Strategies for Inclusion in Childcare

Commitment to the inclusion of every child in childcare or early childhood education requires the adoption of strategies for inclusion in childcare that are practical, meaningful and sufficiently flexible to cater for all circumstances. Inclusive Practice in childcare should be squarely aimed at ensuring that all children’s experience of childcare is a positive one. This article explores the various methods and strategies for inclusion in childcare.

Implementing Inclusion Strategies in Childcare

When implementing inclusive strategies in childcare, there is a need to understand exactly what inclusion means, who benefits from inclusion in childcare, how inclusive practices work in the childcare setting and what practices can be adopted by the family at home.

What does inclusion refer to?

When discussing inclusion in childcare it is important to remember that inclusion is likely to mean different things to different people. A good guide to what inclusion refers to in a regulatory sense is the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). This states that the curriculum decision making process should take into account every child’s uniqueness and linguistic, social and cultural diversities. This concept is supported by the National Quality Standards guidelines for inclusiveness which specifically mention ‘each child.”

These definitions and guidelines challenge common perceptions about inclusive practice being aimed specifically at children with disabilities or cultural barriers. Both the EYLF and NQS specifically mention every  or each child – inferring that strategies for inclusion in childcare must be focused on all children in care.

Understanding Inclusive Practices in the Childcare Setting

A childcare setting that is actively practicing strategies for inclusion in childcare will be able to demonstrate that the childcare service is:

  • Providing each child with ready access to a wide array of varied learning opportunities
  • Flexible enough to modify programs, learning sessions or play activities to ensure that all children can participate fully in all activities and engage with their peers.
  • That they recognise each child as an individual with their own strengths and needs.
  • Capably run administratively supplying ongoing inclusion in childcare training, clear inclusion processes and procedures, high quality standards and consistent ongoing collaboration with families, community and where needed support specialists.

These characteristics ensure that educators are involved in planning activities with a view to engage and encourage every child’s participation in learning activities.

This can be achieved by using a coordinated targeted approach that addresses child’s needs under key categories such as child preferences, activity simplification, adaptation of tools and materials, peer support, adult encouragement etc.

Who benefits from inclusion in the childcare setting?

Specifically any child who would benefit from “specific considerations or adaptations” is likely to benefit from inclusion policies in childcare. There are some groups that come readily to mind such as

  • New arrivals to Australia
  • Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders
  • Children living in isolated geographical areas
  • The children of families enduring difficult circumstances
  • Children with language difficulties
  • Children with diagnosed disability or medical condition. This would include such conditions as autism or intellectual disabilities
  • Children who display or demonstrate challenging behaviour
  • Children with learning difficulties or who are slow in development
  • Children recognised with special abilities
  • Children with any other special needs that require support

As there are many different factors that cause additional needs, it is more than likely that each circumstance will demand that a different response be tailored to meet that need. Every child is likely to benefit from inclusive practice in childcare as there will be times that every child needs additional support.

The benefits of inclusive practice are numerous including

  • Can help to build a child’s self-confidence.
  • Can help to connect families
  • Can assist in facilitating friendship between children.
  • Assists in building community by recognising the significance of inclusion and providing community support.

There are also benefits to be gained for the childcare provider in adopting inclusive practice. These benefits include opportunities to share resources and develop partnerships.

What can You do at Home to Promote Inclusion?

Parents can actively contribute to promoting an inclusive environment by adopting some simple inclusive practices around the home. These would include:

  1. Role modelling inclusive behaviour. Simple actions make quite an impact. Children notice when you include others in your day to day activities. Speaking to new neighbours, or welcoming newcomers to the childcare centre are simple actions that model inclusive behaviour.
  2. Don’t ignore differences – explain them. Differences make us all uncomfortable. Explaining differences to children will help them to welcome the differences in people and not be afraid of them. Teach your children to welcome and appreciate differences..
  3. Cultivate compassion within your child. Encourage your child to welcome newcomers and to invite children who seem to be lonely. Helpful tools your child can acquire are the ability to create small talk and to ask questions. You can encourage your child to develop these skills by modelling them and teaching them.
  4. Reading children’s books together is  a great way to help your child to learn and grow. Use children’s literature that explores concepts of difference and inclusion in relatable ways to help your child gain a better understanding of these concepts.

Example strategies for inclusion in the childcare setting

It is imperative that childcare educators include children in need of support by being observant of each child’s individual characteristics and that the child’s environment will have an effect upon their learning and general wellbeing.

Building two way relationships with families and communities are a critical step in formulating a childcare inclusion policy. Childcare providers who invest the time in getting to understand each child’s culture, family circumstances and community life are able to build respectful and meaningful relationships with all parties..

The inclusion process starts from the moment the family chooses to enroll. The first steps to building a strong collaborative relationship can commence at that first meeting. Carers can build on the initial groundwork and develop a more complete understanding of  each child’s inclusion needs through an ongoing process of communication, collaboration, and consultation.

This process can be assisted by developing community projects that encourage participation and inclusion. A good example of such a project would be a community garden where families can help grow vegetables, herbs, and fruit and share in the rewards.

While strategies for inclusion in childcare can be broad in nature, those strategies must be flexible enough to address the child with additional needs.

An inclusion plan for children with additional needs may look something like this.

  • A child may need support to interact socially with other children.
  • Staff were allocated to work with the child and collaborate directly with the family
  • A quiet space was allocated for the child to take time out when overstimulated.
  • A staff member is allocated to monitor the child one on one and help them to move to the quiet space when necessary
  • Consistent liaison between family and childcare staff to map progress and plot future directions.

An effective childcare inclusion policy can deliver incredible benefits for all parties.