somebody pushes in a queue? There have been moments where I have found myself concerned if the reckless rebel is going to make it out of the shop alive! Don’t let any of the children you look after grow up so uncivilised! Remember, that when we encourage small children to learn to form orderly queues, they are learning to uphold the very fabric that binds our nation together.

british values for childminders 3

So there you have it – ten real British Values you can teach to the children you look after. Next time know that when you are teaching the children to form a queue, to fill in that weather chart, to eat nicely, to hold doors and apologise that you are actually doing your bit to fight extremism on the home front, by upholding those values that we British hold dear.

 

What do you think of the government asking childminders to promote British Values?  

Please comment on this post and feel free to share it on social media sites.

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter using the orange sign up box on my website and I will send you best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

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