Enabling Environments

Embracing diversity in early years – How to create a culture of inclusion

  • Embracing diversity in early years – How to create a culture of inclusion

Laura England explains how she has set about creating a culture of inclusion in her early years setting…

The Black Nursery Manager

I want to share with you someone who’s been a real inspiration to me. Liz Pemberton, AKA The Black Nursery Manager, is a consultant who focuses on anti-racism in the early years. A former nursery manager and secondary school teacher, Liz has a no-nonsense approach that’s a breath of fresh air.

Liz shares lots of free resources on her Instagram account @theblacknurserymanager which includes interviews about race and anti-racism, diverse book recommendations and much more. 

I’ve quite honestly devoured everything Liz has to say, from her many guest appearances on podcasts to all the blogs she’s written. 

What’s more, Liz is part of the coalition responsible for the Birth to 5 Matters guidance and contributed to the inclusions and equalities section, signifying how important her voice is in our sector. Visit theblacknurserymanager.com.

Talking about skin colour

As a white practitioner in an all-white setting, it’s often my default to reach for the peach crayon whenever I need to colour in a body part or face, and even though we seem to question children about the colour of everything else, we never really talk about skin colour. 

After acquiring the book Skin by John Wood, I set up activities to encourage discussions on the topic. One involved collecting paint sample cards in as many different skin colours as I could and giving children time to match their skin to the cards. 

Guess what happened. Not a single person had the same skin colour, even though they all identified as white, and not a single person matched with the peach paint card. It got everyone talking about all the different colours of skin there are.

Inclusive bookshelves

An easy place to start when creating a culture of inclusion is your bookshelf. Think about representation; consider whether all your children can see themselves in the books on offer.

This isn’t just about skin colour (although you should ensure all races are represented); do you have books about children with one parent or divorced parents or same-sex parents or children that don’t live with their parents at all? Then think about changing children’s perceptions by diversifying further. 

Do you have titles with characters with disabilities, or which challenge gender stereotypes? Some of my favourite books to provoke thought around differences are the Penguin Bedtime Classics version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which depicts Alice as black, and the ‘Pride in’ series, which celebrates contributions from the LGBTQIA+ community.

Laura England is preschool leader at Blythe Bridge Day Nursery. Explore more great ideas for your setting and follow Laura on Instagram at @littlemissearlyyears.