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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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
Your 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.
- Displaying the right impression
Even 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.
These 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 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.
All childminders need to self-evaluate your settings before your inspection. Here are 10 things you should make sure your self-evaluation includes:
- How you work with parents
It is really important to demonstrate how you work with parents. A nice way to approach this is with an example. In my SEF, for example, I describe the time I looked after a baby who wasn’t taking his bottle from me. I found out by talking to his mother that at home she normally gives it to him cold. So once I stopped heating it up, he took it from me. This would never have occurred to me if I hadn’t spoken to her! So it is a great example of how communication with the parents worked for the benefit of the child. Try to find an example of a situation that you have resolved by talking to the parents, and mention it in your SEF.
- How you use outdoor spaces
Make sure you mention your ‘access to outdoor space’ in your SEF. It is a legal requirement that children have time outdoors on a daily basis. So if you don’t have access to a good outdoor space at the moment, make sure that you list it as one of your priorities to improve.
- How you obtain and use children’ views
Telling Ofsted how you get parents’ views is normally quite easy. You talk to them, send home parent questionnaires and learning journeys etc. But what about the children’s views? How do you get the children’s views at your setting? And how do you then incorporate their views into your planning? Remember to mention how you do this at your setting in your SEF.
- How you encourage self-care
Use your SEF to give some specific examples of how you encourage the children to take some responsibility in matters of self-care and in managing their own health and safety. For example, in my SEF I give the example of walking to school. At the crossing I ask the children to tell me when and where to cross. “Is it safe yet?” I keep asking the children until the little green man appears. When you write your SEF include some examples from your setting of ways that you encourage children to look after themselves and to think about risks for themselves.
- How you promote British values in your setting
Don’t just write “I actively promote British values to help to prevent children being drawn into radicalisation and terrorism,” in your SEF model answers. I know that Ofsted and the government and everybody else wants to hear that you are “doing your bit” at your childminding setting but that statement on its own is fairly meaningless. Instead try and find some specific examples of how you promote inclusion and diversity at your setting and talk about those instead.
- How you work with other providers
An easy way to illustrate how you work with other providers (while also mentioning that you do your Progress Check at Age 2) is to illustrate how you work with health visitors in your area to do the new Integrated Review. How do you, parents and health visitors, work together (or plan to work together if you haven’t done one yet)? What system do you have in place for information sharing? This is an easy example for your SEF.
- Your Continual Professional Development plan for yourself
Ofsted really wants to know that you take self-evaluation and self-improvement seriously. How do you plan for your improvement? What courses have you taken and what are you planning to take? Think about formal courses but also about books you may want to read or just general improvements you would like to make to yourself that will improve the quality of the childcare you offer and write about this in some detail on your SEF.
- How you establish a new child’s starting points
When a new child starts in your setting you should normally carry out a starting points assessment to see where the child is at developmentally. This would help you to plan for him during his time in your care. Make sure you mention in your SEF how you do starting points assessments in your setting.
- How you ‘monitor progress’ and show that you are ‘closing gaps’ in achievement
After you have established a child’s starting point, Ofsted then wants to know that you are monitoring that child’s progress. How do you do that at your setting? How do you plan from what you observe? Most importantly Ofsted really wants to know that you are making an effort to help children who are behind to catch up. Use some examples of ways you have done this with specific children from your setting in your SEF.
- How do you demonstrate that you have ‘high expectations’ of the children
Make sure you describe some of the structured activities you do with the children. Free play is important, but increasingly it is important to demonstrate to Ofsted some examples of activities you have planned for the children that help them to practice ‘concentrating’ on things, become confident positive learners, and are developing some of the other characteristics of effective learning that will help them in school and later in life. Give some specific examples on your SEF.
There is lots of include on your SEF, but the things I’ve mentioned here are especially important because they relate to things that Ofsted inspectors are hoping to see during your inspection.
Need some help writing a self-evaluation of your setting?
This guide takes you step by step through a guided self-evaluation of your setting. It includes ‘model answers’ for each question so that you can see the sorts of things you should be considering when you reflect on your setting. This guide will help you to prepare for your inspection and will make sure you don’t miss anything.
About Kay Woods and Kids To Go
Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.
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
All 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
All 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
All 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
We 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
In 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.
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?
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About Kay Woods and Kids To Go
Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.